Difficulty comes in two flavors-- hard or complicated.

Some things in life are hard because they require effort. For example, climbing a mountain is hard. Childbirth, I've heard, is hard. They are difficult because they require more effort than simply getting out of bed in the morning-- which, let's face it, sometimes is hard enough.

Putting together IKEA furniture, on the other hand, isn't hard, it's just complicated. It doesn't requires strength, but it requires a lot of focus. This goes for flying a plane too. It's complicated-- unless you're a bird, I guess. Then I suppose it's pretty tiring after a while.

But you are not a bird. It's not hard. It's just complicated. 

Two different types of difficult.

There's a difference. In fact, it's an important one. While we often think about complicated things as requiring effort, what they really require is understanding. And while we sometimes think of hard things as requiring skill, they actually more often require simple determination. 

Knowing the difference matters because it informs what you do next. Does this thing in front of you require more effort and determination, or does it require skill and understanding?

It may seem like a matter of semantics, and it absolutely is, but words matter. The words we use to describe things, and our understanding of them, absolutely determine how we react and respond. When someone says "it's too hard," it's important to have clarity as to whether they mean that it requires too much effort, or if it's too complicated.

Your job as a leader.

If your team says something is too hard, the next question in your mind should be whether you need to remove an obstacle, or provide them additional resources and coaching to accomplish the goal.

Hiking in the mountains is actually a great example. Most of the time, you just follow the path in front of you. There aren't a lot of complicated decisions to be made. Mostly it's just deciding to put one foot in front of the other. Which, of course, can be hard.

The problem is that we tend to think of things that are hard as being too complicated, but that's not true. Most people are smart enough or coordinated enough to accomplish those things, they just aren't willing to put forth the effort.

Some things, of course, are both. Starting a business is certainly a little bit of both, though mostly it's just hard. It's not really that complicated. 

Have an idea, create a plan, find capital, assemble a team, and go. Okay, maybe it's a little more complicated than that, but there's almost always someone that knows how to do what you need done-- if you put forth the effort to find them. Then it's about how hard you work. 

How you respond is everything.

This is important because we're often tempted to give up when things are hard (or difficult), and we convince ourselves that it's because it's too complicated. 

You see, if I don't have the skill set or understanding, it's easy to place the blame somewhere else. But if I simply don't have the determination, that's on me.

The next time you face a proverbial "wall," ask yourself whether this is something you have to simply climb over, or is the outside surface of a maze you have to carefully navigate. That's the difference.