Pretend you need to make a choice between doing this or doing that. Both options have their merits. Both have upsides and downsides. Absent a clear winner (which is often the case) what should you do?
Always go with the hard choice.
Effort creates its own reward.
Hard work – especially incredibly hard work – rarely pays off in the short term. But without incredible effort there is almost never an incredible payoff.
The hard choice usually requires the most effort and the greatest personal investment on your part: And when you put in the time, you learn more, grow more, and achieve more.
Even if you don't hit the target you aimed for you will have hit a lot of other targets along the way... possibly some you didn't even know existed.
Always choose to work harder. It always pays off.
Hard choices build outstanding reputations.
Staying late to complete a project, making a tough call to a customer, tackling an employee issue head-on, biting the bullet and taking responsibility when you make a mistake... you don't have to do any of them. In a crisis there are always easier options.
But there is usually only one right option -- even if it's the least attractive option.
We all admire people who sacrifice, who compromise, who stand tall in the face of adversity – so do the right thing, even if the right thing is the hardest thing, and in time you may become someone other people admire.
Luck is occasional, but intent lasts forever.
Deciding to take the easy way out usually means you hope luck will play a part.
"We'll go ahead and ship this... if we're lucky the customer will never notice the problem." (Almost everyone who has worked in software or manufacturing has decided to let a quality problem go so they can meet a ship/release date and hopefully avoid the cost of rework. Sometimes you get lucky… and sometimes you don't.)
While it's painful to make the, "I'm sorry, but we're going to be a day late but we found a quality problem we need to take care of," call, it's a lot worse to answer the, "How could you ship us this garbage?" call.
The angel lies in the details.
Shortcuts, high level decisions, quick fixes... sometimes they work out, but they also mean you lose the chance to spot other problems, identify other solutions, or find different ways to improve.
"Quick and easy" creates an illusion of success. Effort and application – and a willingness to do what others are not willing to do – builds the foundation for lasting success.
The hard choice is always binary.
It's easy to convince yourself that a black-and-white situation is actually gray. Usually it's not: Needing to fire the employee who doesn't fit; needing to bypass a senior employee for promotion for a person less tenured but more deserving; needing to call investors to let them know results are falling short of forecast… you can talk yourself into thinking there are reasons not to make the hard decision, but in the end you're just rationalizing.
Usually there are a host of wrong answers, and one right answer.
Think about a tough decision you face. You can probably list a number of easy answers – and one very difficult choice. Bite the bullet and pick the hard choice.
Maybe you won't now… but later, you will be glad you did.