the hard way

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the hard way

1. Personal experience that is difficult, painful, or unpleasant, especially as teaches or strengthens someone. Starting your own business is really tough. I had to learn that the hard way.
2. The most challenging or difficult means (of doing something). He insists on doing his taxes by hand every year, rather than hiring an accountant or using software to make it easier—he always has to do things the hard way.
See also: hard, way
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

hard way, the

By bad or difficult experiences; also, by one's own efforts. For example, Bill found out the hard way that interest on his credit-card debt can mount up fast, or No one can teach you how-you'll just have to learn it the hard way. This expression comes from shooting craps (a dice game), where it refers to making an even-numbered point such as six by throwing doubles (two three's). Since there are more unmatching combinations that can produce the same number (four and two, five and one), the odds against throwing doubles are higher, hence the difficulty. [Early 1900s]
See also: hard
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

the hard way

through suffering or learning from the unpleasant consequences of mistakes.
1996 Nozipo Maraire Zenzele I think she understands better than the rest of us that we are at heart one family, for she has had to learn the hard way.
See also: hard, way
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

the hard way

The most difficult method or path. This term comes from the game of craps, where it means making two dice come up with a pair of equal numbers totaling the point. For example, if eight is the point to be made, the hard way calls for rolling two fours; neither five-three nor six-two will do. Since the chances of rolling two fours are much less than the other combinations, this way is “hard.” The term then was extended to such phrases as “learn something the hard way,” meaning to learn through bitter experience, and “come up the hard way,” meaning to rise by one’s own efforts.
See also: hard, way
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
The dullest head among them knew, that night, that the hard ways of poverty would be all the harder to walk on, now he was gone.
We had a moment of exquisite forgetfulness of the hard ways of life--a moment of delicious absorption in each other.
In these thirty words, Robinson alerts us to several essential qualities of his writing: his embededness in a specific place, Roundstone Bog; his admission that these are explorations, not conclusions; and crucially, his willingness to take the hard way, or several hard ways, to get to his point.
Brook then began publishing on the front page the initials T.H.W.T.B., which stood for "The Hard Way's The Best."
The Hard Way: The Odyssey of a Weekly Newspaper Editor.
The men in John Mort's collection, Down Along the Piney, are bent on doing, working through it, and putting up with it, with all the hard words and hard ways that characterize hardscrabble life in the Ozarks.
The lessons I learned in life, the hard ways and the capacity to seek someone who has...
"the lessons I learned in life, the hard ways" and "your capacity to seek someone who has somewhere a universal mind."
But we are still finding these hard ways to play the game.
His idea of living among the villagers and getting a real feel of their hard ways, and understanding their needs, is worth emulating.
Not that there's an easy way to get there - there are only hard ways - but powerlifter Yule has had to take the hardest journey of the lot, overcoming obstacles none of his rivals have had to deal with.
It could be learning by hard ways after our leaders have knocked their heads on hard walls of tough choices between war and peace, and after they have gotten humiliated and chickened by threats of sanctions.
When everything is said and done the political parties have much to learn from their young stars rising as well as learning to rise: Rahul Gandhi who has taken his defeat gracefully and not grudgingly stands today as a political icon who is open to learn the grammar of Indian politics through hard ways. His post electoral words permeate the wisdom of the humble and the humility of the wise.