In youth did you ever carry two bags of groceries for “balance,” take the stairs not elevator “just because,” have a hard conversation because not having it was harder, and then felt better? We have become a society obsessed with ease, convenience, excuses, drifting. Alert: No society and no person gets stronger, sleeps better, or has any impact … drifting. Growth comes from doing “the hard thing,” doing it with conviction, not quitting, blaming others, or looking for the free lunch.
This is the message no one wants to hear, but it is the message – in a nutshell – radiating from American history, not just what made our country great, but what has always given individual Americans the measure of greatness they have. From pioneers and immigrants to post-civil war peacemakers, those who fought in two world wars, battled communism, turned back diseases, America “does hard.”
When I say, “does hard,” I mean relishes, thrives, rises, and leads by doing “the hard thing.” We “go to the moon,” said Kennedy, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” Why do we Americans go to those beat up, impoverished, war torn regions around the planet to turn them better? It is “hard.”
Why has the United States won more Nobel Prizes than any other nation, 406 total, the UK a distant second with 138, China with nine? Why have we won 23 Nobel Peace Prizes, a quarter of all awarded? Only one Chinese citizen won – for fighting Chinese Communism.
So, we Americans go to the fire, do the “hard” thing, again and again and again. It has always been a part of our national identity – and it is vital that we remember that now. As a society, if you look in on us from 20,000 feet, you will see the data that supports this assessment, no kidding.
Pew Research, no bastion of conservatism, did a global study in 2015. What they found is fascinating. Fully 200 years after the French observer Alex de Tocqueville called Americans “exceptional,” our “emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out” – still.
Pew surveyed 44 countries. Findings revealed that “57 percent of Americans disagreed with the statement ‘Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,’ a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38 percent.”
Moreover, “Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off.” Thus, “when asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73 percent of Americans said it is was a ‘10’ or ‘very important,’ compared with a global median of 50 percent.”
Individual “get up and go,” get it done, take responsibility, step up, do the “hard thing,” make it happen – is highest among Americans. Perhaps not surprisingly, so is “optimism” and “religious” conviction, if looking for motivations.
Almost 60 percent of Americans count religion important, while less than 20 percent of Russians and one percent of Chinese do. Any wonder Americans are not big on “the collective?” No, Americans – at our best – are about solving our own problems, not waiting on government.
Need heat? Fell the tree, split the wood, think ahead, heat the house. Need progress, have a goal, envision it, work for it, do not excuse your own failure, nor dwell on it; learn from it, do it again, do the “hard thing,” until you get it done. That has always been the American way, the only limit is our imagination.
But here we are, a society looking around for someone new to blame, getting comfortable with victimhood, cross-accusation, hoping someone will now carry our load, pay our bills, forgive our loans. Bluntly, that is not America, not if you know history. That is not how we got here, how we will get out.
Simple as it sounds, on the national and personal levels – and we all know this from life, itself – turning into the wind, tacking with purpose, doing the thing we least want to do, gritting it, is how we prevail. No one ever got stronger doing less, went further shrinking from hard work, or won by quitting.
So, when someone tells you quitting is easier, they want special treatment, or that doing the “hard thing” is just too much, point them at American history and the American character. We are different, as a culture, from most of the world. That is what we have to remember, when chips are down and excuses run rich. Doing “the hard thing” is what creates growth, not coming up with new excuses.
Babe Ruth was asked how he prevailed. He said simply, “It is hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Elon Musk echoed Ruth: “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” But that quintessential, intergalactic American, Yoda, put it best: “Do or do not – there is no try.” You want to grow, make it happen? Do “the hard thing.”
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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Why has the GOP changed from a party of limited government free market capitalism to a party of hate? In the 1980s the GOP cut taxes and regulations. Today the top priority of the GOP is attacking dems and they even attack other members of the GOP for being like the GOP of the 1980s calling them RINOs.
Its really sad that we have to be reminded of this basic truth. The left is begging us to believe that anything that’s hard or requires perserverance or requires deep intellect should not be pursued
since above average effort is needed. Above average is a great fear of the equal outcome effort
which is the holy grail to lefties. Lets all do less and be the same. What’s wrong with that ?
We must aspire to be the same as our least capable people. We are evil to want more until
everyone has exactly what we have.
The mention of Babe Ruth and the spirit of , the idea of never giving up is very good. Although I do not follow sports closely these days I still believe in the importance of sports and what all can be learned from sports. Good qualities such as diligence can be developed . In 1961 , at age 11 baseball was of great importance , and being part of an organized team that year had significant meaning. Was a good outfielder, not much of a hitter. Made contact with the ball several times at bat, but always the result was a fly out, or a ground out . Became tempted to leave the team before end of the season even , figuring I just did not have what it took. Then in a game toward the end of the season I was at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning , score was tied , one runner on base and I got a single, drove in the winning run , what a feeling getting an RBI , It gave a whole new outlook on life, Thinking about it , being able to have a run batted in to look to , to be proud of, it was a pivotal point in life at that time. So, it was something that helped to develop the spirit of being diligent and one of those things that contributed to having a good, positive outlook on life.
From then on the thought of quitting just never was considered. It is of great importance to be able to have an understanding of what makes for accomplishment in life especially important if that sense is developed in youth . However, it is always needed regardless of age , a different set of circumstances when older but still of great value, great meaning. Helping others with encouragement when they need it is something very right to do .
A combination of things often provide the incentive for some people to accept a challenge and others to turn away from a challenge. It depends on circumstances and having an outlook ,a spirit , that determines what can be done, what should be done and having the diligence to complete a task once it is started. Being resourceful is of great value especially when there is a goal and not all of the things that are needed to reach that goal are available. So, figuring out how something can be accomplished by improvising helps to develop a positive way of thinking. Seeing new ways to do things and gaining a deeper understanding of what is being worked on is good for the mind and spirit. I started designing and making tools in the 1970 ‘s , around the same time a determination to learn celestial navigation became a major project. So, other than tools for carpentry, plumbing and mechanical use I started making special tools for working on navigation instruments, as well as weather instruments, eventually for microscopes. Many challenges throughout the years but I am truly grateful to God for the help along the way. Very important article you wrote Robert Charles, it should be a very good influence on many people. Respect for diligence is as important as having respect for courage, and truth and those qualities are often connected.
This genre of writing is morally important! It speaks to everyone.
Susan, thank you so much … Sometimes common sense, what we all know but are prone to forget in time, can turn the dial. Thank you again so much for reading, comment, and thoughtful response. V/R, RBC
Keep turning dial! More of us need to do that. Thank you!
Oops, sorry. Keep turning THE dial!
Unfortunately, with our secular society today, we expect life to feel good, we expect life to be fair, easy and painless and we should always get what we want. When life doesn’t go this way, people seek out substance abuse and false idols with progressive WOKE ideation.
I say my prayers and vote Republican. I think you’ll find that labeling people who don’t think like you do will not get you very far. Perhaps you don’t want to go very far. The whole point of the article.. your chances of getting what you want are greater when you strive for them no matter your affiliation.