I recently stumbled on a 1940 essay by Albert E.N. Gray entitled “The Common Denominator of Success” (here’s the PDF). Its thesis immediately caught my attention, and I’ve been ruminating on it for a few days now.
The common denominator of success—the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful—lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about becoming more efficient, making hard things easier, and finding the smoothest path to success. And these are worthwhile goals, but perhaps they’re not the goal. Gray explains why:
Perhaps you have wondered why it is that our biggest producers seem to like to do the things that you don’t like to do.
They don’t! And I think this is the most encouraging statement I have ever offered to a group of life insurance salesmen.
Gray’s message is nearer the truth than I’d sometimes like to admit.
Hard things are supposed to be hard
Working out, eating healthy, making better art, networking, building new skills, producing high-quality work—these things are hard to do, and they weren’t meant to be easy. They will never be as easy as sitting on the couch watching TV.
And that’s fine, because our ultimate goal shouldn’t be to make everything easier. Our ultimate goal should be to make ourselves better at doing hard things.
My personal development idol Jim Rohn used to say something similar, which I now feel like I’m hearing for the first time:
“Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you were better.”