What Can We Learn from People Who Make Things Look Easy?

Feb 23, 2022


In his book Effortless, Greg McKeown explains our cultural aversion to easy. It feels like cheating. It’s less noble. It yields a cheap result. But is that actually true? Or is it something we impose on ease?

In my previous post, I wrote about how easy it was to go paragliding. I'd been making it hard in my head, unnecessarily hard.

“I can do hard things” is the pep-talk of our day. Yes, I can do hard things. So can you. But do we make things unnecessarily hard when they can be easy? So much of this has to do with our inner approach to situations. In his book, Greg outlines some fantastic strategies for how to make things easy. (I highly recommend reading it!)

Emily making paragliding look easy.

One that he doesn’t mention, but is my personal favorite, is hanging out with people who make things feel easy.

(This earlier post highlights 3 people who made things feel easy for me.)

Want to earn a lot of money? Find people for whom it’s easy to earn money and spend time with them. Let them rub off on you. I’ll bet you’ll be making more money sooner than you think.

Want to eat healthier? Find people who enjoy eating healthy and hang out with them, whether virtually, in-person, or just reading about them. Watch your appreciation for healthy foods and your ability to prepare them shift rapidly.

Want to write a book? Find authors who have written books and spend time with them (again, online, in-person, however). They might gripe and tell you, "It’s easy to get distracted," and stuff like that. But that will actually help you. You’ll say to yourself, “Oh, getting distracted is normal. I shouldn’t be surprised by that. I have to learn to focus if I want to write books too.” Their camaraderie will make it easier.

One of the potential pitfalls of being around people who make things look easy is to say, “Well, it’s easy for you.” But what can you learn from them?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (pretty much a genius) in the film adaptation of Amadeus  

How can we learn from geniuses?

Prodigies and savants mess with our heads. If you haven’t seen the movie Amadeus, it’s all about this dilemma. Mozart is a genius and doesn’t have to work hard. He doesn’t earn or appreciate his gift, nor does he thank God for giving it to him. Salieri, a composer living in Vienna at the same time as Mozart, is average. He works hard, teaches piano lessons, and writes mediocre music. He has some level of success, but not the rock-star status of Mozart. Despite hanging out with Mozart, Salieri doesn’t improve in his musical career. In fact, from his judgmental frame of mind, he sets out to destroy Mozart. And this is the problem.

When we’re jealous of the people for whom something comes easy, we shut down our ability to learn from them. We limit ourselves from the benefit of their insights and abilities.

In the final scene of Amadeus, Salieri acts as scribe for Mozart, who is on his deathbed thanks to Salieri’s revengeful tactics. In this moment, Salieri steps into the beauty and joy of Mozart’s creative process. He sees how it unfolds. He experiences the epiphanies and sublimity. He participates in the beauty of creating the way Mozart creates. He sees things the way Mozart sees them. When we take people as our guides rather than our competition, everything changes. Things becomes easier.


The question I asked that made it easy.

I hated my music history class. The teacher’s approach was stale and uninteresting. He graded our papers harshly. Despite loving music, I was getting a C-. Then I did something I’d never done before. I went to his office. He told me, “I have five minutes,” and remained standing in his doorway. He assumed I wanted to complain about the grade on my paper. I never pulled it out. Instead, I asked him a question that changed everything. “What do you love about music history?”

What do you love about _________?
This question invites connection instead of competition.

He invited me to sit. One hour later, I walked out of his office inspired and enlightened. Prior to that meeting, he was my enemy. My adversary. He stood between me and the grade I wanted. Humbling myself and taking him as my guide made the rest of the class easy, even enjoyable. I came to love music history. More importantly, I'd found a guide.

Why make it hard when you can let it be easy?


Talking about finding mentors at a couples retreat.

How to find the people that will make your life easy.

When Emily and I teach our Navigator Framework, we talk about Finding Mentors. This comes under the “Charting Your Course” step. We teach about how crucial it is to find mentors who will guide you toward your chosen "island." You can have mentors online, in-person or throughout time. Who you follow on social media, spend time with on weekends or read about, will affect how easy or hard it is to go where you want to go in life. Choose the right mentors and the route to your chosen island will start to emerge. It will become more clear, and consequently, easier. 

You might think, “Well, I don’t know anyone or live near anyone that can be my mentor.” That’s the beauty of the age in which we live. You can find mentors everywhere: online, in libraries and eventually they can become your in-person mentors. Every single person who was our mentor prior to living on a sailboat, we have since connected with in-person. Once you start looking for mentors, they will come into your life in ways you couldn’t imagine. 

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
— Buddha

And when you hang out with them, what used to feel hard will start to feel easy.

Why make it hard when you can let it be easy?



Fun links:

Movie: Amadeus (fair warning: the new director's cut contains nudity)

Book: Effortless by Greg McKeowen

Book: Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris

Song: "Let it Be" by the Beatles





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