Success literature going back hundreds of years espouses the benefits of hard work. But why is it that some people seem to feel that “hard work” is a dirty word nowadays?
I define “hard work” as work that is challenging. Both hard work and “working hard” (i. e. putting in the time required to get the job done) are required for success.
A problem occurs when people think of challenging work as painful or uncomfortable. Does challenging work necessarily have to be painful? No, of course not. In fact, a major key to success is to learn to enjoy challenging work AND to enjoy working hard at it.
Why challenging work? Because challenging work, when intelligently chosen, pays off. It’s the work that people of lesser character will avoid. And if you infer that I’m saying people who avoid challenging work have a character flaw, you’re right… and a serious one at that. If you avoid challenging work, you avoid doing what it takes to succeed. To keep your muscles strong or your mind sharp, you need to challenge them. To do only what’s easy will lead to physical and mental flabbiness and very mediocre results, followed by a great deal of time and effort spent justifying why such flabbiness is OK, instead of stepping up and taking on some real challenges.
Tackling challenges builds character, just as lifting weights builds muscle. To avoid challenge is to abandon one’s character development.
Now it’s natural that we’ll tend to avoid what’s painful, so if we see challenge as purely painful, we’ll surely avoid it. But in so doing, we’re avoiding some very important character development, which by its very nature is often tremendously challenging. So we must learn to fall in love with challenge instead of fearing it, just as a bodybuilder can learn to love the pain of doing “one more rep” that tears down muscle fibers, allowing them to
grow stronger. If you avoid the pain, you miss out on the growth. This is true both for building muscles and for building character.
While a common philosophy says to go with the flow, the downside to this belief system is that you must yield control of your life to that flow. And that’s fine if you don’t mind living passively and letting life happen to you. If you feel you’re here to ride your life instead of drive it, then you’ll have to accept where the flow takes you and learn to like it. But sometimes the flow doesn’t go in a healthy direction. You can go with the flow and end up in a pretty screwed up situation if you don’t assume more direct control when needed.
On the other hand, there’s the alternative way of looking at life with you as the driving force behind it. You create and control the flow yourself. This is a more challenging way to live but also a much more rewarding one. You aren’t limited to those experiences that can only be gotten passively or painlessly – now you can have much more of what you want by being willing to accept and take on bigger challenges.
If I only went with the perceived easy flow of my life, I’d never have learned to read, write, or type; those were all challenges where I felt I was going against the flow of what was easy and natural. I wouldn’t have gotten any college degrees. I wouldn’t have started my own business. I certainly wouldn’t have developed any software. No way I would have run a marathon – one doesn’t exactly flow into such a thing. And I most certainly wouldn’t be doing any public speaking.