Tough Is Good

When I was teaching, I’d often ask the students about the assignments.  Their answer was always, “Difficult.” I’d reply, “difficult is good.” They’d go, “you’re right”.

It got to be kind of a game and often I wouldn’t have to make any additional comments.  I’d first ask about the assignment and the students would say, “difficult ….and that’s good.” Then we would all laugh.

It’s true. We learn more when things are tough for us. Read a tough passage in a foreign language and you learn vocabulary and meaning.  Read an easy passage and you don’t learn nuthin’.

I was reminded of this in my aerobics class yesterday.  It was tough. Truth be told–it wasn’t really aerobics, it was actually “walking in the water”, but to me and the other people in the class, it feels like a mini-marathon. Hitoshi at 49 is the youngest person in the class, and I am the second-youngest and the only foreigner.

The instructor, Ito-san, is excellent.  He knows how to pace the class.  He starts with something easy, works our way up to exercises of increasing difficulty and periodically lets us relax or stretch.  At the end of the half hour of pushing, pulling, bending, and twisting, we  cool down and when the class finishes, we have had a good workout.   Everyone applauds and says, it was so difficult, but we are all smiling and so is Mr. Ito.  We thank him for the good tough workout because we know that “tough is good.”

We know that tough lessons are good for us, we know that tough workouts are good for us.

Why, I wonder, don’t we think that tough business situations are good for us?

We always learn in these situations.  We always develop stronger skills as a result of these situations.  Do we think that we have so much to lose?  Do we want sympathy from others?  Are we afraid to show our true competence?

What if we thought about these tough situations in a different way?  As a way to learn, an MBA where instead of paying tuition, we get paid.

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