Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Do hard things


What does the statement “do hard things” mean to you? In its most simple form the statement can be broken down as follows: the word ‘do’ connotes action or “bring to pass;” the word ‘hard’ (in this case) means challenging or perhaps difficult; and ‘things’ can be any action, task, job or responsibility of your choice. However, there’s much more to this statement than its simple form. Doing hard things means intentionally taking action toward something that you know will not be easy, and yet the end result will far exceed the effort you will exert the pain you will suffer.

Knowing the road will not be easy, why should you do hard things? One reason stands out in my mind: doing hard things instills in you a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you can do what you say you will do. You build self-worth from which the desire for continuous improvement springs.

St George MarathonMy most recent “do hard things” project was to run a marathon in 3:30 (three hours thirty minutes). I set the goal more than a year ago and determined to carry it out after being accepted to the St. George Marathon last spring. My previous best at St. George was 4:03 and my overall marathon PR (personal record) was 3:43. So, I knew my goal would be challenging. I trained hard running an average of 35 miles per week for 18 weeks. I improved my diet and nutrition, learned what I could do to improve my endurance, and studied the race course to set a strategy for averaging a pace of eight minutes per mile. The marathon runner Juma Ikanga said after winning the New York Marathon: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” I knew I had to prepare well if I were going to ‘win’ my race (i.e. reach my goal).

Fortunately everything came together as planned. The day was picture perfect and the race went as planned. I finished in 3:30:31. The training was hard. The race was hard. The last five miles were especially grueling. However, the feelings I experienced during the entire process, and especially after the race, were incredible. It was a great sense of accomplishment.

With that said, one additional — extremely important — aspect of doing hard things is this: make sure you have support from people who care about your success. Without my support team there is no way I could have reached my goal. I would not have succeeded without help from the following:

  • God, for giving me everything I have.
  • My dear wife Debbie, who despite thinking I was crazy for running a marathon, gave her complete support and encouragement to me throughout the entire process.
  • My children for not hugging me after I would come home from a training run, but who always hugged me after I showered.
  • My sister Jen for running several long training runs with me, and pushing me during the race.
  • Other friends and family for continually asking me how the training was going and giving me encouragement along the way.
  • Golden at the Runner’s Corner for convincing me to try a new, much lighter pair of shoes. He promised I’d gain at least five minutes during the run. I think it was at least ten.
  • Duane Newman for helping me understand the course and map out a pacing strategy for the race.
  • Many others who have encouraged me along the way.

Running the St. George marathon was an awesome experience and confirmed what I already knew: I can do hard things.

I recommend always having a “do hard things” project on which you are working. Doing so will provide continuous learning and motivation. Don’t shy away; do hard things.

11 thoughts on “Do hard things

  1. Pingback: Doing Hard Things | Sheri Larsen’s Flying Cloud

  2. Congratulations on your 3:30 marathon PR, Michael.

    I agree with your observations. Doing hard things, be it marathons, triathlons, learning a new language, integrating learning platforms – can one’s confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. It is creating moments of accomplishment and achievement (be it individually, or through a team) that makes doing the hard things worth it.

    You also, gratefully, listed your support ‘team’ – without whom, our accomplishments mean less, and are less meaningful. Thank you for reminding me about these encouraging people who matter.

    I am inspired to earn my marathon PB later this year (my current PR is 3:50). Thanks for ‘pacing’ me, Michael.

  3. Enrico, you are spot on about the the benefits of doing hard things. The support team — regardless of what your “hard things” are — is critical to your success. Take care of them and they will help you succeed.

    Best wishes on getting your marathon PR.


    • Hi, again Michael.

      Since we last spoke, I got a PB of 3:36 last December in Singapore. I also completed an 84km ultramarathon and qualified for the Northface 100. I am now working towards Berlin, where I hope to qualify for Boston next year.

      To reiterate what you wrote, it is about doing hard things and having a strong support team. Cheers.

      PS: I will be making a link to your site my next blog post.

      • Enrico, congratulations on a new PB and on running the ultramarathon! Accomplishments like these not only inspire us to be more healthy but also to be more successful in all aspects of life.


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  6. i will take this as encouragement to do the hard thing of joining the army

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