“Work like hell. I mean, you just have to put in 80-100 hour weeks, every week. This improves the odds of success.” – Elon Musk
While working hard might be one part of the journey to success, it’s only one small part of the bigger picture. Working hard only helps you succeed when you are doing the right things to move toward success. Working on things that don’t matter will not help on your path.
Working hard may even cause you to be unsuccessful if you’re doing the wrong things. Let’s explore the complete picture of working hard inside the context of success.
Hard work and success
Here are the primary steps that lead to success:
- Having a great idea.
- Execution of that idea.
- A demand for a product, service, or skill in the marketplace.
- Setting the right goals.
- Taking the right actions to move you toward your goals.
- The right mindset.
- Having an edge over the competition.
- People skills.
- Hard work.
- Working smart.
If you have most of the other thirteen steps in place and then work hard until you reach your goals, then working hard can be the final step in your process that bridges the gap between the time it takes to have an idea and make it a success. However, if you’re missing any critical steps in your journey to success, hard work is unlikely to help you achieve your goals. You are just working hard at the wrong things.
Success requires skill, experience, technical know-how, and knowing the right thing to do today. If you just showed up at a gold course and started working hard to be a professional golfer, the whole exercise would be pointless and a waste of time and energy. If you want to play golf at a high level, there would be many steps before you should even play. Working hard would be the last step after learning the right clubs to use, hiring a golf coach, learning proper form, learning how to putt, learning how to drive, and then practicing for hours. Hard work only helps after you have achieved competence in your chosen pursuit. Competence must come before hard work.
The myth of hard work
If hard work were the key to success, the hardest working people would make the most money as a reward. The world doesn’t reward hard work; it rewards skill, scarcity, and demand. The employees that work the hardest tend just to be given more work to do. The employees with the most in-demand skills tend to make the most. The highest-paid CEOs tend to do the least as their job is to make the right decisions and have good ideas; the hardest working employees many times earn the least as there is a larger supply of workers to do basic tasks.
The best managers tend to do the least work because they know their job is recruiting, hiring, training, and motivating the best employees. Some of the hardest working managers make the least money as they work too many hours on salary doing other people’s jobs due to the inability to staff their businesses.
People will almost always have more success working smart than working hard. You must know what is rewarded; results are what’s rewarded, not effort. The only hard work that is rewarded is the hard work that achieves the results that lead you to your goals.
Making money work for you
“He who works all day has no time to make money.” – John Rockefeller
Trading your time and labor for money is usually a lousy trade. Working hard is only beneficial with jobs when it leads to more pay or promotions. Working harder for the same hourly wage or more hours on salary is being taken advantage of, not leading to success.
An employer’s profit margin is the variance between the monetizable value you create for the business and your paycheck. If you work hard for your job with no extra compensation, you’re not leading to your success; you are only helping their bottom line. If you want success in your career, you must run it like your business. You must make decisions that are in your own best interest. If you’re going to work hard, it must be inside the context of a career path with an upside that leads to rewards worth your efforts. If you aren’t rewarded in correlation to your hard work, you are being taken advantage of.
The wealthy don’t work hard for money; they put capital to work for them. They risk capital for the chance of gains. The rich purchase assets that rise in value. People become millionaires by building businesses, portfolios, and trading systems without working hard at a job. Entrepreneurs with the right strategy to build something of value will work hard for their success, not for an employer.
Working hard for an employer only benefits you when you receive adequate compensation for your effort and time, along with training and experience to develop new monetizable skills. Working hard for a boss is rarely the path to success; it usually leads to the boss’s success in showing he’s a great manager. If you’re on the final step of the path to success of working hard, then its best use is to work hard on your own business, investment, trading, or project.
The online rise, grind, and hustle culture are missing essential steps to outsized success. Right-quality actions with the right ideas are more than just working hard. If you make no progress working hard over a long period, you’re not doing it right. No results show hard work isn’t leading you to success. You want to see incremental gains for efforts.
A corporation using the narrative of “being family” or that all employees “wear many hats here” is trying to cover up their lack of proper staffing, low operational wage percent for labor costs, or low pay to employees that lead to high turnover.
The biggest successes I’ve known didn’t work hard; they used other paths to success.
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” – Bill Gates