Hit Hard And Settle In The Middle

“Hit hard and settle in the middle” is an approach often seen in government decisions related to taxation, or some limitation of civil rights. It’s basically the imposition of a very difficult measure, like a huge tax, or a drastic limitation of free movement, which generates a significant reaction from society. Because this reactive resistance is so strong, the state then “takes a step back” and “meets in the middle”, offering a bargain. Most of the time, society accepts this new deal, because it still holds the prospect of a much worse outcome. But this “bargain” is usually way toxic than anyone would have accepted in the first place.

In and by itself, this approach is neutral. There is no good and bad in anything, it’s just what we choose to make out of it. Just like the boiling frog technique can be used to slowly kill the frog, with no reaction whatsoever, the same approach can be used to accommodate someone to a new, way more positive environment, with just as little resistance, in a step by step, seemingly unobservable progression.

I surprised myself many times using the “hit hard and settle in the middle” approach, but mirrored, reversed. I know it can be a bit confusing, so will start with a few examples.

Hit Hard, Almost Fail, Learn, And Bounce Back

10 years ago I decided to write a mobile app in 30 days. I knew PHP at that time, but had very little knowledge of Objective C, as a language, let aside the Applie APIs for mobile development. It was a very stressful period, but eventually I made it. The struggle was real, though, and I had to take a step back from development for a few weeks. But when I got back, I was in a much better position than at the beginning of it. In roughly 2 months I covered a lot of learning, way more than in a traditional, course-bound approach. It’s also worth mentioning that, 10 years after that, I pay rent by being a full time mobile developer.

The longest race before my first marathon, in 2012, was 15 km. And even that wasn’t a very spectacular run, I was quite tired after it. In case you’re not familiar with endurance running, the general recommendation is to have at least one 35km race in your feet before even attempting a marathon. I didn’t. I just hit it hard, and crawled through the race, and eventually I finished it. I learned so much from that attempt, and it felt so good (after that damage was gone, that is), that running became a second nature for me. I segued into ultra-running and got to finish 24 hours and 48 hours races, and even a 220km point-to-point ultra around Lake Balaton.

About 6 months ago, during the pandemic, I started to learn to play the guitar. I never had any experience whatsoever with this (apart from a couple of lessons during my teenage years, which were long forgotten). But I set a goal to be able to play Spanish Romance in 6 months. I started to post monthly updates, from month 4, and so far there are two of them, one in which I decently play Silent Night, and one in which I horribly play a Sting’s Every Breath You Take cover. This month, the “hard” milestone is due, I’ll have to play it, record it and post the video. I’m not sure how it will go, probably not spectacular, but the overall improvement just because I set a goal so audacious is impressive. I’m not doing this to become a professional guitarist, I’m doing it mainly as a form of self-therapy. So “impressive” relates to how many improvements I’m seeing in my overall state, just because I set myself to practice 3 times a day, or one and a half hour on average.

When To Hit It Hard, And When To Take It Slower

The rule of thumb is that I choose to “hit it hard” when I want improvements very fast, in a few months, or maximum a year. Obviously, I apply this to activities that have been already through the filter of a 30 day challenge, so I know for sure I want them in my life. I also do this when I’m ready to take some backlash, even in the form of physical damage, like with running, or in how the outcome is received and perceived by other people, like with the mobile app development or playing the guitar. This backlash is basically the price that I’m willing to pay for those rapid improvements.

But this approach is not working in any case. Some endeavors need a slower, more investigative approach. Like when learning a new language, or when settling in a new city / country. These are things that I want to take a bit slower, let them build organically, don’t rush and see how they unfold.

I guess the bottom line here is that, like I wrote in the beginning, there is no intrinsic “bad” or “good” approach. Yes, “hit it hard and settle in the middle” is used, and abused, at times, to enforce restrictions.

But the process itself is neutral.

It can be used just as well to enforce drastic improvements in your life.

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