“What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?”

This is a request for your experience.  I want your help.

Yesterday, I came across an interview with Ryan Avery, 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking on the blog of Paul Sohn: How to Speak Like a World Champion of Public Speaking.

Ryan Avery. At age 25, Ryan is the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking in history. He currently works as the Director of Marketing and Communications at Special Olympics Oregon.
Ryan Avery. At age 25, Ryan is the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking in history. He currently works as the Director of Marketing and Communications at Special Olympics Oregon.

The question that really struck me and has left me deep in thought for the last 24 hours is this:

“What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?”

Ryan said that a friend asked him this question and the fact that he could not answer it made him change.  He became World Champion of Public Speaking because of the question.

What is your answer?  Is it clear?

Personally, I don’t have a clear answer.

I have been reflecting on school, university, MBA; on 8 years of work at Accenture; on 1 year travelling with a backpack around Asia and Latin America; on 12 years building companies as a entrepreneur; on teaching; on 8 years of being a parent…  and I am not sure I have a clear answer.

My reflection is that I want to have a clear answer on my 50th birthday.  I want to know that there was something that I was willing to sacrifice for and that I chose to do the work consistently; in the good and in the tough times.

This weekend, I am on a 3 day course with Dr John DeMartini called “Master Planning for Life”.  I aim to have an answer on Sunday night.

My Questions for You, Reader:

I would love your help.  I learn so much from listening to other’s experiences.  I would welcome comments or emails direct to me conor (at) conorneill.com with your experiences, reflections and perspectives:

  • What is the hardest thing you have had to work for?
  • When did you know that you were committed to achieving it?
  • How did you overcome the loss of passion, the doubts as you worked through the project?
  • What is something you are working on now that is big, hard and meaningful (but your choice!  not your boss, company, family… you personally chose this project)

Thank you.

9 responses to ““What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?””

  1. […] you liked this post, you will also like What is the hardest thing you ever had to work for? and Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your […]

  2. […] and rewriting chapters that put my ideas into an improved form.  I need to remind myself that hard work on what matters is both rewarding in and of itself, and the only real path to somewhere […]

  3. ”What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?”

    Conor, please pardon me for responding to this question late. Ever since I received the mail, I’ve been thinking of the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. This is a very difficult question.

    Nonetheless, some time last year(2014), I did a self introspection to analyse the state of my inner being and the development of my life to date. In analysing my inner self and the things that I achieved and not achieved, I realised that my under-achievements are mainly because of my inner being; my fears, self doubt, and hesitation.

    Upon this realization, I engaged on a journey of self transformation. This is a difficult journey because in the process of changing from the self doubting person to a productive, inspiring, assertive and confident being, there is an element of doubting whether one is making progress. Sometime subconsciously, one slips back to the old being. I’ve tried to keep the new spirit in me alive through listening to motivational speakers, subscribing to your site, going to church and so forth.

    I recently opened a small business and the challenges I face every day in making the business a success are really a test to my character. The business hasn’t made any money yet,
    but ”believing” and perseverance are some aspects I have learnt from the self transformation exercise. The old me would have given up upon facing the challenges.

    To answer your question, the transformation journey I engaged in has been a very difficult experience. I’m not there yet as I believe I’m still have a long way to go.

    The challenge we face as people is that most of us believe that we were born with whatever weaknesses we have and its meant to stay that way. In the end , one collapses under the heavy weight of fear and doubt, forgoing our true potential.

    Even when you realise that there’s something you can do about your negative habits, breaking down habits you’ve lived with for many years is very difficult.

    I’m glad to have come across someone like you. You inspire from a thousand miles away!

  4. Conor, you made me think…I have been doing a lot of activities in my life. Some of them I enjoyed and wanted to make them my profession, some of them became my hobbies. Some activities are not my favorite but still take a lot of time and effort out of my life. On my list of activities I had dedicated myself during different time intervals are completing combined bachelor-master program and becoming a mechanical engineer of food industry, completing bachelor science program in Computer Information Systems, completing MBA, starting and developing a company for designing and sawing sport/dance clothing for figure skaters/salsa dancers/gym performers/etc., designing and finishing home décor, knitting, training XL breeds of dogs, playing chess, running marathons, riding racing bicycles, learning different languages, and many more.

    I must confess that the most challenging and joyful role and activity for me is to be a parent to my 25-years old daughter and 23-years old son. My husband and I had raised them with minimal help from our parents. When our children were 7 and 5 years old, our family moved to the US from Ukraine, while our parents did not move with us. We always had to rely on ourselves. Despite our young age, we had always kept in mind that we are responsible for forming right habits for them, interests and standards for their lives. I was always concerned that none of my kids is a rough draft, that I only have one shot with them and wanted to build stable relationships with them.
    I do not know, if we were lucky or our effort resulted into the effect but I am very satisfied with the result 🙂

    One more my activity is really hard to keep up with but I am not giving up. I am talking about running. I am not an athlete by all means. I was chubby and very sick child, had asthma, bunch of allergies and entire enchilada. One day I decided to challenge myself and in 2012 (at the age of 43 years old) I completed my 2 first marathons (famous Chicago and Indianapolis), and following year another Chicago one. I am still running, I just took it slow. I definitely will set other goals for races. Honestly, I do not enjoy running at all (I know, it is sad), but it is the only effective activity works for me, therefore, the show must go on!

    I wish you luck with your endeavors. You are giving back to community a lot! God bless you for this!!!

    Thank you,

  5. Dear Prof

    Thank you for a wonderful post.

    The hardest thing that I am doing now is creating an online portal to provide free and quality information about university and college admissions. (www.essaysandapplications.com)

    I’ve had lots of doubts, I still do. Will the concept work, will people like it, what if it doesn’t fly?… I get sleepless nights sometimes A logical mind tells me to look at each of these questions with an MBA solution oriented hat, which I do, but my doubts stay. A continuous “What if…” plays in the background.

    I’ve persevered because I can’t let my idea go. My desire is just so stubborn that I have to give my idea all that I’ve got. I used to hate working on weekends, and now I do, I enjoy it and don’t even realize it. So I think that the biggest difference is that I just have to do it. I am not doing it for anyone else. I am listening and taking in feedback; I really have to give this a complete shot. There is almost no other way.


    (IESE Class of 2009)

  6. I’ve been fortunate to have two blinding passions. Dance and Speaking. Both require massive dedication, time commitment and single mindedness.

    It was not a choice, to commit to them – both times – it was a complete impossibility to do anything else. However, it wasn’t about achieving, as in seeing the big picture or the big end goal. it was about taking the next step on the journey with every ounce of my being and doing the same with each step.

    As a dancer, passion was often compromised for technique and skill. So much so that I lost my desire to continue. I lost my way, I lost myself. The passion, however remains to this day. If I hear a piece of music that stirs me deep inside, my body reacts like it’s heroine. Once a dancer, always a dancer.

    Now I’ve discovered my passion for speaking and training. I dedicate myself to it with the discipline of a dancer, however something is different this time. I listen to my own internal voice guiding me. I make my own decisions as to how much theory and technique I need to be successful and more importantly I trust in my unique voice and unorthodox methods. I see the results. When I can connect intensely with the hearts of my listeners or clients, I can make a dramatic impact that connecting with the brain doesn’t always achieve.

  7. I didn’t know you also took 12 months off to go backpacking.

    I read your post and kept thinking about the question for about 15 minutes but without a clear answer either.
    The begining of the MBA was hard work but not that hard. Some projects at work were tough and stressful but nothing that really stands out. Quiting everything to go backpacking took guts but was actually easy.
    So when thinking about it I thought of two things. Either I have not had dreams that were big enough yet. Or the mind tricks us, in retrospect, in thinking we did not work that hard on all those endeavors as not to scare us on the future ones.

    For the sake of exemple however, here is the last tough thing I have done.
    In Colombia, I embarked in a 10 days Vipassana course where I had to stay silent and meditate 11 hours a day. We could not read, listen to music or interact in any way with anybody and our food intake was regulated and kept to a minimum.
    The boredom and physical pain were great and I thought about quitting several times a day. What kept me going was my curiosity about the world. I had to finish the course to truly know what benefit the technique could have and what impact 10 days of deep thinking could have on me.
    Like everything we work hard for, at the end, I was very happy and proud to have gone through it all.

    Keep the posts coming Conor. I love your site.


  8. Thanks for sharing this post! Good stuff.

  9. Qué bueeeeeeno

    Subject: [New post] “What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?”

    Conor Neill posted: “This is a request for your experience. I want your help. Yesterday, I came across an interview with Ryan Avery, 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking on the blog of Paul Sohn: How to Speak Like a World Champion of Public Speaking. The question”

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