Go Do Hard Things!

Volunteering For Challenges

Frederick Johnston
4 min readJul 29, 2021


Image by Kanenori from Pixabay

After a recent family visit, my friend left my children with the following words, shouted from his porch as we loaded into the car to depart:

“Go do hard things!”

Reflecting on his appeal, I considered what assumptions and ideas went into those parting words:

  1. Life offers us hard things. Challenging opportunities are all around us.
  2. Hard things are intrinsically valuable. Attempting them is worthwhile.
  3. We have a choice, doing hard things is voluntary. Not everyone will sign up.

In a country of ease and plenty, the temptation is to avoid hard things. To rest and take our comfort; everything is so convenient anyways, why should we trouble ourselves?

Because inside of hard things hide lessons and training critical to a life well-lived.

What Are Hard Things?

What’s difficult for one person may not be challenging for another. But we can all agree that areas which stretch us physically and mentally are difficult. Some examples of hard things in life:

  • Climbing the peak or running the river, testing your endurance.
  • Tackling the project that’s beyond your abilities (currently).
  • Having an uncomfortable conversation because you care about the other person.
  • Entering a new career or calling.
  • Educating yourself about a topic or skill.
  • Working diligently as a parent or mentor.
  • Standing up for your beliefs and principles despite pressure.


It’s a weird twist of history, which repeats itself: one generation struggles and strains through hardship to provide the following generation more resources and opportunities.

And then that same generation grumbles that their progeny don’t have the similar grit and endurance they possess.

Ease makes us lazy and uninteresting. However, doing hard things, challenging ourselves, and facing adversity build strength within us.

The goal is not to be comfortable; we should aim to be useful.

Challenging endeavors helps us build capacity in the following areas:

Fosters contentment

Doing hard things, encountering and overcoming adversity boils things in life down to their essentials. And when we’re dealing with essentials, we realize how little we truly require.

We become comfortable being uncomfortable. And out of that, we gain contentment.


When the goal is challenging, or the road is long, there’s an appreciation that grows in us. Not only appreciating the result or finish line, or even the hard work required, but an awareness of all the people and resources that helped us along the way.

Hard things often require a team, at the very least, a cheerleader to help motivate and support us.

Few of us are born grateful; we need it knocked into us by challenging times. Fortunately, once we gain a deep sense of gratitude, we can’t shake it. It sticks with us moving forward.


Competency paired with creativity is impressive. The ability to actually “do stuff” is highly desirable.

Doing hard things strengthens your abilities and mental skill through experience. As a result, you become resourceful, tougher mentally, and more valuable to yourself and others.


Doing hard things builds confidence. If you enter into a hard thing, repeatedly showing up in the arena, and you endure, you inevitably become more confident.

You know where and how you endured the test, where you’ve failed and bounced back, and what you’ve learned. As a result, you’re confident that you can handle other hard things in the future.

Much Given, Much Required

We can ask, “Why us?” Why do we need to do hard things? There are other people around; they can tackle stuff if required. We don’t need to get involved. Failure is likely anyways.”

We need to attempt hard things because a good life, one lived with clear eyes and a full heart, requires it.

There’s work to be done and challenges to meet. There are forces of atrophy and apathy to battle. So many aspects of our lives are easy and convenient, and often we lack adversity in daily living to test us.

But tough things have a purpose. They are opportunities for growth and wisdom.

The appeal of “Go do hard things!” is decisive for us today because it points us back to the reality that the things which genuinely count are difficult.

The foundations of a good life and society require people willing (and able) to do the hard things, to show up and work.

We have much, and with much given, much is required. So let’s stand up and dress for action to meet those hard things in our lives and communities. We may fail, but it will not be for lack of courage or effort.

Moving Forward

What hard things are you avoiding?

Start today: select one of those hard things and engage it. Step into the arena to see how you’re going to measure up against it.

Originally published at https://fjwriting.com on July 29, 2021.



Frederick Johnston

Lifelong writer and researcher, often can be found at FJWriting.com, pursuing a life well lived