The Fine Line Between Working Hard and Letting Go

Some of my favorite memories of growing up are building model airplanes with my dad. I remember him showing me how to assemble, sand, and paint them. I think back on how proud I always was when we finished a project together.

Young Boy Building a Model Airplane - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #18115686

Photo courtesy of ©

On one occasion, I remember struggling to get two parts to fit together. I tried several different angles. Nothing seemed to work. I grew increasingly frustrated.

Calmly, my dad said, “Son, don’t force it.” I stopped what I was doing, looked up at him, and instantly knew he was right.

I relaxed, set down the parts, and started working on some other aspect of the project. An hour later, I returned to the obstinate parts and clicked them into place.

Life is often like that, isn’t it?

You do your best, but often you get to the point where you are in danger of breaking something if you press any harder. Then you realize that the best strategy is to let go—at least for a while.

I had an experience like that yesterday.

I have been wanting to interview my friend, Bob Goff, for some time. His new book, Love Does, was just published earlier this month, and is already in Amazon’s top 300 books.

I read the first draft of the manuscript more than a year ago and was blown away. Not only did I want to help my friend, I wanted to share this treasure of a book with my readers. I knew they would love getting to know Bob and his book.

So, Bob and I decided to do the interview via Skype last Saturday. I called him at the appointed time. However, he couldn’t get Skype to work correctly on his computer. I could hear him; I just couldn’t see him.

After twenty minutes of fiddling with it, we gave up and decided to reschedule.

We tried again yesterday. Everything seemed to work fine. I had a fantastic time talking to Bob and hearing more about his adventures with the book. But when we hung up, and I played the video, the audio was badly out of sync.

I worked on it for several hours, trying various solutions I found on Google. Nothing worked. The video looked like a bad foreign film where the actors lips and words wouldn’t align.

I grew increasingly frustrated. I kept thinking, I just need to push a little harder.

Then I remembered my dad’s words. “Son, don’t force it.”

So, I relaxed, set it down, and decided to do something else. It’s just not worth breaking something. Instead, I had to believe that it was not meant to be. At least not for now.

In life, we have to learn there is a fine line between working hard and forcing an outcome that isn’t meant to be.

If we don’t push hard enough, we never experience the breakthroughs that take us to the next level. But if we push too hard, we risk breaking something important—our physical or emotional health or even a relationship. It’s just not worth it. We have to trust.

After all these years, this is a lesson I am still struggling to learn.

Question: Where are you frustrated right now? Is it time to push harder or relax and trust? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Moira-inthemoment

    Very timely. Thank-you

  • Kathy Stockton

    Wow…this is exactly where I am in my life right now!  I need to really pray about things and ask God to show me clearly if it is time to push a little harder or set it down…at least for now.

  • Dan Black

    Currently I’m writing my first eBook, a book about why a person should find, develop, and use their talents. One of the things I’m working through is the ability to focus on the writing part and not to worry about editing. It seems when I’m about to sit down and start writing my brain shifts to editing and the layout. This has been very frustrating.

    I still plan on pushing forward to reminding myself the importance of writing and not worrying about editing until after the first draft. I personally think it’s time for me to push harder so the book can be read by others.

    Great life lesson from your father and reminder to all of us. 

  • Daren Sirbough

    Relaxing and trusting that God’s covering my reputation during this season of Changing churches and communities I’m involved in. There’s so much of me that wants to make Gossip right and to fix the misconceptions that one goes through during a shift in locations. Letting go and trusting God is very important!

  • Brdgbldr1

    Michael:  You remind me of the old oriental adage “…don’t push the river—let it flow.” (:-)

  • Doug

    I couldn’t have put it better.  Every time the first quarter rolls around and business slows a little I’m tempted to try to “do something” to bring in business.  That’s not our style and even when it gets tough to pay the bills I remind myself to hold true.  Honest, organic growth is really important to us.  No quick fixes or blue light specials.  Our value to our clients is what it is and they appreciate it.  I don’t want to cheapen our studio for a short term gain at the expense of long term growth and integrity.

  • Av Rohse

    Hi Michael,

    Right on!  Once in a while the best policy can be just to back off and bury into the Haagen Daz.  I’ve actually just had a weekend that called for full implementation of this “protective mode”  which is necessary in order to tend to wounds.  It’s amazing how wounds, for example, of a spiritual nature can hurt so much (usually because they are inflicted by well meaning humans  who really believe they are doing what’s right), that they make you question your faith.   I’ve learned that if I try to force too much into finding a solution for what appears to be a standoff, I go into a type of combined panic and anxiety attack.   The more I try to find a solution,  my efforts freeze.  Imagine: frozen  hysteria.  Nothing budges.  No solution appears to be available.  But, if I back off, slowly self confidence,  hope and creativity start trickling back.  Something painful evolves into something useful,  like an approach to take if the same situation occurs again.

  • Christopher Hernandez

    This is a blog that speaks directly into my life during the current season I am experiencing. I am a husband, a father of two young girls, and soon a father to a brand new baby boy. My wife and will I have been married for five years, come August, and we have been through a lot so far already. Through that time, we have had two children, moved at least four times, and I recently graduated with a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Regent University while working seasonal construction/engineering in Alaska on the military base. My engineering career is demanding and there is lots of room for development and certified training, which would give me the income I desire in order to provide for my growing family. With that said, as accessible as the certifications are, I have definitely felt that God is wanting me to take things one day at a time, and not rush into becoming certified to inspect and sign-off on important engineering standards and specifications constructed in the field. I cannot be employed to do something I love to do, just because I love doing it. I actually need to become competent in my profession, before I “sign-off” on anything, especially since my desire to be a Special Inspector outweighs my development. God is good, and His timing is perfect. I need to grow, and thanks be to God that I will grow.

    Great post. Great Blog. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Mr. Hyatt.

    • Jim Martin

      Christopher, this sounds very wise.  You have noted that you have a lot going on right now (husband, father of two young girls, new baby on the way).  You have also had much going on in this early season of your marriage (grad from school, working in engineering, giving birth to two children, moving four times.)

      You are right, there is something very good about taking the time to grow and develop.  That is a significant investment.

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  • Beng Dabang

    this topic is what i really needed  to decide  into something that is really bothering me
    i am into a  complicated relationship that is really hard to let go..but now i realized that the more you insist yourself into it the more difficult it could be…

  • Gordon Diver

    Well written and a great lesson. Thanks for sharing and I’m looking forward to eventuality of seeing the interview with Bob when the time is right :) 

  • Paul

    A good lesson to re-learn! Thank you the story and please send it to me again next week … And the week after… And…

  • Cathy Pullins


    This is a good article for me to stumble upon today.  My husband and I were discussing the level of wisdom we must refine to find this delicate balancing point in our struggles with goal setting.  
    …Finding the right level of tension that allows for the stretch of ambition without prompting the backlash of a level of pressure that omits self-love and grace. 

     Too much tension — the energy snaps and we move backward.  Too little tension and we are not propelling maximum growth.  

    CHALLENGING to discern.

  • Kenneth Eggen

    Career moves. I pushed too hard, ended up very frustrated now I am in a state of being frozen. I am not certain what I want to do at all.

  • Frankie Manners


    As always you have hit on exactly what I am struggling with right now…when to push a little harder and when to let go for just a while.

    My fiance and I are house hunting. We have decided that it is time to move from Alabama – where we moved over a year ago for his job – back to Tennessee – where both of our hearts are.

    In four years together we have not had an argument…until now. This has been the most frustrating process. We have both – along with all our family and friends – been in constant prayer about this and feel with all our hearts it is the right thing and right time to do this so why is it so hard?

    Maybe we just need to step back for a while – just lay it down and come back in a week or so? Our forever home here on earth is important but at this point I’m afraid if we push too much harder it will damage our relationship and that isn’t worth it. On the other hand, I’m afraid if we don’t push we will never get back to where our hearts and kids and grandbabies are.

    I guess my question is how do you know when to keep pushing and when to let go for a while. I’ve struggled with this all my life but never more than I am right now.

    Thank you for this wonderful post that hit me right where I am.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Frankie, I wish I had an easy answer. It is an art. I also think it comes from a faith—trusting that it’s going to workout in the end. You might also want to read Seth Godin’s book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Hope that helps!

      • Frankie Manners

        Thank you, I will check that out.

      • Frankie Manners

        You know cleaning helps me think so after you replied to me I started cleaning and it hit me. About a week ago I transcribed a talk you gave and the most profound thing that came out of it for me was you saying, “…so many people quit right before the inflection point…right before it gets good. …So often we quit and we just need to push through and get to the other side.”

        You were speaking to the “resistance” we face right before we make a major breakthrough. I was so inspired by this I typed it up and taped it right behind my computer screen with Psalm 119: 35-37 posted below it.

        I’m thinking now this is the resistance.

        Thank you for being an inspiration to my life and helping me think about things outside the box.

        • Michael Hyatt

          You’re welcome. So glad you connected these. Blessings.

  • Dale Melchin

    Did you eventually get it to work?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I did! You can watch it here.