The Hard Work Lie

I was raised, like many of you, by parents who said if I worked hard I could do anything I wanted.  I’m raising my kids with the same philosophy, hard work gets you to where you want to go.  But what happens when it doesn’t?

You see, sometimes you work harder than everyone else, put in more time, more effort, all of your blood, sweat and tears, and still others seemingly get there before you.

Did hard work fail you?

There is a famous saying “Nothing Beats Hard Work!”  Yes.  Yes, there is something, it’s called Talent.  Sometimes, in short periods, talent will beat hard work.  Here’s where parenting and leadership gets hard.  Hard work is suppose to make us the best, but sometimes it doesn’t.  Hard work is suppose to make us better than those who don’t work hard, but sometimes it doesn’t.  Hard work is suppose to make me the most successful, but sometimes I’m not.

That goddamn hard work lied to me.

Here’s what my parents didn’t tell me. All things being equal, he or she who works the hardest will win – always.  That’s different than ‘work hard and you can do anything’.

So, what do we tell those we lead?

That hard work only works some of the time?

No, I don’t think so.  I think we share a little bit of reality in the world.  Sometimes people will have god given talent, or resources, that for this time and place will be better than your hard work.  That doesn’t make you second forever, it makes you second in this moment.  Hard work, you  see, is about you, not someone else.  Hard work is what you control.  You can’t change the talent that someone else might have, but you can change your own talent through hard work.

That’s really what we should be sharing.  We say the right thing initially – Hard Work Will Take You Where You Want To Go.  But then the focus is on ‘beating’ or ‘winning’ or ‘leading’ – that brings someone or something else into the hard work equation.  The Hard Work Equation is just this:

Hard Work + You = You reaching your self-betterment goals

Self-betterment goals being measures of things you can control.  You want to run a 7 minute mile.  Hard work will get you there.  You want to beat the best miler in the entire world – that’s not a self-betterment goal – hard work isn’t all you need to do that.  You want to be the best recruiter in your organization.  That’s not self-betterment, that’s a competition against other people, you’re adding variables.  You want to source and place 5 new hires each month, hard work is your ally and friend.

Hard work won’t allow you to anything, but it will allow you to do something.  You must decide, specifically what that something will be.


One thought on “The Hard Work Lie

  1. Love this. I just read an article about Gen Y and the story of the “expectations” and work. ( It can be really challenging to put in all your effort and see others surpass but you make a great point about reaching self betterment. Two things I am thinking about- success should be a focus on learning from experiences and growth and development. I think the focus is hard work will teach you perseverance and develop self esteem. This is something HR professionals should strive to exemplify.

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