learn (something) the hard way

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learn (something) the hard way

To learn or discover something through personal experience, especially that which is difficult, painful, or unpleasant. Starting your own business is really tough. I had to learn that the hard way. Everyone will tell you that becoming a parent is challenging, but you never really know what that means until you learn about it the hard way.
See also: hard, learn, way

learn (something) the hard way

 and find (something) out the hard way
to learn something by experience, especially by an unpleasant experience. (As opposed to learning in school, from reading, etc.) She learned how to make investments the hard way. I wish I didn't have to learn things the hard way. I found out the hard way that it's difficult to work and go to school at the same time.
See also: hard, learn, way
References in periodicals archive ?
Coming from a loving and creative home, you know Amber as Joan in Joan of Arcadia, a role that makes Amber a near veteran at interpretation of lessons learned the hard way, spiritual rebirths (big or small) and the often mysterious ways love is revealed.
This is an exciting Conclave fantasy in which the villain of the first two novels returns from exile having learned the hard way during his trek and his battle with a greater evil the wickedness of his former ways.
Using speed to avoid contact is a survival technique Inouye learned the hard way.
It's a lesson many dot-coms learned the hard way as they burned through cash in an attempt to quickly gain market share.
Ludden learned the hard way that you need to know who is speaking before and after your presentations.
Lincoln's message - learned the hard way through losing a father, a wife and a ``normal'' family life - is summed up in the simple statement: ``Closing off kills us.