When was the last time you talked to a former baby (that's you and me and everyone by the way) and they were really frustrated about how easy it is to walk these days? Imagine asking someone at work how their day's going and they say, "Fine, but man...you know walking just seems so easy now. I feel like for me to execute on walking with excellence it should be more difficult."
Or what about doing a survey of all drivers - how many do you imagine would wish driving became increasingly more difficult so they felt a sense of internal accomplishment for committing to a task one could never really master?
How about the people who jump out of planes in the flying squirrel suits? I wonder if they want every jump to be as hard or harder as the jump before? I wonder if they're frustrated after they finish flying - which, FYI, humans weren't made to do - that they're learning how to fly more proficiently and effectively with each jump?
Let's make it more real: When was the last time you were prepping for a presentation or leading an initiative in an area you've spent your life and career studying, experimenting, learning, and growing - and instead of being grateful for your above-average skill and resting in your talent, you decide to doubt your ability to deliver?
Because our really important contributions can't be that easy to do - right?
The whole reason we work at something is to become proficient so we can then execute those tasks or skills artfully, with confidence, and a minimum amount of doubt. We learn and grow in our abilities so we can store those actions in muscle-memory and evolve to pursue greater challenges and desires.
Life and work are taxing enough. Why are we so obsessed with making it harder on ourselves?
Though we must be cautious in the areas we have much confidence, we must also regularly remember there's nothing wrong with recognizing we're skilled at something and delivering the goods with ease.
What we're really afraid of has nothing to do with executing the task at hand. We’re actually afraid of claiming we can accomplish the work with excellence. We're afraid to go public with the belief we have what it takes - because what if we don't? What a fool we'll look like if we raise our hand or put our name on the list and proceed to blow it.
So we wait. We don't show up. We hide our knowledge, skills, and gifts from the world.
When these doubts creep in it's worth remembering Marianne Williamson's lines:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
Ah yes - we're not really afraid of hard work. We're not really afraid we're unworthy. After all, we've worked hard and we've beaten ourselves up plenty. We're actually afraid we might have what it takes. We're afraid we might save the day. What a cruel trick our minds play on us; the climactic scenes we chase after actually terrify us.
Therefore my friends, we must overcome the fear of things we've worked to develop within ourselves which now come easily to us.
It's challenging work to free yourself to trust your talent, but our continued growth and ability to make our greatest contribution depends on it. Let me share my process for doing this work in my own life.
Here's what I once did:
Wake up at 3:00am before every presentation and over-prepare.
Drink before every improv rehearsal or show because I doubted my talent.
Never trust a compliment.
Focus on shortcomings instead of strengths.
Fear having extra time on my hands when the work was done.
Hide what seemed (to me) to be obvious additions or contributions because, if I think it, it must be obvious to everyone.
Believe everything worth attaining must be difficult:
Not celebrate easy wins.
Take life too seriously.
Judge those who weren’t visibly as exhausted as I was. Who do they think they are to be at peace with their talent?
Feel connection with those who were beaten, battered and bloody by choice. We must be doing good work together, because it’s eating us alive, right?
What I'm learning to do:
Pick the things I allow to be hard.
Decide where I place my time and energies.
Decide where to find my identity - in how hard I’m working or in my inherent value?
Celebrate things that turn out to be more simple than I thought they’d be.
Shift my perspective from one of lacking to one of confidence.
Believe I’m more good than not good.
Trust in my unique perspective.
Celebrate quick wins or success that comes easily.
Recognize areas I naturally perform well and invest more time there.
Ahead of time, define what a truly adequate amount of emotional and energy investment looks like - and stick to it.
Remember most often, others are excited to learn from me and improve their skills.
Be excited by the idea I'm now able to do something I once struggled to do.
Stop wasting time in areas I'm already skilled and intentionally pick new areas to grow.
Why this is hard work:
We’re confused about what matters.
We believe there is a direct connection between how hard something is and how worthwhile it is.
We secretly want things to be hard so others believe we deserve any good fortune that comes our way. We falsely believe no one likes the person with natural talent.
We desperately want work to be hard so we can prove to others we’ve earned our keep.
We’re afraid of being good at something or having it come easily to us because that might mean more responsibility.
We want to believe we’re always in control, which makes it difficult to accept the gift of ability, talent or inspiration.
QuestionS to ask ourselves:
Is this actually hard, or am I choosing to make it hard so I can eliminate my fear that it might be easy?
What comes naturally to me?
Which problems can I solve with ease?
What observations do I have about the world that seem obvious to me?
Some things to try:
Think about the areas you spend your time practicing, studying, researching, or teaching and consider offering more of your perspective, expertise and insights in those areas.
Raise your hand more.
We must remember, just because we've learned how to do something well doesn't mean the rest of the world has. We're robbing others and ourselves of our high-level contributions when we, like the shy young magician, listen to the head-trash that our magic tricks aren't impressive to others simply because we’ve put in the work to know how the tricks are done.