Sunday, July 21, 2019

Heads I do the hard thing

"What are the odds that you will be coming home?" Wow.

I have two amazing sons. I think that the special purpose of any parent (or leader) is to teach everything you know.

When they were young, from time to time, my boys would come to me with a problem. The classic, "I don't know what to do" question that we all have experienced in our lives. When I was growing up I learned a lesson from my father, that I was happy to pass on to my two sons.

Which of the choices would be harder to do? 

If it truly is a toss up, if you really could flip a coin, which would be HARDER, the more DIFFICULT thing to do?

Do that. Because if the options are truly equally good or bad, doing the thing that is more difficult will give you more satisfaction, more joy, and ultimately provide more reward for you - and for others.

When you are torn between saying yes or no, when you swing between staying or going, doing or not doing, taking the leap or staying put - simply ask yourself - which would the more difficult thing to do? 

Last night (on July 20th, 2019) we all watched "First Man" the movie about NASA's mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on the years 1961 - 1969. I was born in 1960 and I know EXACTLY where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped off the LEM. Now let's reflect.

What if JFK never gave his speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962?

OF COURSE it was going to be hard - and very EXPENSIVE. The technology required to go to the moon did not even exist. We were at war at the time, and there were PLENTY of things that needed attention and money back home. JFK gave that speech because most people at the time were against the mission. Too expensive, and too difficult. Too......hard.

People were going to die along the way. There would be setbacks. There would be tragedy, and pain and suffering. And yet, the Leader of the Free World set us on a path to do the hard things. Because they were hard.

We, all of us, are humans. Effectively, we are all some form of smart monkeys. Our brains are hard-wired for survival. It's hard to pass on our genes if we don't live long enough to find a mate. Taking risks seems to be against our primary mission of survival.

And yet, there is something in our smart monkey brains that pushes us to do risky things, dangerous things, difficult things - hard things. In fact, our entire purpose seems to be to explore, to take risks, to do things that are SO HARD, and so difficult, that they change our lives - and the lives of our future generations forever.

And there it is. Taking risks - doing hard things - actually ensures the survival of our future generations. Doing hard things is the right thing to do, always. When we say to ourselves "I don't know what I should do" our smart monkey brains are lying to us. We actually know exactly what do to. We know the right answer. We just pause to see if there is a shortcut, an easy way out. Hint: there is none. The obstacle is the path. We don't control what happens to us, we control how we react to what happens to us. Stoicism. 

What is the next BHAG for our country? Or how about the next BHAG your family? Your business? What is the next BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS THING that you shall choose to do - BECAUSE it is hard?

OK, fine. If you MUST flip a coin:

Heads - do the hard thing.
Tails - keep flipping until it comes up heads......

President Kennedy's BHAG Speech at Rice University

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