This morning at 6:45, I saddled up for a bike ride.

Fall is here, and it’s hard to dress for an hour on the bike. In the summer, it’s simple: wear as little as possible, because you’re going to get hot quick. Cycling in the cooler months is a little trickier, but there are basically two options:

  1. Dress warmly so you’re immediately comfortable. After 20 minutes or so, you’ll be sweating profusely and will have to shed a layer (and find somewhere to put it).
  2. Underdress slightly. You’ll be cold at first, but cycling generates a lot of heat. 20 minutes into the ride, you’ll be happy as a clam.

It’s not a matter of personal preference. Option 2 is the safer choice. Hypothermia is always a risk in cool weather, and it’s better to be dry and slightly chilly than warm and wet.

I think there’s a fundamental principle at work here: Anything worth doing is uncomfortable at first.

Early Discomfort is a Good Sign

Think back over your life, to the hard-won battles that have shaped your character and the valuable skills you’ve developed over the years. Did anything fit from day one, like a well-worn shoe? Were any useful abilities easily acquired? Does a smooth road lead anywhere worth going?

This is why many of us yawn at child prodigies: Writer Steven Pressfield put it well:

Much as I admire child prodigies, I hate them too because they found their calling so young and with so little agony. I like to see someone suffer before they find their way.

If you’re suffering as you start to find your way, don’t despair. Early discomfort is a good sign, so we might as well embrace it.