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Do Hard Things summary

Steve Magness

Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness

4.5 (531 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

'Do Hard Things' by Steve Magness is a motivational book that challenges the notion of settling for mediocrity. It encourages young adults to pursue greatness and to push beyond their limitations. The book highlights stories of inspiring young people who achieved impressive feats despite their age.

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    Do Hard Things
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    Key idea 1 of 4

    Toughness isn’t about projecting confidence – it’s about uncovering authenticity.

    When you think of the word “tough,” who do you picture? Many people might think of a John-Wayne-type: someone who suffers silently, stoically ignores pain, and wouldn’t be caught dead talking about their feelings. But this popular image of toughness is deeply flawed. In fact, science and psychology find that stereotypically tough behaviors such as these are counterproductive to cultivating lasting resilience. It’s about time we redefined toughness!

    Four key behaviors form the foundation of real resilience. Each of the next chapters will guide you through one of these behaviors. Let’s start with the first behavior. Toughness isn’t about projecting confidence; it’s about uncovering authenticity. In other words, to be tough, you need to ditch the facade.

    Old school toughness is all about projecting a facade – creating an image of toughness that depends on overstating your endurance levels and capabilities. The problem? It's demotivating when our expectations don’t match up, at least partly, with reality. So if you’ve said that learning Icelandic will take you six months max, but it’s six months in and you’re still struggling with basic grammar, you’re likely to give up. And giving up isn’t exactly “tough,” is it?

    True resilience depends on being real with yourself. It might not feel tough to admit that it will take you years to pick up a new language. But when your expectations and reality overlap, you’re more likely to ultimately succeed. Being honest with yourself is what will allow you to pursue your goals relentlessly, which will improve your endurance and performance over time. 

    Need more convincing? A study of elementary school students found that overconfident readers often chose books way above their level of comprehension. Picture a third-grader trying to read all 607 pages of the final Harry Potter book. Unsurprisingly, those readers typically abandoned their book after the first few paragraphs. What’s more, they were unlikely to pick up another book – any book – afterward. But the readers who were realistic about their abilities? You guessed it: they steadily improved over time.

    So, how can you ditch the facade and get real? Here are some simple strategies.

    Set authentic goals for yourself. When you’re all about image, you set goals designed to impress other people: I’m going to run a marathon or I’m going to marry the most attractive partner I can find. But if these superficial goals don’t resonate with your actual desires, you’re unlikely to meet them. 

    Projecting a facade of confidence often leads to pushing away feelings of doubt or insecurity. Don’t fall into this trap! You need to listen to those insecurities. Doubts are often the brain’s way of alerting us that our expectations are overstepping our capabilities. Listening to doubt allows us to reassess, recalibrate, and set ourselves up for long-term success.

    You can cultivate true confidence, not just a confident facade, with a trick called “raising the floor.” If you set an unrealistic goal – say, doing a hundred push-ups a day when you’re not in shape – and you fail to meet that goal, you have to lower the bar. Lower the bar too many times, and it’s tempting to give up on push-ups and get back to Netflix. Raising the floor, on the other hand, simply requires you to set a manageable target – perhaps even an easy target. You’ll soon find you're exceeding your expectations of yourself.

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    What is Do Hard Things about?

    Do Hard Things (2022) explodes mythologies around the popular conception of toughness. It shows how traditional markers of toughness, like putting on a brave face and pushing past pain, can actually hinder physical and mental performance outcomes in the long term. Instead, real resilience comes from listening to your body and embracing your emotions.

    Do Hard Things Review

    Do Hard Things (2021) by Steve Magness is a book that challenges the idea of settling for mediocrity and encourages readers to push beyond their limits. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers inspiring stories of individuals who have overcome obstacles and achieved remarkable things, motivating readers to strive for their own greatness.
    • Backed by research and experience, the book provides practical strategies and tools to help readers step out of their comfort zones and accomplish difficult tasks.
    • With its refreshing perspective on the potential of young people, the book challenges societal expectations and empowers readers to break free from limitations.

    Who should read Do Hard Things?

    • Employees who need resilience to succeed in challenging, high-stress roles;
    • Athletes and fitness fans wanting to build physical and mental fortitude;
    • Anyone who wants to face challenges with authentic toughness.

    About the Author

    Steven Magness is a performance scientist and executive coach, who specializes in working with Olympic athletes. In his bestselling titles Peak Performance and The Passion Paradox as well as his latest, Do Hard Things, Magness shares the secrets behind achieving sustainable success while operating at the peak of your capabilities. 

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    Do Hard Things FAQs 

    What is the main message of Do Hard Things?

    The main message of Do Hard Things is to challenge the status quo and strive for excellence in all areas of life.

    How long does it take to read Do Hard Things?

    Reading Do Hard Things takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Do Hard Things a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Do Hard Things is worth reading as it motivates to break free from comfort zones and make a meaningful difference in the world.

    Who is the author of Do Hard Things?

    The author of Do Hard Things is Steve Magness.

    What to read after Do Hard Things?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Do Hard Things, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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