The hardest thing people train themselves to do?

I’m constantly impressed by the sheer range of wonderful things that people can train themselves to do. But which achievement is the hardest, the most difficult? Your opinions please.

Play a classical piano concerto from memory? Pilot a modern fighter plane in real battle?

Perform brain surgery? Perform at Olympic Gold level in athletics or gymnastics?

Run a successful business? Execute the perfect high-board dive?

Work on particle physics equations? Sculpt a figure out of solid rock?

What do you think?

Keep their opinions to themself? :smiley:

Ignore pain?

Always be kind and respectful toward others?

Never complain?

It’s got to be something that requires humility (not humiliation, mind you), as most of us have trouble getting that down.

To gain or lose weight, if your body really has a “set” metabolism.

May be a tough question to answer, as not all things are equally “hard” for all people.
It may be as “hard” for a tonedeaf person to play chopsticks, as it is for a prodigy to play Chopin.

The hardest thing I’ve trained myself to do is take a cold shower. My hot water heater is off to save money (and coming home to a 95 degree house in the evening,) but the delayed reward is worth the excruciatingness of the first couple seconds of cold water.

I would have to say “make a major lifestyle change in ourselves”. I don’t mean packing up and leaving, because as they say, wherever you go, there you are. I mean actually making a personality change in themselves.

This includes weight loss, fighting depression, getting out of a rut, not being a doormat any more, etc., etc. The list goes on.

This is pretty minor but hafd.

Some people claim they can prevent themselves from burping. I cannot. I only did it once or twice in my life. And, I must say it was painful as hell. I do know how to make them come out quietly, so no one notices it. I just can force them back down.

I think that somewhere up high on the list should be, “to do what they’re supposed to do, instead of what they’d rather do, because they know they have to do it.”

That said, I think I’ve trained myself not to get the hiccups. Whenever I feel one coming on, I clamp my mouth shut on that intake of air, and then it never develops into a hiccup. I can’t remember when I last had them. Maybe 20 years ago.

Having a true sense of yourself, a real one that is neither too negative or too positive, and knows what you are all about, why you do what you do.

Ted Williams used to say that the hardest thing in sports was hitting a baseball.

Interestingly, he also flew fighter planes in real battles. And he was a world class fisherman. Come to think of it, he also knew physics. Ever pick up his book on hitting? I don’t have the calculus to understand all of it…

But back to the point.

I think calling things “hard” is overrated. People learn all kinds of things simply through repetition and having an interest in what they are doing.

I used to juggle professionally, and I was pretty good. It took me many years to develop a skill base and then learn to present it in an entertaining manner. I suppose you could say some of the stuff I did was “hard”, but I believe most people could learn it with enough repetition and dedication.

True, it would be easier for some than others. But all the research into learning (physical) skills suggests that “time-on-task” is the main factor.

For me, the hardest thing is fighting depression, because it affects literally everything in my life, plus it’s so self-reinforcing. You can’t get outside it in order to fight it.

Aside from that, I think for most people, the hardest thing is overcoming any kind of addiction. Even people who are amazingly accomplished in other aspects of their lives still have trouble dealing with addictions.

All opinions welcome, of course (after all this is IMHO), but I was looking more for things like specific physical or intellectual feats that people train themselves to do, for occupational, creative or artistic purposes. Like the ones I listed in my OP.

Well, in my eyes the hardest thing most people ever do is stand up against something that’s wrong even when everyone’s looking down at them for it, but that’s not occupational, creative or artistic, now, is it?

Um…I was going to be an English major and I was a huge stickler for grammar. I was a grammar whore. Now I write in AP style (which still, to this day sometimes makes me cringe) all of the time because of my job. It took me six months to get into the habit.

My dad plays giutar. I’ll sit there and watch him for hours, because it’s almost like autisim - he’ll sit there, listen to a song, pause it, and start playing that exact same song, dead-on. It’s amazing. I can play music, but never on something that required more than one note at a time. It boggles my mind.


The ones in the OP are good. I am astonished by folks who learn to think in mathematical terms, who can read a complex theorem and translate it into a concept. Similarly, folks who learn more than a dozen languages, and keep them straight? Awesome.


And that’s the true definition of humility!

Ooh - best answer yet.

Sorry, ianzin, but I believe you never know how difficult something is to do until you’ve actually tried it, and I haven’t tried most of the kinds of things you’re thinking of.

I’m not sure anyone trains themselves to do any of the things in the OP. Except perhapse sculpting or running a buisness, and then it is more trial and error than self-training. Of the things mentioned in th OP Olympic Level Sporting or Brain Surgery are the most difficult in terms of time it takes, both requiring a minimum of arround 4 years solid work to have a chance of doing it. From those the portion of people who have any chance of achieving the goal is much higher for brain surgens than olympic athletes I would susspect. After all brain surgens arent in competition with each other so you don’t have to be one of the worlds top 100 brain surgens to be a brain surgen, but you pretty much have to be one of the worlds top 100 (or at least your countries top 5) at the event to be able to be an olympic athlete.

The hardest thing I ever learned was how to translate geometry into algebra for one of my teachers.

Ok, most people don’t realize this, but once we figured out how to count with numbers beyond what fingers and toes allowed, the next big chunk of Math was geometry. Not algebra, calculus, groups theory… Geo. Any mathematical problem can be solved through geometry.

I think in geometry a lot of the time, rather than in any “human language”. To me, sometimes Spanish is as foreign as English. When I’m solving a complex problem, the data is geometrical blurbs: yellow-filled rectangles, red-edged clouds, joined by lines and arrows, intersecting planes and volumes. At those times, trying to explain the data in a way that doesn’t have to be drawn is painful.

My christallography teacher was one of those guys who don’t “see” geometry. To him, a symmetry axis was a matrix (sigh, no, an axis is by definition a line, the matrix is one of the possible ways to represent it); a symmetry plane was a different matrix (excuse me while I go get my tummy pills).

Once I managed to translate lines and planes into those matrices, I got 100% in the subject. The teacher was amazed. I wasn’t, I knew it was just a language problem…

Never was able to do the same with calculus, another one where I arrived at the solution through geo but the teacher wanted the equations. But at least with that one, I had the pleasure of hearing an actual mathematician tell the teached that my “geometrical solution” was correct (it was slightly different than the algebraic one, because in algebra infinity isn’t real and in geo it is).

There is by definition, no answer.

Regardless of anything, there is a limit to how much a person can work. After that we have to cheat.

A man might be able to train to run 40 mph, but using some ingenuity and he’ll be cruising along at 150 in his BMW.

A man might be able to figure out the speed of light and work back to the distance of the stars and whatever, but in the end he will need to use computers or other mathematicians to do all the calculations needed to continue on.

Etc. etc.

All of which saying, I guess one could say that the single most impressive task would be the one that reached the peak of all areas, mental and physical and able to be accomplished by a single person in his lifetime.

Hmm… I’m not sure, and that fact that you are a magician is certainly influencing it, but I would say that via the mathematics and planning behind a trick, the construction of the gizmo, the physical abilities often needed to get out of the gizmo, and the skill to do it all without anyone seeing you do it, and still enjoy it–that’s all pretty skillful. Of course, not necessarily all tricks are relevant to that.

Outside of that anything I can think of isn’t a real “profession” or “task.” For instance you could easily say, “Well if Einstein started picking up kickboxing…” But still that’s one person getting good at two separated and unjoined abilities, not a complete and necessary set.

But if Einstein kicked you in the junk, I’ll bet it would really smart.


Just my opinion, but for this mostly talentless individual, things like:

Playing the piano (migawsh, playing 2 different tunes, one with each hand?) or, really, almost any musical really well; drawing/painting/sculpting; juggling

are just pure black magic to me. I don’t understand, even slightly, how people can do these things. Understand, I am not amazed that they **do ** do such, I just can NOT understand how it is even possible.