The Myth That Hard Work Will Bring You Success

His demeanor was decidedly downtrodden, his confidence down, and his spirit was broken – why hasn’t his hard work been rewarded?  Why have others leap-frogged him on the company success ladder?

As I sat across the table from this young man, my heart broke – because he is my friend, and he’s learning a tough lesson in a tough world that I believe many successful people have to learn.

Hard work will not guarantee you success.

Hard workLet me explain – the hardest working athletes are not the ones making the most money.  The most talented ones in any sport are not often described as being “hard working” (I can name several, hard-working, talented athletes – but just go with me on this).

Let’s leave the sports analogy, and talk about any organization – think about – do the people that work the hardest end up at the top of the ladder? The person that is putting in 12 hour days, sweating and plodding along?  Getting the job done and earning very little reward?

Do people get promoted within the organization on work ethic alone?  Isn’t usually because they know someone, have a natural knack for something, have more “education”, or were just in the right place at the right time?

I’m not saying that hard work goes unnoticed.

Coaches, managers, leaders – they often go out of their way to acknowledge and praise hard-workers.  They are held up as examples to the others and given momentary spotlights, but in the end, it’s not the attribute that brings success.

I have seen a lot of hard-working people get treated unfairly over my career in all avenues of life.  The person that quietly goes about their business and bothers no one is rarely acknowledged.  The person who has a knack for doing a lot of things well is “too valuable” to move to higher positions of authority.  Hard working people are often not vocal enough to “too their own horn” and get noticed, so they are not noticed (they believe their work speaks for itself).  How many people do you know that are the fall guy to get stuff done?  If no one else wants to do it, we know the guy or gal we can count on to get ‘er done, right?

Am I wrong?

So what value is “working hard”, and why should we work hard, or expect those we lead work hard as well if there isn’t a visible payoff?

Well, there’s 2 things here I want to say.

Number 1 – as a leader, if you have people in your organization that work hard – make sure you acknowledge them and take a deep, accurate look at how you treat them.  Are you taking advantage of them?

More importantly – you, the hard-worker.  Why should you work hard?  Do you work hard for a reward (pay, promotion, or prestige)? Should you work hard for these things?

What about for self-pride?  I’m talking ego – I’m talking good pride.  I’m talking about sleeping well at night, knowing that whether you work for someone else, or work for yourself, you can take pride in putting forth an effort today that made you, your oganization, and others you served better.

I think there’s much value in hard work, and I believe that kind of pride in working hard reflects our creator.

But be careful, don’t try and equate hard work and being busy as one thing.  I’ve seen plenty of people that are masters at being busy doing nothing, appearing to work hard, and leveraging that to try and get ahead.  That shows very little self-pride as well.

So work hard, get satisfaction from doing a good job.  Take pride in what you do.  Just don’t ask your work to be the catalyst for pushing you to higher levels of success – that is asking too much of something so simple.

Thoughts on hard work?