Is hard work the key to success? Umm, no

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Everyone and his brother says that hard work is the key to success. But is it?

I can point to many times in my life when I was successful without hard work. In fact, many of my successes came with little or no effort.

I can also point to times when I worked my fingers to the proverbial bone and accomplished nothing. Goose eggs. Bupkis.

I’m sure you could say the same thing.

A mentor of mine once said, “If you’re not having the success you want, there are only two reasons. Either you’re not doing something right, or you’re not doing it enough.”

No mention of hard work.

“Doing it enough” implies persistence, but that isn’t necessarily hard. In fact, the more you do something, the easier it usually gets.

“Doing something right” is important, of course. With a little practice, you can usually improve your skills (and your results).

Let’s flip around the phrase “doing something right”. Could this also mean “doing the right things”? Yes it could. In fact, I think doing the right things is the key to success.

It’s the 80/20 principle that I talked about recently. We are much more successful at some things that others. Choose the right things to do, and you will have more success.

Don’t tell anyone, but I found law school and the bar exam to be relatively easy. I have always been good at exams, especially essays. Essays are a “right activity” for me.

Other things, not so much.

Ever meet someone who seems to lead a charmed life? They don’t work hard and yet they go from one successful outcome to another. They have a great career, and everything seems to come to them quickly and without a lot of effort. Is it talent? Luck? Magic spells?

Maybe. Or maybe they’ve simply made the right choices.

I’m not saying “don’t work hard”. Working hard is a way to hedge our bets, in case we’re not as good as we think, or in case we haven’t chosen the right activity.

Work hard if you want to. Just don’t depend on it.

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