It's Good for You

I believe in the Scottish proverb, ‘Hard work never killed a man.’ Men die of boredom. They do not die of hard work.—David Ogilvy

When my siblings and I were kids, we took piano lessons from a lady who lived two miles away. My mother, eager to raise us with an appreciation for physical activity, encouraged (it wasn’t really voluntary) us to ride our bikes to our weekly lessons.

As often happens to children on those dirt country roads, both the way to the lesson and the way home was completely uphill, often both pedals fell off our bikes, and some strange magical transformation always turned our tires to squares ten minutes before departure time*.

Every week on lesson day, we worked hard to convince our mom that she should bring us in the car. We’d often contract high invisible fevers right after lunch, or spot some wispy cloud on the horizon that “LOOKS LIKE A TORNADO!” One time out of fifteen, she’d buy into our feeble excuses and load us into the car. The rest of the time, she’d shake her head and say, “It’ll be good for you.” (or something along those lines)

As an eight-year-old, I had no idea how that concept would shape the rest of my life.

There are a lot of things in life that don’t feel pleasant at the start—they feel like a bike ride on the dusty roads in the middle of hot August, both ways uphill, bare feet on the knobby sticks where the pedals are supposed to be. You know how it goes.

Probably, my mom had more in mind than just exercise. She must have known (of course she did) that she wouldn’t be standing right next to us for the rest of our lives, telling us when doing something hard was worth it. She also knew that we would have to do a lot harder things than ride bikes uphill in the drizzle.

So she made us do things the hard way. And behind my chubby face and round glasses, it started to build resolve. On that bike, under my sweaty fists and pumping thighs, I was learning to face challenges. What’s more, I was learning that it’s a privilege to do things the hard way, and she was right. It’s good for me. It builds muscle, and muscle builds confidence and determination.

In the beginning of June Curtis (he’s very wonderful) and I moved to Michigan. A few days after being here, I took my bike out onto the trail that runs past our town. After I’d gotten about an hour out, it started to rain. Pour.

Naturally, I groaned. Griped. Complained to myself. It’s not really any harder to ride a bike in the rain, it’s just unpleasant. Everything gets drenched, water gets in your eyes, and your tires kick all manner of dirt and grime onto your legs and back.

I slogged back toward town, glaring at the rain—until I remembered the lesson I always seem to be forgetting.

It’s a privilege to do things the hard way. It’s good for us. It builds muscle, and muscle builds confidence and determination.

Am I glad it started raining while I was out riding my bike? Not really. But am I glad I finished my bike ride in the rain? Sure. It was good for me.