What if you tried hard?

March 21, 2024

I wonder what would happen if you tried really hard.

I wonder what would happen if you gave it all you had and even risked embarrassing yourself if it didn't work out.

What greatness could you attain if you just tried harder than anyone else?

It's easy to put in the minimum effort required to get the job done, but nothing great has ever come from putting in the minimum amount of effort. I want to do great things, so I'm not interested in putting in the least effort possible.

Great musicians try hard.

Great entrepreneurs try hard.

Great parents try hard.

Great athletes try hard.

An odd stigma exists around trying hard as if getting caught trying is cringeworthy. Cool kids don't try! They don't care about anything! There's an idea that the true talents, the real heroes, don't have to exert effort. They float from success to success without breaking a sweat, inhabiting a world that seems off-limits to you.

Sure, but have you ever watched a documentary about one of the all-time greats?

Watch a documentary about Lionel Messi, Jerry Seinfeld, Kobe Bryant, or Taylor Swift, and you'll see how much work they put in. How hard they tried. Practice hasn't started, but they're already there. Practice is over, but they're still there. Outworking everyone. Earnestly writing thousands of jokes, hundreds of songs.

Maybe there is the odd person for whom everything comes easily. The rest of us have to try.

The bar is low

The good news is that since most people don't try that hard, standing out becomes much easier for you! If you look around, you'll see that the world is filled with people barely exerting the minimum effort required. (And sometimes even less than that.)

Take, for example, applying for jobs. A while back, I noticed Laravel was looking for a video person. Many replies were just like, "Hey, pick me!"

Taylor Otwell


Iโ€™m interested in potentially bringing on someone to focus on video and educational content at Laravel. Thinking 2 videos per week.

If thatโ€™s you, send me some examples of your work! ๐Ÿ“ธ

In this case, trying hard could be making a video showcasing your past work and sending it to Taylor with a note that says, "I heard you're looking for a video guy, so I made a video highlight reel of all my work!"

It's not even that much effort! It might take an hour or two, but it increases your odds exponentially.

Adam Wathan recently posted an open position at Tailwind Labs and said this in a followup tweet:

Adam Wathan


We're going to get a lot of applications I'm sure but please don't feel like the odds of getting noticed are against you.

It's wild but 90% of applicants don't even follow the application instructions! [...]

A tiny bit of effort to stand out has outsized rewards when applying for a job โ€” 10% more effort doesn't increase your chances by 10%, it increases them by more like 1000%.

If you send us a real application we'll notice it, I promise ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป

90% of applicants don't even follow the instructions! The bar is so low! Nobody is trying! You merely have to follow the instructions and you're ahead of 90% of other applicants? That barely registers as "trying" in my book! Imagine how far ahead you'd be if you followed the instructions and put in a little extra effort.

These two examples might provoke this thought: "I shouldn't have to try hard to get my job application noticed." You can find this pattern everywhere: "I shouldn't have to, therefore I won't."

I shouldn't have to try hard as a husband.

I shouldn't have to try hard as a parent.

I shouldn't have to try hard as a friend.

I don't have an opinion on whether you should have to try hard. I'm saying that you do have to try hard.

In most cases, I'm entirely uninterested in asking whether or not I should have to try hard because the answer doesn't matter. Trying hard will produce better outcomes for me and I want better outcomes for me.

You're scared to fail

Trying hard won't always get you where you want to be. You can try really hard and still not get the thing you want. That sucks. I've been there, and it's not fun.

When you try hard and fail, the natural response is to avoid feeling that way again. Since you can't control the outcome, you may be tempted to not try as hard in the future as a form of insurance.

If you don't try hard and you fail, you've got a great excuse! You can say, "I could have succeeded if I had tried! Oh well, I'm not a failure because I know I would crushed it if I had just tried, but I didn't really try, lmao."

It's an escape hatch. It's a safety valve. If you never give it your all, you can't ever be a failure.

A common place I see this is when people are preparing to give a conference talk. Giving a conference talk is scary and could be a bad experience if it doesn't go well! That's why you see people publicly proclaiming that they're starting on their slides the night before or saying they have yet to practice the talk before giving it.

It sounds so cool! "I didn't practice, I'm just going for it." What a legend! But it's a protection mechanism. If you tell everyone you didn't practice and then you go out and crush it, you're a natural talent. If you didn't practice and you bomb, well, that makes sense because you didn't practice. If you had practiced, it would've gone much better but you couldn't be bothered to practice. You still win! You're still cool! Your ego is still intact.

It sucks to try hard and still fail, but I assure you it's worse to coast through life not trying because you're too afraid to be embarrassed.

Try hard for a while.

Give it everything you've got.

Commit to the bit.

You might be surprised by what happens.


Thanks for reading! My name is Aaron and I write, make videos , and generally try really hard .

If you ever have any questions or want to chat, I'm always on Twitter.

You can find me on YouTube on my personal channel or the Try Hard Studios channel.

If you love podcasts, I got you covered. You can listen to me on Mostly Technical .