"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it. The hard is what makes it great."
In many dealings with my kids, students, and athletes, I searched for, and sought out, many sources to find words, expressions, and stories that would help me relate what I was teaching and demonstrating in school and on athletic fields to real life and what kids would have to live by after school and sports were over for them.
I often found myself in books by Dr. Leo Buscaglia, Mitch Albom, books written by former players and coaches, books like the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, books of quotes from famous people in real life and sports, I listened to, and read, "The Last Lecture," by Randy Pausch, anything I could get my hands on to help teach my kids, students and athletes that what they were doing at that moment (be it scholastically, musically, or athletically) needed to be transferred to real life, hopefully making them better prepared for life after their athletic and formal educational careers were complete (though I've always thought that we never stop learning in life, but for many of us our formal educational careers taper off when our work and family lives begin).
Sometimes I'd find a lyric in a song, or a line from a movie to help me get my message across, and I compiled many of these words and sayings to use in my classrooms and locker rooms throughout the years hoping some of them would make those in my charge better people when they got out into "the real world."
During my later years in the classroom, I gave each student in my homeroom a blank composition book and I wrote one of these sayings on the board each day, and had the students copy it down, thus accumulating all of them into their own little book of sayings, wisdom, words to live by ... whatever they wanted to call it. I did ask the students to share with me what "message" they thought the saying was trying to convey, and how they could use it in their daily lives, hopefully making it a little more meaningful than just copying it down and forgetting about it.
I also included them among the pages I put in my baseball and softball playbooks which each player received before each season, and I made many of them part of a "chapter" of a Coaches' Guide, which I had published in 2010. Many of these sayings were also a part of one edition of the "Voice from the Bullpen" a few years back.
One of those very quotes I picked up was the line that began this piece today.
It came from the comedy movie, "A League of Their Own," starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, and I think it's very impactful in all phases of life, and it's one of the sayings I echoed a lot in parenting, teaching, and coaching.
I recently spoke to many young people as a part of career day at the school where I spent my last 19 years as a teacher, and I used this saying in my presentation, because throughout my life as a parent, educator and coach, I've heard many say, "This is hard," or "It's too hard," and I've seen many use those words and that feeling as an easy reason to quit doing what they were pursuing and give up, or ask someone to make it easier. I've seen many adults do the same thing when it comes to sticking to something, or giving up on something. "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it. The hard is what makes it great."
Trying out for teams, music groups or theater productions should be hard. Getting good grades should be hard.
Running in elections should be hard. Competing for, and doing, a job is supposed to be hard. Being the best you can be should be hard. Making marriage and family work is rightfully very hard.
Winning games, contests, championships, competitions, accomplishing goals or completing tasks should be hard.
All things worthwhile need to be hard, because life is hard.
To have a good life takes hard work, lots of patience, lots of dedication, sometimes many disappointments, lots of sweat, many tears, a lot of "stick-to-it-ness," and as Ed Harris's character in the movie "Apollo 13" said, which applies to all of these cases and more, "Failure is not an option." That's not saying that we won't fail at times in our lives, and some things might not end up like we'd like, but the goal should be to minimize those situations.
Most everything worth doing will be hard to achieve or accomplish.
That's not to say that some won't have a little easier path to get there, or might grasp a concept a little quicker than others, but that doesn't mean that they coasted, and that doesn't mean that they could just put it in "cruise control" and just glide through the experience or their life. Getting to where you want to be is hard work, but it takes even harder work to stay where you are or get better from there.
As a teacher, I'd often have student teachers working with me, preparing for their future in classrooms, and I'd try and get them to buy into the idea that the job we did went way beyond the end of the school day, and that it was a very difficult job, but accepting, and overcoming the difficulty was what paved the way for us to experience kids learning and growing, and that was our reward in doing what we did. That's not to say that there weren't many days when lessons went smoothly, students' behavior was excellent, and the day ran very well, but the planning, implementing, and executing, of each lesson on every day, including days that ran smoothly, should always have required a lot of hard work to make them go.
I've attempted, and experienced, many things in my life, many of those being very difficult. Of course, I made some things more difficult by the way I went about them, or maybe had an attitude that made things tougher, but the bottom line is that most everything I've done was hard to do. And when I look back at my resume I can also say that I've enjoyed most of what I've done, am proud of what I've accomplished, and I thank many who put up with my mistakes, difficulties, attitude, and my passion for what I was trying to accomplish, and who helped me get to where I was trying to go.
So, today's lesson (sorry, once a teacher, always a teacher) is that everything worthwhile to anyone has to be hard to be good. I've enjoyed my life as a husband, father, family member, teacher, coach, mentor, writer, umpire, and friend, and each of those roles presented me with many challenges, and a lot of hard work, but it was well worth everything I had to go through to be a part of them. I truly believe the path to all of them had to be tough to make them good. If it wasn't hard everyone would have done them. For me, it was, and is, the hard that made them great.