How Much Hard Work Really Pays Off?

Hustle is a big word these days. If there is one thing that we can all believe in, it’s that if you just keep chipping away, you’ll get to where you’re going at some point. But the fact of the matter is that hard work doesn’t equal good work. Success depends just as much on your ability to be critical and decisive about where you focus your energy as your capacity to get down in the trenches and do it. Let’s take a look at how to strike that oh so tricky balance of the hard work and the good.

To be clear upfront, hard work matters. No matter how efficient or careful you are, at some point you are going to have to start laying bricks if you want to make any progress. It’s a thing that people don’t seem to realize enough, but hard work will be recognized no matter what position you’re in. Whether you’re the manager trying to climb the ladder, the new guy that wants to leave his mark, or the intrepid new startup leader trying to make it on her own; that work doesn’t just escape into a vacuum.

So many success stories out there can be chalked up to people saying ‘yes, I am going to try today and I’m going to try even harder tomorrow’. You can look at any business, any self-made champion of whatever industry you care to name, and two basic elements will always ring true — consistency and purpose.

It goes without saying that if you want to make content that people will come back to, you need to be there for them when they come looking. Nothing destroys confidence quite like inconsistency and flakiness. That’s as true of building a blog as it is of proving to your boss that you can take on more responsibility.

But that purpose part is just as critical. When you’re working hard and it feels like you’re just beating your head against the wall, you can be well-assured it’s because you’re not working with purpose.

Everything you do — every decision you make — should be a building block toward something else. That staircase could have 1000 steps, 10,000 steps even, it doesn’t really matter as long as there’s another one waiting for you every time you’ve cleared the last.

This is an important metaphor because one of the biggest mistakes people make when working is taking on too many things at once. That’s the easiest way to destroy any progress you’ve began to build. People love to talk about how useful multitasking can be, but in reality, we just aren’t any good at it. In almost every case, it does more harm than good.

Focus on one thing at a time. Take one step then another then another. That can sound endless and debilitating and meaningless, but really that’s just a mindset problem. We think too much about ‘end goals’, about the moment when you can just put your feet up and say “I did it, and I don’t have to do it anymore.”

Maybe there’s a time for that. But that time is in the future, not now. Life is struggle and life is progress. It’s not about figuring it out. It’s not about checking the box and laying down. You keep running and you keep fighting. The journey is what’s gratifying. It’s what really matters most. That’s what hustle means.

But you can’t work yourself into the ground. That’s the other big mistake. Don’t just work hard, but play hard too. Know what it takes to keep gas in the tank so you have what you need to take that next step. Life is almost always a balancing act. The closer you can get to that perfect medium, the better everything has the chance of being.

Work hard and work well and you will get where you want to be going. But don’t stop. Keep moving. There’s so much left for you to do and see and the worst thing you can do is put up artificial barriers that don’t mean anything. If you really know yourself, you can achieve whatever you please.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment