Desirable Difficulty: The Art of Leveling Up

“Desirable Difficulty.” This is a two-word term that recently entered my skull thanks to Seth Godin’s new book, “The Practice: Shipping Creative Work.”

Are you familiar with this concept?

Desirable difficulty is the on-purpose art of placing challenges before you so that you can struggle. On-purpose.

These are stretch goals. They are hard. You should be failing at them as you learn and grow.

The work that you put into achieving them is what makes you better. It is the grindstone that makes you sharper.

Anyone Can Do Easy

Easy obstacles don’t help or inspire. People won’t seek you out because you can conquer easy.

“Nobody pays the juggler to toss one ball.”

So let me ask you. What are you setting in front of you that will make you better? I’m not talking about solving everyday problems either. Although I guess they count too.

What I’m thinking about here are your experiments. You goofing around with something knowing that it will end in failure, and merely not caring about the outcome.

Because the outcome isn’t the reason why you put in the work. It is the repetition of the on-purpose practice of difficult things that is the key to success.

Just For You

This is just you trying to get better at something.

Is there an idea that really nags at you that you wish you could solve? I’m certainly raising my hand here.

Wishing you could improve that, and actually clocking in and trying are two completely different things. What I know about people, and even myself, is that we are all really good at listing things. Critiquing things. Pointing out problems.

We are not so good at actually taking the action to resolve them.

Great at planning. Sucky at doing. That is how most people are…wouldn’t you agree?

How would you rate yourself? What about your team?

Why This Won’t Go Away For Me

This is the reason why this idea won’t go away for me and is so sticky.

Scratching that “Desirable Difficulty” itch, just might be the concept that gets you to the mystical “next level.”

You’ve seen this before probably.

It’s the reason why you read that business book or blog (hey, thanks by the way). Or stack another plate on the bar when weightlifting. Maybe it is adding a different spice to the recipe. Or sprinting the last half mile on your run. Even learning a new language.

It is pushing yourself. On-purpose.

There Is No Escaping 2021

Soon, the calendar will turn. The fetid dumpster fire that was 2020, will quickly become a shiny new penny for us to enjoy.

Be honest.

Besides the work we all did to try to come out of the COVID-19 mess more or less intact, what on-purpose challenges did you put in front of you to improve this year?

What did you learn how to do? How many times did you fail at something?

I did a few, both personally and professionally, but I think I probably could have squeaked in a few more if I really tried.

Ok. A lot more.

So instead of firing off a New Year’s Resolution that you may or may not hit, consider listing out something that is ridiculously hard right now.

Then, start on the path of achieving it. This time next year, where do you think you’ll be?

That desirable difficulty is what is going to set you apart from your competition because they are whizzing through the easy stuff and not pushing the envelope.

This is how you leave them in the dirt, wondering.