hard way, the
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.
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.