Easy and Hard

Building a rocket ship, performing brain surgery, making a Tesla, or writing these words…which is the hardest?

Some challenges are immensely difficult. They require huge teams, lots of capital, and extraordinary technical chops. Massive coordination, sustained superhuman effort.

Some challenges seem a bit easier. Perhaps they require less time or fewer resources. But someone still has to climb the mountain. Substantial knowledge, experience, and dexterity help.

And some tasks seem downright trivial. Anyone could do it. Right?

I’m not so sure. Here’s another way to think about it: which activity comes with a cookbook or a blueprint?

Well, none of them, really. However, humans have made some handy reference material over the years. Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind. Then there was Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Cushing, Sachs, Benz, Ford, and many more.

My point is that you can get lots of training these days for many, many things. Even hard ones. We have frameworks and procedures and manuals and support staff. There’s a lot of precedent floating around.

When the rubber hits the road, of course challenges remain. You don’t just read a bit about brain surgery then go fiddle with someone’s live neurons. Fitting stuff together properly is both art and science.

But the more we take personal responsibility for the whole process of design and execution, to use the words of Seth Godin, the more we are “on the hook.” The closer we are to the helm of the team, the more leadership and courage we need. The more challenge we face.

Maybe writing is the hardest thing on that list for an individual. All the other stuff tends to have apprenticeship after internship after practice project, first. But when we get started writing, we’re often pushing ourselves out on a ledge.

Seth Godin calls it “dancing with the fear.” Does this kind of scary, emotional leap happen every day during all that other work?

My questions continue. What do you have to say to the world? How are you not a robot following a script? Part of an assembly-line complex, The System? In what ways do you choose robot-hood, in what ways do you rebel against the given? The given is not the taken.

My friend Drew points out how we distract ourselves with crossword puzzles and Sudoku, when in fact we could be solving the puzzles of life. I really like that idea.

Eventually, once you build the habit of dancing with fear, bit by bit, you will attain your creative superpowers. Your list of novel ideas will grow. And you’ll see that some of these won’t work in the real world. People might not like them as much as you. Society and the market have strong preferences.

But some of your ideas will also look good to someone else. They’ll be sticky. And you can begin to do. To build something meaningful. Spend 60 seconds, decide how 10 minutes can bring your good idea nearer to fruition. Then go do it. And repeat.

It’s possible that “easy” thing is one that nobody else can do. You may be able to touch more lives writing.


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