Kinds of Hard

April 1, 2009

When people say, “That’s hard,” they often mean different things. There are many kinds of hard. For a given problem, the “kind of hard” faced is a fruitful area for careful thought.

Bench pressing four hundred pounds is hard, because for most people, it isn’t physically possible.

Bench pressing your limit is hard because it requires great strain.

Running a long distance is hard, because it requires persistence through pain and discomfort. 

Running a four-minute-mile was hard before 1954, because nobody thought it possible.

Training for a triathlon is hard because it requires persistence over a long time.

Losing weight is hard because it requires a constant resistance to temptation.

Finding the shortest possible route through a large list of cities is hard because it requires lots of computation.

Determining in constant space whether a graph has a cycle is hard because it requires a clever insight.

Performing a surgery is hard because it requires great dexterity.

Making a diagnosis is hard because it requires great knowledge.

Confronting a friend is hard because it risks emotional hardship.

Winning the lottery is hard because a player cannot affect the outcome.

Avoiding the lottery is hard because it requires the suppression of cognitive biases.

Correcting one’s social faults is hard because few will alert you of the problem.

Creating cold fusion is hard because there is no place to start.

Winning is hard because others must lose.

Politics is hard because resources are finite.

Startups are hard because they require many different skills.

Design is hard because there is no right answer.

Knowing what exactly is meant when someone says hard is hard.

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4 Responses to “Kinds of Hard”

  1. gvwilson Says:

    Huh — people seem eager to alert me about *my* social faults…

  2. Jorge Says:

    Bricks are hard because they are dense solids.

  3. aran Says:

    Oooh, good one.

  4. Dustin Says:

    aran++;


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