So how exactly do you get where you want to be in life?
That is the multi-million-dollar question for many people. Here is the 40-cent answer- you work your butt off (as if the title didn’t already give it away).
Yes, there are a rare few who are fortunate to be “naturally” ahead of the curve: the generationally wealthy, the born athletes and artists, the genius prodigies whose inherent intelligence and talent catapult them forward with relative ease. Let’s be generous and say this select group represents 5% of the population. What are the other 95% of us regular people supposed to do?
We work really hard at whatever it is we do. And we keep doing it.
The hard-charging work ethic has been coming under fire of late. For the past several months the Medias (Social and Mass) have been filled with stories of burnout, of quiet quitting, of people wanting less work and more life in their work/life balance, and of the joys of Zooming through your career in pajamas.
Yet the truth of it is this: practically anything worth doing takes hard work.
So perhaps it’s time we reversed course and celebrate working your butt off for what it is: a powerful, motivating, and oftentimes rewarding force that every single one of us can take advantage of. If we choose to.
We have all recently witnessed (or even participated in) the remarkable impact of a strong work ethic in action. During the worst of the pandemic millions of doctors, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, delivery drivers, supermarket employees, and many more collectively put their heads down and did whatever they could whenever they could to get us all through. We saw businesses of every category make extraordinary pivots, their employees changing operations practically overnight to supply the rest of us with crucial and much needed PPE. People at other businesses worked days, nights, and weekends just to keep their companies afloat when the bottom dropped out of the economy. This was the epitome of hard work at its hardest. Because of it all countless lives were saved, millions of people had access to vital resources, and many (though certainly not all) businesses withstood the devastating brunt of the downtown. None of this would have happened if so many people didn’t hunker down and work their butts off for the benefit of so many other people.
This is of course a macro example, perhaps the macro-est, of the power of hard work. It’s also a big reason that the idea of working your butt off should be celebrated, not questioned (and certainly not vilified).
So, let’s bring it back to something far more personal- to you getting where you want to be in life. How can working your butt off end up working wonders for you?
It makes you better at what you do. It’s simple math. The more times you do something, the better you get at it. In Malcom Gladwell’s terrific book “Outliers”, he writes about the 10,000-hour rule, which essentially states it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice (work) to achieve mastery at something*. This rule can be applied to bricklayers, brand builders, brain surgeons, and everything in between. It can also be applied to you.
It makes you more confident in what you do. You know that great sense of satisfaction you feel when you’ve accomplished something? You feel that a lot when you work your butt off, along with all the pride and self-assurance that comes from a job well done.
It makes you more indispensable in what you do. As in “we don’t know what we’d do without you”.
It makes you more rewarded for what you do. As in “please accept this well-deserved (raise/bonus/promotion) as a token of our appreciation.”
It makes you surprisingly more work/life balanced in what you do. Nowhere here does it say working your butt off requires 14-hour days and weekends on top of that. This isn’t about hours, it’s about output- about producing whatever it is you produce at the highest level of quality you can. While the occasional extra hours can certainly help you get there, it doesn’t have to be the norm. Consequently, the more you produce at this level, the more satisfied with your efforts you feel and the less you think about work when you get home. The life part of work/life is always more fulfilling and enjoyable when you get ahead and stay ahead of the work
Two final thoughts on this. First, people tend to associate hard work with miserable work. It can actually be quite the opposite. The ongoing sense of accomplishment you achieve is an incredibly positive, energizing sensation that drives people to want to feel that more often.
Finally, everyone can have access to this powerful capability (if they choose to). There is nothing exclusive about a great work ethic. It transcends gender, race, income, religion, political affiliation, and yes even age. There is talk out there about the younger generation not having the same work ethic as previous generations. In some cases, this is true, but it’s also true with some people in every generation. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many young employees today who will run through walls to get the job done and then ask what more can they help with. Also, I am very proud to be the father of three 20 and 30-somethings who are the exact same way.
Encouraging evidence that working your butt off isn’t just the old-fashioned way of getting to where you want to be. It’s still the best way.
Here’s to enjoying every minute of it.
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* Just so your head doesn’t explode, 10,000 hours is by no means insurmountable. It essentially equates to 40 hours per week of work or practice for 49 weeks per year (with three weeks off for vacation) for just over 5 years to become a master at something.