In my time as a school teacher I’ve come across many catch phrases, sayings, colloquialisms, buzz words, and derogatory labels.  Students and people in general lay hold to certain terms for one reason or another in their efforts to categorize and make sense of the world around them.   The term, try hard, has been the most perplexing and honestly, the most agitating that I have encountered.

Having been raised by two hard-working parents who were both raised on family farms, I was instilled with the values of trying your best at everything you did, regardless of the activity, simply for the purpose of doing your best.  My parents lived by their principles and I appreciate the power of  principled life now more than ever.  As I grew into a young man, I quickly equated enjoyment with my level of success in a task.  In other words, I didn’t shy away from a tough task but motivated myself to tackle and conquer it.   It was a resolute stickwithitness and it has stuck with me to this day.  If I was mucking out the gutter in the beef barn, then the quicker I did it the more capable I felt.  I was trying hard and no voice of criticism stood in my way.  No voice made me question why I was working so hard.  I lived with the belief that a person was meant to try or work hard at everything they did.  Today, that message seems to have changed.  Voices of criticism have intensified in volume.  Enter the easy button generation.

Recently, I overheard my son and his group of friends using the term try hard.  The term carried a negative connotation with it’s apparent application in their conversation so I couldn’t help but wonder why?  Naturally, within groups leaders and followers form.  Evidently, in my son’s group of friends parity is highly valued.  Maybe his group doesn’t have a clear leader per se or the group values sameness across all areas of life more than difference.  I found myself wondering about the long term effects of a term intended to diminish one’s level of effort in an activity.

It seems that kids today are just trying to survive by doing the bare minimum.  They aren’t striving to become better and as a result they aren’t thriving in their endeavours.  This was always my experience in my group of friends as well.  Within my group of friends there were always peers who took others down a peg, and rightly so sometimes.  However, there are costs and benefits to this approach to friendship.  When ambition is replaced with complacency, people let go of their dreams and live for acceptance of the group.

We have been fortunate with our hired help on the farm.  For the most part, the local area high school students who we employ from time to time, really put their noses to the grindstone when it comes to doing their paid tasks.  There are only voices of encouragement, saying. “You’re doing a great job! Pace yourself.”  Their effort responds to positive encouragement and they can try as hard as they need to finish the humdrum tasks of cleaning out stalls, piling hay, digging fence post holes, etc.

From time to time, I share my life experience with my son and daughter.  I think it is parental duty that helps children prepare for the unknown paths in life.  I try to impart valuable advice to them to help them build skills to thrive in life.  For example, whenever you are doing business with someone find time to talk with them, don’t rush away, but don’t overstay your welcome.  Friendships can be forged, respect deepened, and shared interests opened.  My grandfather and father taught me this valuable lesson.  Don’t be so busy with your life that you disregard your kind and caring nature.  I also teach them to hold doors open, even if you’re in a rush, for anyone and everyone.  This simple act of kindness helps you to find acceptance in putting others before yourself.  After completing university, a friend sent an email to me.  In the email, he shared how the one mark of kindness left an indelible impression upon him: I always held the door open for people coming behind me.  I had no idea that this had such an impact on his life.  I wasn’t trying hard to impress anyone, I simply had an innate desire to show kindness to others.

Farming, and life in general, has ups and downs and all arounds.  Learning to navigate the tumultuous ebbs and flows of life can be a challenging task.  Finding time away from hard work is important to live a balanced life on a family farm.  Thankfully, farms abound with opportunity for a moment of rest.  In fact, these moments are always available to us.  I found and still find myself sitting down to listen to the repetitive cud chewing of the cattle in the barn.  During hay season, I’ll take a moment between loads to lay down and stare into the expansive blue sky to ponder life.  At the farm dinner table, I’ll turn off the busy button to listen to my grandmother narrate tales from her past.  There is always an occasion to turn off the mind and find rest.

My son and daughter both try hard at those pieces of their life that they are passionate about.  Shouldn’t they? Shouldn’t they strive to rise above normalcy? The etymology of the word pursuit means to follow and persevere.  A follower can follow the group or follow their heart and passions.  We persevere or try hard, not to set ourselves apart but to bring our own unique talents and skills to the group.  All sheep need a shepherd, but we can be sheep and shepherds in life where we can help others to achieve and still find achievement ourselves.

In my walk with Christ, I am a follower who tries to continually have a servant’s heart.  Farming is a service? Isn’t it?   I try hard, every day, to improve our family farm.  Sometimes, I tried too hard at the expense of my physical and mental health.  I should have listened to my parents when they said, “Go home and rest,” but my pursuit of a dream to have a self-sufficient family farm trumped my better judgement and the voices of concern and wisdom, went unheeded.  We can try too hard.  Lately, I am learning to let go of negative thinking, grudges, and other unhealthy habits.  Instead, I am trusting God’s will and His promises that I am discovering in His word.  It’s hard not to try hard.

Sometimes it feels as though we are learning a language within a language.  This can be especially troublesome for us as we go through life.  I explained to my son that being called a try hard or calling someone else a try hard can be taken one way or another.  The term carries negative and positive connotations.  Negatively, a person tries to hard that they forget to enjoy the activity that they are doing.  That’s a win at all cost attitude.  Positively, a person tries hard to be the best that they can be in order to improve themselves or better contribute to their group.  We have the ability, as parents, to guide our children through the rapidly changing landscape around them and positively try hard.  My hope is that my son and daughter will continue to try hard in every avenue of life.



Justin MacCurdy

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