Recently, I was being interviewed on a podcast, something I do often and usually enjoy, and the host asked me a question (well, a couple of questions) that really pissed me off.
I kept my cool (I think), but I found his questions so steeped in privilege, so ignorant of differences, that I knew in that moment I was going to write a blog post about it.
What were these terrible questions?:
- “Why doesn’t everyone do this?; it’s not that hard.” (In reference to religiously tracking time.)
- “Why do you think there are some people who are really organized and care about their lives and there are some people who just don’t care?”
First, before anything else, I’m going to tell you how I answered in the moment. And then I’m going to tell you why these questions pissed me off.
To “Why doesn’t everyone do this?; it’s not that hard.”, I said:
“Because it’s not that simple. And in fact, it is that hard for a lot of people.”
(And let’s not even dive into whether religiously tracking your time is a worthwhile endeavor at all. For the record, I do track my time, for about 2 weeks of every year, to help me calibrate and make changes. But it’s not something I think everyone needs to do religiously.)
And then he asked “Why?”.
To which I responded:
“Lots of reasons; because they have ADHD, because they have poor working memories, because they have lots going on, because it’s not a habit, because it feels tedious, because it’s not fun, because it’s new, etc. There are lots of reasons something might be hard for someone and not for you, and vice versa.”
And to “Why do you think there are some people who are really organized and care about their lives and there are some people who just don’t care?”, I said:
“I don’t think that’s the case. I think everyone cares about their life. Everyone has a desire to do well and be well. It’s just a matter of skills; we don’t all possess the same skill sets. But we can learn them.”
To which he responded “Well, you sure are optimistic.”
And, hell yes, I am. But also, I don’t think my response was rooted in optimism. Because I know that it’s rooted in realism.
If someone ever tries to undermine you or make you feel bad about yourself by saying some version of “it’s not that hard, just do it”, I want you to tell them to f*** right off. (Well, perhaps just in your mind; but I do want you to thoroughly discard their statement.)
I thoroughly reject the idea that “it’s not that hard, just do it”. (The “just do it” part I can get behind; just not the shaming part of “it’s not that hard”.)
It’s not a matter of willpower or motivation.
It’s about skills. And skills can be learned.
One thing I know for sure is that we all have our own realms of genius. We all have our own realms of common sense. And that also means we all have different struggles.
I work with amazing clients. Every one of them has skills I don’t possess. In fact, many of them do jobs every day that I can’t even fathom. They are doctors, lawyers, technologists and more. The list goes on and on.
These folks build the technology behind self-driving cars, they run hospital emergency departments, they’ve have built huge companies.
These are all skills I don’t have.
But they do.
And yet, they might not have learned the skills to manage their email, their tasks and projects, or their time, optimally.
They’ve often gotten to where they are by brute force, by hard work, by muscling their way through it.
You can be brilliant and accomplished in one area and lack skills in another. This is true of all of us.
What’s hard for me and hard for you might not be the same We all approach life from our own perspective and experience.
And yet, is easy to think that something that’s easy for you might be easy for others, something that’s hard for you might be hard for others. Humans are all a little bit solipsistic after all.
So if you’ve ever had the thought “it’s easy, just do it”, or if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this (often unintentional) dig, I want you to think about these examples:
What if I said to you:
- “Speak to them in French; it’s easy, just do it” (when you’ve never taken a lesson)
- “Make a souffle; it’s easy; just do it” (when you’ve never set foot in the kitchen)
- “Draw a photorealistic portrait; it’s easy, just do it” (when you can barely draw a stick figure)
You might be thinking these are silly examples. But these things I just mentioned? They are skills like anything else.
All you need to learn new skills is practice, effort and willingness.
Managing your time, lowering your stress?
These are also just skills. Skills you can learn.
You aren’t disorganized by nature; you just haven’t learned the skills or built the habits yet.
And that’s what that podcast host got wrong. He was confusing people’s motivations with their skillsets. He was judging others against his own skills without thinking about them as full human beings.
And that’s something I really strive never to do. And I don’t want you to judge yourself either.
As we learned from Glennon Doyle “we can do hard things”. You can do hard things. It doesn’t have to be easy to make it worthwhile.
Sometimes you just need a little help along the way.