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The Hardest Part is Showing Up

April 6th, 2022

This week I was watching a YouTube video of a guy making an epoxy table.

Later in the video, he mentions a quote, something along the lines of "everything in life is a pain", which is also a pinned comment*. Much of the world projects that image today. Hacker News is full of posts lamenting how ridiculously complex software engineering is. Startups and their recruiters constantly advertise that they're solving hard problems and making an impact.

I've definitely bought into this mentality. "I want to work for a company that solves hard problems," I thought after college. After all, solving hard problems means having an impact.

What if having an impact is easy? "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it" I hear. But everyone is. Our friends have jobs and they're "making an impact" even if it's democratizing the checkout experience.

If anyone asks me about riding a bike 100 miles, the exchange typically goes like this:

Most of my friends believe they can't ride a bike 100 miles. Most believe they probably couldn't run a marathon. And yet, most marathoners I've asked would say that the average person can finish a marathon without too much training or trouble. I'd say that the first mile is more difficult than going from 10 to 100 miles.

Posting a competitive time? That's a different question. But actually finishing isn't hard. Unfortunately, after believing that they can't, none of my non-biking friends are willing to try.

Somehow this is obvious to me when biking but not so much when working. The hardest part of my daily work is not actually solving the problems in front of me, it's opening the IDE and getting started. It's easy for me to get lost watching what everyone else is doing and forget what I wanted for myself.

I think "I'm doing something hard" makes for an easy excuse or crutch for me to avoid chasing where I want to go.

I'd like to get better at this. I want to believe that I'm solving easy problems. Not to belittle my work but if I believe that the progress I make is easy, then I can make more progress towards where I want to go. I want to find people who believe in the same: that we can do anything and it's not that hard. People who want to show up instead of finding excuses thinly veiled as "reasons".

And maybe one day we might accidentally solve something that is hard.

One day we'll reach 100 miles but I'm not going to let the first mile stop me.

* I do this quote a bit of a disservice. In the video, he argues that accepting that what we do is hard makes them easier to do. This isn't that dissimilar from my belief, but I think believing that the things I do are easy helps me progress further instead of being content with the progress I've made.