Technology, Culture, & Emotional Intelligence

The Long Hard Stupid Way

Why should we choose to do things the hard way? Because “better” and “easier” are not always synonyms.

dough and hands
Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya / Unsplash

I have this affinity for discovering new apps. Just a few weeks ago I came across a technology called — it’s wild. It’s a pay-to-use tool that utilizes artificial intelligence to write blogs, social media posts, scripts… pretty much anything you could imagine. Of course, many tools like this have existed for years, but this one actually works. Like, it really works. You wouldn’t be able to tell that this stuff wasn’t written by a human. Not only that, but it learns your style and in a short manner of time, starts writing like you. Crazy.

My first thought was, “I want to try this.” My second thought was, “Am I soon to be out of a job?” After all, the emergence of this technology means that it will soon be ubiquitous right? How long will it be until your Facebook posts start writing themselves?

While these things may come to pass, I’ve come to the personal realization lately that the way the world goes is rarely the way we expect. We can trust, however–even in an unpredictable world–for this one thing to be true: people will spend what they have (money, time, effort, influence, etc.) for what they value. This is why, despite the expanding conveniences of our modern society, people still regularly spend more than they need to when they determine something has value. As soon as things were made by machines, marketers started using “handmade” as a sales tactic. As soon as mass market items were produced more cheaply in Asia, we started stamping “Made in the USA” (a marketing synonym for “quality” and “nostalgia”) on items that had always been made here. It’s why you are here now, reading this: you value me. Either you trust that what I have to say has merit, or you are my mom and you love me no matter what I say (hey mom!).

That being said, I want to make a commitment to you here right out of the gate. The fact that you value what I have to say — enough to be here — matters to me. I don’t take it for granted. That’s why I won’t be using AI to write any of these articles. (Also, it’s really expensive.) Instead, despite the modern conveniences of our technology-fueled world, I am going to do things the long, hard, stupid way.

I was just reading this book called “Garden City,” and in it, the author shares a quote from a talk by designer Frank Chimero. Here’s what he says:

“If we're going to get really good at something, it's going to take time. And effort. And energy. Lots of It. The graphic designer Frank Chimero tells a story about this chef from a prestigious restaurant in New York City called Momofuku. One day he saw his sous-chef cutting a corner and came down hard on him, ‘We don't work like that here." He said, "We do things the long, hard, stupid way."

The long, hard, stupid way. I love that.

Do you know what the long hard stupid way is? It’s writing all your words from your brain, not some AI application, even at the risk of writer’s block or wasted effort. It’s taking time for a conversation with a subordinate who doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of your career path. It’s making bread from scratch even though the store sells it in a bag. It’s sitting under the leadership of someone else, even if you occasionally disagree with them, simply because you know the act of serving someone else’s vision will make you better at leading your own vision one day. The only reason we might call these things long, or hard, or stupid, is because we perceive there is a shorter, easier, or smarter way to do the same thing.

The short easy smart way is not bad. But we have to acknowledge that doing things that way can if we’re not careful, train our brains overtime in an unhelpful direction. Fast methods teach us that we are entitled to convenience, speed, and technology, and gradually remove our need for “old” ideas like patience, gratitude, and commitment. The thing is, I just happen to like those old ideas. I like the long hard stupid way because it reminds me of what I want my life to really be about. It reminds me that “better” and “easier” are not always synonyms.

So, here’s my word for you. Today, maybe even for the whole year, think about doing something the long hard stupid way. And if you have a moment a few weeks from now where it seems silly; where you all of the sudden feel like the only one, remember you aren’t. You have at least one friend who is doing it the long hard stupid way too.


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Jamie Larson