Last week, I had the chance to be with 4000 Chick-fil-A people at our annual meeting. As usual, it was a time of celebration, recognition and challenge. One of my favorite sessions was with Dr. Henry Cloud. He shared a success principle that most people know – but often forget.

There are few overnight success stories – most successful people earn their accomplishments over time. Often, it requires decades. But time alone is not the key. We all know people who have little to show for decades of effort. What’s up with that?

Many people assume time on task is the key to success – that’s not the predominant path. What matters more than time on task is what we invest our time doing.

Henry referred to this as the Easy Hard vs. Hard Easy principle. The name alone is probably sufficient to explain the idea but I’ll share a few examples to be sure we’re on the same page.

If a student takes the EASY path in their youth and neglects their studies, it will be HARD to get into the college of their choice. However, if the same student does the HARD work of studying, their career path is often EASY.

If I’m not disciplined with my finances, it may be EASY to spend on luxuries now but HARD to make ends meet when I’m 75 and out of cash! Contrasted with the HARD choices and discipline required to live within our means now so retirement can be EASY.

Henry shared this idea in response to a question about the investment cost to build a team. His response: It may be HARD to make the investment, but it will make your life EASY in the future. If you take the EASY path now (don’t invest), your life will be HARD in the future.

The same principle can be applied to people decisions. Do you have someone on your team who shouldn’t be? It may seem EASY to avoid the situation – clearly, this will result in a very HARD decision in the future when the person has years of tenure. Or, you may choose to make the HARD decision now; replacing that person with someone more suited to the role and make your life EASY for years to come.

I’m training for a trek later in the year. I was at the gym at 7:00 two mornings already this week – it was HARD – I think morning should be spelled MOURNing. But, I’m doing it to make the trip EASY. It would be EASY to sleep in. However, I’m 100% convinced, that decision would make the trek really HARD.

The best leaders understand this principle. We get to choose… HARD EASY or EASY HARD – which will it be?[GLS_Shield]

What is the HARD thing you need to do today to make your life EASY in the future?

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.