Throw Away the Easy Button

Life can be hard. Work can be hard. Creating can be hard. Execution can be hard.

But hard is ok.

Challenge is good.

When did we get, and begin to instill, the idea that things have to be EASY?

Staples, you are no help. We don’t need an Easy button. We need a keep going button, a challenge button, aproblems are opportunities to learn, and motivation button.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how we have elevated the concept of the genius, or some special quality that someone has that makes them successful rather than plain old hard work. We try to write off successful folks in some way, by calling them rich, or connected or whatever. We deny the daily showing up and doing the work that many folks do to accomplish their goals and make the world a better place.

You have to put in some effort. And effort is good. We like to minimize when things are hard and taking effort -why? Are we afraid that if people know we are struggling with something that they will think we are dumb or not good enough?

When I first began teaching, my principal or superintendent asked the new recruits how we were doing.  I usually answered with a detailed description of what I was having trouble with, what I was doing about it and asking if they had suggestions.  Questions and answers would fly. Sometimes they were surprised at what I had tried.  Often they had great ideas based on their experience that I had overlooked.  Sometimes, as we talked, I would come up with a new way to approach the problem.  I would move on, feeling energized and like the time was well spent.

As I attended more meetings, I realized that my MO was not how most of the other new teachers were operating. They tended to paint a glowing picture of a successful lesson or activity, a bit more like show and tell.

One day a colleague overheard me talking with the principal.  She told me I was CRAZY to talk to my bosses or any colleague that way, since I was showing my weaknesses. And I realized I had a different approach, that served me well.

But I wondered where my approach came from. What made it easier for me to show my weak spots?

Well for one, I have always been, as a friend put it, fashion and grooming impaired. I showed my biggest weakness without even trying. So, I guess I had to get over that one early.

Two, I love to learn. I want to learn. Talking with people who know more than me can help me learn something. That was too good an opportunity to pass up. Why waste it?

Three, I think knowing your strengths and weaknesses and being able to be honest about them is really valuable. It helps you know where to direct your energy. Sometimes it is to find ways to build the weak area, often it is better to collaborate and build on your strengths. Pretending does not serve you or those you work with.

A benefit of my approach was that since I wasn’t complaining, and I was obviously problem solving, my bosses saw me as confident and growing in my profession. They saw that I was reaching out, trying to improve, and not afraid to share. I got feedback that was helpful. They assured me that it was ok to be struggling, that I wasn’t a loser because being a great teacher wasn’t easy. I was stronger because I was trying to figure why it was difficult and what to do about it.

So throw away the easy button and tell your kids, students, parents, and friends that lots of things are NOT easy.

Learning how to tackle not easy thoughtfully, persistently and graciously is a winning strategy.




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