Doing it the Hard Way or the Easy Way

Of all the people I met doing guided mountain climbs, there is one particular fellow that stands out when I think of doing things the easy way or the hard way. I’m not sure I ever caught his name so I’ll just call him Chili Dog Guy, CDG for the sake of brevity.

The particular climb was a five-day expedition on Mt. Rainier. We met in the lobby of the Paradise Inn, one of the historic National Park lodges. Oh, I’d love to do a tour of all those historic lodges one of these days. Anyway, during the quick round of introductions to guides and other climbers, Chili Dog Guy introduced himself with something like, “I’m here from St. Louis and I’ve come for the most painful experience of my life.”

I was solo for this particular climb so as we stuffed the group gear into our packs, I was chatting with the other participants. There was a group of 5 friends that came from Arkansas, a cute young man with freckles from Maine, and a guy from upstate New York. Everyone had assiduously worked out in preparation to climb. The group from Arkansas had probably even over-prepared – probably to make up for the fact that the high point in Arkansas is Mount Magazine that stands only 2,753 feet tall. By contrast, we were starting on Mt. Rainier from 5,400 feet on the way to the 14,411 foot summit.

But the CDG wasn’t standing around chit chatting. He wandered off to buy a chili dog before we got going. Just thinking about having a chili dog sitting in my gut while strapping on a 55-pound pack with the nerves of a climb ahead makes me feel sick – and I’m currently sitting on my couch typing this almost 24 years later.

As we headed out from the lodge, the CDG fell behind immediately. The guides are really good at setting a slow but even pace to establish a rhythm and get everyone comfortable but our compadre’s chili dog must have been weighing him down. I would never call that first part of the climb easy, but if you settle into a pace and have done some preparation, it’s do-able.

When we got to the first rest break at about an hour in, CDG and the guide that stuck with him were nowhere to be seen. Fifteen minutes later as we started moving again, CDG and the guide had just come into sight. At rest break of hour two, we never saw them. By hour three, the guide radioed up to our guides that he was walking CDG back down to the lodge because he couldn’t continue.

That’s it – I never saw CDG again nor had the chance to find out why he “signed up for the most painful experience of his life.” Did he miss the workout guidelines delivered when we signed up? Had he intended to prepare and just hadn’t had the chance? Was this his approach to life? I’ll never know.

But for me he’s come to symbolize my resistance to change or growth. Change is going to happen in my life and I’ve recognized that I’ll either be forced into it or can evolve slowly into it. In many cases, I’ve found that if I listen to the small whispers, I get to prepare for it, much like a climb on Mt. Rainier. I’ve labeled this the easy way.

When I’m butting heads with one of my kids over a particular issue, or feel the irritation in a relationship, or avoid doing the work to learn something new professionally, I now have come to respect that it’s the easy way calling me to do a little work.  

If I don’t listen, life is going to crack me wide open, change will come raining down, and I’ll have to adjust on the fly. This is my hard way.

When I’m feeling miserable about my life, a relationship that I wanted to keep breaks down, or I’m thrust into an uncomfortable work project that is going to require late nights because I don’t know what I’m doing – it’s sometimes because I neglected the whisper of the easy way.

I didn’t know how to listen to the whisper at age 30 when I went on that climb with CDG. But in just three short hours, CDG showed me what the hard way looked like, and I’ve often been thankful to him for that. I’ll never know if he was able to get something out of his trip to Mt. Rainier but I hope so. Maybe he learned to find the easy way as well.

I’ve written a companion piece about a piece of my professional life that I’ve figured out how to do the easier way on my personal blog: Leaning in to Letting Go. Click over!

(featured photo is mine)

40 thoughts on “Doing it the Hard Way or the Easy Way

  1. Oftimes the humility of the ‘easy way whisper’ humbly spares us from the pending agony of pride’s arrogant “I got this!” shout. I have lotsa’ scars to verify that Wynne ☺️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I often wondered if there was a way to use a mechanism like in The Matrix and just “learn” something without any of the scars Fred refers to.

      Tolkein, in The Two Towers says that there’s benefit to those scars: “The burned hand teaches best. After that, advice about fire goes to the heart.”

      I guess the question is how many scars are “enough”? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wow – those are two powerful examples, EW! The Two Towers one makes me think of the other day. My 3-year-old was in the shower. I told him not to turn the handle more to the left because then it would be really hot. He immediately turned the handle to the left (and he’s not a daredevil type) and I moved it back to the middle. Then he did it again. When he then put his hand into the water, I realized he was doing it on purpose to find out what hot feels like. Of course, I have my hot water heater set to a temp that doesn’t burn so it was an experiment I could let him do – but it reminded me how much we all like to learn for ourselves…. 🙂

        I don’t how many scars are enough but I hope by middle age we are starting to figure out we can learn from others… 🙂


  2. I’ve done it the easy way and the hard way, too, Wynne. Mostly, either way, I’ve been astonishingly lucky. Sometimes, randomness has its way with us, no matter the way we choose. Thanks, Wynne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m laughing about how much he paid for the chili dog. GREAT point, Todd! Can you imagine trying to run a marathon or half with a chili dog in your gut? It just seems like common sense to me…

      I’m so glad that you still like my mountain climbing stories – nothing to do up there but pay attention, I suppose. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder if CDG continued to take the hard road in life? There’s a lot to be said for being open to change isn’t there? Also the acceptance factor that there are many ways to go about living life. Making it hard IS one way, but the easier routes can be so much more pleasant 🙂

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    1. A great question, Deb. I wonder if he did. And since he announced that he came for the hardest experience of his life, there was some intention or self-awareness there. CDG totally puzzles me. But you’re right – the openness to change and acceptance pave the way often for the easier way. Ah, life – so many choices. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In my observation some people enjoy making things more difficult than need be. Like they’re always trying to earn an extra gold star. I’ve done things both the easy way and the difficult way but not because I wanted more of a challenge, more like I didn’t know what I was getting into. And I learned and grew from the experiences.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow – what an interesting observation, Ally. Almost like if he COULD climb a mountain with a chili dog in his gut and no preparation, what a hero he would be. Huh – I never thought of that angle.

      But you’re right – doing things the hard way has taught me a lot too. Happy Monday!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I loved learning about the chili dog guy…and Ally’s thought about some folks leaning into difficulty…like they can’t help themselves? Yeah, I’ve seen that. 😉 Thank you, Wynne. I love your “mountain moments” posts! 🥰

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m totally fascinated with Ally’s comment and your second about people trying for difficulty. Hmm – so interesting! And thanks for not being tired of those mountain moments – I’ve learned a lot up in those high altitudes and a small percentage actually had to do with climbing the mountain… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This This really struck a chord with me, Wynne. I used to think there was something noble about “sticking it out” and taking the hard route, whether in health, career, or relationships. Developing the wisdom to not only listen for clues about the easier way, but also follow through, is truly valuable. And it’s empowering to adjust to incoming changes on our own terms, rather than getting caught in a downpour.

    I’m so curious about Chili Dog Guy. I also hope that he got something out of the trip. What a character!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love that you are curious about CDG too. You’re right – what a character. Ah, the stories that we just get a glimpse of… 🙂

      And your wisdom about how empowering it is to adjust to changes instead of getting caught in a downpour. What a great way to put it!! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the idea of listening to.the whispers. That’s what it is sometimes, isn’t it, a little voice pointing us in the right direction. You really are so wise and insightful Wynne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the way you put it, Brenda. The little voice pointing us in the right direction. Thank you for your lovely compliment – not sure I deserve it but I’ve got to do something with those lessons I learned from the higher altitudes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t you think people who choose the hard way make life difficult for those around them? I loved hearing about your Mt. Rainier climb. I’ve never done it but had friends who did it each year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooohh, what a question. They must – at least for people who come with them on their journeys, right? I’m thinking of time I spent with a person who consistently interpreted things in the most unfair, adversarial way and treated everything like a fight. It was exhausting. What do you think, Elizabeth?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think so. When people make things over complicated or are like you described “treating everything like a fight” it will make those who have to interact or work with them miserable.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. CDG probably needed to take a big crap after that chili dog. 😆 All joking aside, it’s interesting to think about the two polar opposite responses to adversity in life. Like you, I often lean towards persevering and forging ahead – the hard way. But there is something to be said about listening to those whispers, those tell tale signs, that perhaps it’s time to pack it up and to try again another day.

    That was a great lesson he shared with you that day. And I am suddenly craving a hot dog now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m howling because he probably did. Maybe it was the first time he realized he would have to be doing it outdoors if he stayed on the trip! 🙂

      Yes, listening to the whispers. It’s an art – isn’t it?

      Hope you enjoy your hot dog! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh, I love this post so much Wynne. I work a lot professionally with change management helping organizations respond to change and my mantra is always the same: put in the easy up-front work or put it in at the end of the project when everything is a mess. I’m sure that chili dog was fine (maybe) but just think how much better it would have tasted for him if he had done the up-front work and waited to have it later when the climb had been completed and he could look back feeling good about his accomplishment! 🧗‍♀️🧗‍♀️🧗‍♀️🧗‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow – this is such a great example that pushes it forward. Right – do the work up front!! And you are so right on about how the chili dog would have tasted after. Yes – I hadn’t thought of that but just yes! Thanks, Brian!

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