What is Hard Work?

Read this article and it inspired some thoughts.

When I say “I worked hard” for this or that, I’m implying additional sacrifices that similar peers don’t make, won’t make, or can’t make.

Doesn’t mean that I am smarter or that the hard work paid off/was warranted, or that hard work leaves me entitled to something. It simply indicates sacrifices above and beyond the typical expectations.

But typically, hard work, going above and beyond, sacrificing what you value most, namely time… time to do or invest in other things that may be pleasurable… yields rewards. Albeit not always tangible. These rewards are less about what you get and more about what you become in the process of sacrificing.

I worked hard in college. What did that mean? I sacrificed a lot of time toward my education and leadership or academic extracurriculars or my part time jobs. I didn’t party as much. I didn’t have down time. Full course loads. Packed scheduled between and after classes. To achieve goals.

There are people who spent less time studying than I in college, and they got better grades. But I didn’t work hard in grades 1-12 compared to my peers, and the hard work they put in allowed than to be more efficient and productive in college. While my peers were studying for the AP’s, I was partying. Their hard work and sacrifice paid off. Now I had to make the sacrifice.

Some people work hard to get to a certain level, then never put the same level of hard work in again. They coast. Maybe because they don’t feel the external pressure anymore, not from parents or school, and they want enjoy life. That’s good.

Sure hard work is relative when you think of time spent working. Who can say whether two people are working “harder” than the other. By what measure? Output? Depending on the job, this is a difficult thing to measure.

But sacrifice is pretty straightforward. There are only so many hours in a day. The greater portion of them you spend to achieve your ultimate aims is a function of hard work.

Hard work is sacrifice. It’s a function of time, but also intensity, which is a function of focus, which requires emotional investment. This is devotion.

I believe that life is reaping and sowing.

Farmers must obey the seasons. They sow in the spring, cultivate in the summer, reap in the fall, then save their harvest through the winter and prepare for spring.

There are lots of proverbs about farmers who have equal plots of land, but get different yields.

Some farmers are conscientious, some are not. Some are tedious in their preparation and planning, some are not. Some don’t care and tend to their crop until they reap, others inspect and prune and eradicate weeds and insects and nurture their crop.

I feel like hard work is character.

It’s habits.

Daily habits.

Its not about what you get, it’s about what you give. You don’t work hard for a reward. You work hard because that’s who you are. Because that’s the habits you’ve conditioned into yourself to embody, so when any challenge is presented, your default is to solve it with the same tenacity and diligence and conscientiousness that you have always done. This makes you dependable, and valuable.

Whether this is enough for the world is another matter. Whether your hard work manifests into tangible rewards like money or status or power is another matter.

But I believe hard work is pretty straight forward.

Do you make the sacrifices? Do you go above and beyond expectations to solve a problem, to accomplish the task? Do you persist until it’s completed?

Some tasks are more important than others.

My colleagues have families. They work hard and make sacrifices being family men, and they can’t devote the same to their job. A single bachelor is able to work harder as a result, assuming work is their highest value.

I don’t think saying you worked hard implies a level of entitlement.

“I think the issue is that when people say they’ve “worked hard,” they’re implicitly suggesting superiority. I’m deserving of reward, not like those people who are lazy (“those” people being immigrants, poor people, liberal arts majors, whoever it is you seek to contrast yourself against).”

I think any well adjusted person would agree that in life, we don’t deserve anything. Literally.

Life’s not fair.

Life is hard.

So what.

Time passes.

Whether you work hard, make sacrifices, or go through the motions, and indulge whenever you can.

The difference is, while time passes all the same, who you become as time passes is different.

I genuinely believe that hard work, sacrifice, persisting through struggle… is what creates character.

Character is most evident in hard times.

Character is not appreciated or obvious in easy times.

Character is resilience.

When things get hard, what do you do?

Buckle down, grind through, persist, stay disciplined?

Or do you try to find some way around. Or just stop all together. Find an “easier” way? Lie cheat steal?

Time passes the same for everyone.

But who we become while that time is passing depends on our willingness to work hard. Our willingness to make sacrifices. To go without.

I struggle to relate to the author of that article.

Hard work seems tied to a self-awareness which believes that personal responsibility can influence desired outcomes

Why work hard, make sacrifices, if outcomes were certain?

Certain because of privilege, or inferring the future will be like the past.

Certain because a belief that no matter what you do, you can’t chance fate.

Certain for whatever reason.

But when you take personal responsibility, and expand the sphere of influence to every conceivable facet to influence a desired outcome, you are incentivized to work hard, make sacrifices etc

This can actually turn into a complex topic.

Because what actions you take while you work may determine different levels of productivity.

You can work hard spinning like a hamster wheel, with minimal productivity.

So effort alone is not an indication of hard work.

Hard work also can be obligatory. Working two jobs to live semi-comfortably to support a family.

Or work one job and go to school and sacrifice some things for the short run for more opportunities in the long run.

Doing the minimum expectations isn’t hard work, necessarily.

You can be a farm hand. All farm hand work is manually laborious. I guarantee any farm has farm hands that work to different levels. Some are considered hard working, some are not.

Is it just to get a job done? Is it do get a job done that exceeds expectations? Once? Time and time again?

For white collar jobs things seem different.

Some people seem to not have to invest as much emotionally into work and still achieve higher productivity. They may spend more or less hours. But the work they do is excellent, complete, professional, i’s dotted t’s crossed. Impeccable.

Some people have to invest a lot emotionally to achieve productivity. They are emotionally involved with their work, and it drains them. They can’t separate. They pour themselves into it, and maybe overtime, to achieve a similar result

I still think that perfect practice, the hard work and sacrifice of pursing excellence at your craft, provides compounding returns to your skill and productivity over time.

This goes for musicians, athletes, artists, sales people, technologists and programmers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, everyone.

Hard work is an investment. That’s how I see it. I feel like their is an emotional element to it.

Everything is hard before it becomes easy.

I think of the biographies of great thinkers and doers.

There is a hallmark to their work.

A devotion that never sleeps.

A devotion to their craft, to pursuing excellence, to refining their methods.

Focus is critical for hard work. And without an emotional investment, I’m not sure this is possible.

Spending time on an activity alone is not hard work.

But it’s usually a requisite

Or a symptom of that emotional investment

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