Hard work: what is it and why is it important?


Everyone and their brother says that hard work is a key to success. But can someone tell me what hard work means and why it is important?

Is hard work defined by effort or number of hours worked? If you aren’t exhausted at the end of the day, does that mean you can’t be successful? If you are successful anyway, does this mean you don’t deserve it?

Does hard work mean doing things you don’t like or aren’t good at? What if certain things come easily to you? What if you love your work? Do those not count?

Does hard work mean persistence? Does it mean continuing to do things that aren’t working? So we can never admit defeat and try something else? We can’t get help?

Hard work, eh? Does it mean taking work home with you every night? Missing your kid’s soccer games or piano recitals and feeling bad about it? Does hard work mean pain, regret, and sacrifice?

I don’t know what it means. Or why it’s important.

What’s wrong with working smart instead of working hard? What’s wrong with getting lucky, having the right connections, or even marrying the right person?

Wait, I get it. Hard work is for those who aren’t naturally skilled, don’t know how to work smart, and never seem to have any luck. It’s a fail safe. When nothing else works, work hard.

Whatever that means.


What does “hard work” mean to you?


One day early in my career I was looking for new office space. I found myself looking at a nice space in Beverly Hills that had been recently leased by some young turks (small “t”). They had taken a bit more space than they needed and were looking for a sub-tenant to take over one of the offices.

As he was taking me on a tour, the turk explained to me how he and his partners conducted business. He said, “we work hard and we play hard”. Even though I was going to be a tenant, not a partner or employee, I got the feeling he wanted to see if I was a good fit.

He didn’t elaborate but something told me I wasn’t a good fit. I don’t know what “playing hard” meant to them but I’m pretty sure it didn’t mean they played a lot of chess. Don’t laugh. I like playing chess. A lot.

Anyway, this morning, when I was in the rain room, I recalled this exchange and thought I would ask what you think about this whole work vs. play business.

Here’s my take on it.

To me, work means doing things you don’t want to do. Play means the opposite. My entire method of operation is to try to do as much of what I want to do and as little of everything else.

In other words, my ideal would be no work and all play.

That doesn’t mean goofing off. It doesn’t mean the absence of accomplishment.

It means eliminating or doing less of the things I don’t like or am not good at. I do that by delegating those tasks to someone else or finding creative ways to run my business and personal affairs so as to avoid or minimize them.

We weren’t put here to endure, we were put here to enjoy. There is no virtue in hard work for hard work’s sake.

Anyway, what do you think? How do you define work and play? And do you work hard and play hard or, like me, do your best to enjoy the journey? Let me know in the comments.

By the way, when I called back the next day to ask if I could take another look at the office, the turk told me they had rented it. I was pretty sure that was not true. I think they discriminated against me because I wasn’t cool. I don’t know what gave me away. It couldn’t have been my fez because fezzes are cool.