The Hardest Part of Your Job… – And, We are All Great at Avoiding, and Postponing, and Tackling This


It doesn’t matter what your job title, or industry, is. I think every person shares one trait – what I will call the hardest part of your job, no matter what your job is.

It’s a little difficult to describe. Start with this, from Atul Gawande, from The Checklist Manifesto:

Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.  

Yes, he is right. Discipline is hard.

Now think about someone you know at work, who has a noticeable flaw. (And, pretty much everyone has a noticeable flaw). Maybe an inattention to detail; maybe some kind of sloppiness; maybe some task that he or she simply does not perform correctly.

Now, think about yourself. In a moment of real honesty, you know, in your heart of hearts, that you should have overcome some specific flaw; and/or gotten much better at a “something.” (OK – make that “flaws” — plural. And, better at “some things” – plural). Whatever this “something” is, you have known this for a long time, a very long time – and yet, you have never gotten better at it.

In other words, you’ve been this way a long, long time. And, you know it. And, you haven’t changed.

The hardest part of your job is overcoming a long-long-term deficiency in how you do what you do.

Though there are books to help, like The Power of Habit, this seems like a bigger, a “deeper” challenge. This requires serious work. Massive levels of attention. Almost super-human effort.

And, if you don’t tackle it, and master it, then you will continue, year after year, decade after decade, to still have the same deficiency.

Overcoming “this” – whatever your “this” is, in your own life and work – is the hardest job facing you. It certainly is for me.

Good luck.

I’ll end with a favorite quote of mine.  One that has shown up in more than a few of my blog posts. I really don’t know why I keep coming back to it — I haven’t adequately learned from it. Here’s the quote:

“Seldom do we completely overcome even a single fault, nor do we aim at daily improvement.” – Thomas à Kempis, c. 1420.

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