Saturday, January 27, 2007

What Is Hard Work?

An interesting article from Fast Company. The following is a meat and potatoes excerpt.

Sure, you're working long, but "long" and "hard" are now two different things. In the old days, we could measure how much grain someone harvested or how many pieces of steel he made. Hard work meant more work. But the past doesn't lead to the future. The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that's really and truly hard, not time-consuming. It's about the kind of work that requires us to push ourselves, not just punch the clock. Hard work is where our job security, our financial profit, and our future joy lie.

It's hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, such as quitting a job and setting out on your own. It's hard work to invent a new system, service, or process that's remarkable. It's hard work to tell your boss that he's being intellectually and emotionally lazy. It's easier to stand by and watch the company fade into oblivion. It's hard work to tell senior management to abandon something that it has been doing for a long time in favor of a new and apparently risky alternative. It's hard work to make good decisions with less than all of the data.

Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your coworkers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is far more conservative than sticking with the status quo.

Richard Branson doesn't work more hours than you do. Neither does Steve Ballmer or Carly Fiorina. Robyn Waters, the woman who revolutionized what Target sells -- and helped the company trounce Kmart -- probably worked fewer hours than you do in an average week.

None of the people who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff are doing it just by working more hours than you are. And I hate to say it, but they're not smarter than you either. They're succeeding by doing hard work.

Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you've done that, to do it again the next day.


Based on this article, I don't think I take enough risk in life. I've always thought that I was a risk-taker. And rightly so, but I don't face up to enough tough decisions to face up to fear. Hard work isn't about working long hours. It isn't about working till 9pm at night. It's about making tough decisions and making these tough decisions perhaps everyday and every moment. Hard work in the modern world is about making sacrifices. Not sometimes social life for your career, but it can also mean sacrificing your "career" for success. Being a success and having a career are not the same thing.

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