Right now, I’m sitting on my deck at Pine Lodge, working on a Saturday. I’m not bothered that I’m working on a Saturday of the long weekend. In fact, if I’m awake I’m probably working, either reading or thinking or even writing. But today, on this glorious Saturday in September under a July blue sky, I don’t really feel like what I’m doing is work. I’d write this blog anyway, even if I didn’t have you to read it.
There are more people joining me every day, people who are lucky enough to have a job like mine – a job where you’d do the work even if you didn’t have to, even if you didn’t get paid to do it. This is a more significant idea than it seems, because it changes the posture of what you do. Different motivations (want to vs. have to) will lead to different results.
There is a big difference between ‘has to’ and ‘lives to.’
The way I think about my job works like this: If I’m doing this for fun (and I am), then I might as well be doing something worthwhile and remarkable. If all I’m doing is something average or repackaging something that has already been done, then why bother? Nobody is looking for average, and I don’t want to compete for the business of people who are looking for average, because if they are looking for average then they are conditioned to shop for price. They are not interested in the commitment of the work; they are interested in the cost of my work.
Our great grandfathers and mothers knew what hard work was. They grew their own food, cut and stacked wood to heat their homes and used their bodies instead of machines for leverage. Working hard was how you survived.
Thankfully, those days are history. Most of us don’t use our bodies as machines. Most of us work sitting down at a desk, and broken bones from farming accidents have been replaced by repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Sure, we plug away at paperwork for hours, but our heavy lifting is restricted to moving the mountains of stuff we have accumulated in the basement or garage. I’m looking at you, clawfoot iron tub gathering dust in my garage!
You could argue that you work weekends sometimes, and maybe even work later into the evening. Okay, so you’re working long hours. But “long” and “hard” are now two different things. Not too long ago, hard work was long work but that isn’t the case anymore.
Now, hard work isn’t necessarily long work – it’s risky work. It’s the kind of work that requires us to seriously shift, to push ourselves, to not punch the clock but rather invest ourselves into what we do. Hard work is where we find job security, financial gain and joy and meaning.
It’s hard work to shun the non-believers and maintain faith in your idea.
It’s hard work to do human work, to make a connection.
It’s hard work to have the courage to not hide in the status quo, blending in with everyone else.
It’s hard work to make something that isn’t for everyone.
It’s hard work to make something that is worth paying more for.
It’s hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, like quitting a job and striking out on your own.
It’s hard work to walk away from a lot of money because something just doesn’t feel right.
It’s hard work to tell your boss that s/he is being intellectually and emotionally lazy, whereas it’s really easy to sit quietly and watch sales slide into oblivion.
None of the people you know who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff that is worth talking about are succeeding by working more hours than you are. And they are not smarter than you either. They are succeeding by doing hard work.
Hard work is about risk, and it begins when you deal with the things you’d rather not deal with, the usual suspects. Fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of setting a new standard and then having to be as good as you were the last time.
Hard work is about being your best and then doing it again the next day. Happily.
Never forget this: The riskier your (smart) coworker’s hard work appears to be, the safer it really is.
It’s the people having difficult conversations, inventing remarkable products and services, and pushing the envelope (and still getting home by 5:00 p.m. for their family) who are building a secure future for themselves.
So when you get to work today, really push. Your time is worth the effort.