The Effort Illusion: Hard Work is the Answer
Repetition isn’t the answer when you aren’t getting where you want to go. But sometimes progress is the opportunity to sing again.
Hard work isn’t the answer:
#1. Hard work isn’t the answer when you neglect the right questions.
Discouragement sets in when work is only a means to an end.
You won’t always achieve the ends you desire, but you can always do the work.
- Why work? Work is its own reward.
- What is success? Success is the opportunity to engage in useful labor.
- What matters? Working to get things for yourself is normal. Working to bring value to others is greatness.
- What painful problem are you solving? The solution you’re working to create begins with a painful problem. Maybe the problem is food on the table. If you have enough food, it’s something more.
- What is progress? Define progress before discouragement sets in.
#2. Hard work isn’t the answer when you already work long hours.
Don’t be like the lost hiker who picks up the pace only to arrive at the same spot.
Climb a tree.
- What makes you think you’re heading in the right direction?
- What are you doing that holds you back?
- How much rest makes you great at work?
- How have you made the best contributions in the past? How might you do more of that?
#3. Hard work isn’t the answer when you regularly shoot yourself in the foot.
- Lack of integrity weakens the value of your work.
- Poor people skills dilute the power of hard work.
- Broken relationships undermine progress.
- Starting too many things and finishing too few devalues results.
The great battles are within.
- Vulnerability is the opportunity for meaningful work. A closed fist prevents you from bringing value.
- Slowing down when you feel unappreciated.
- Needing results to validate the intrinsic value of work.
How has the effort illusion held you back?
What makes hard work effective?
The late Tom Gilbert wrote extensively in his book, Human Competence, about how laziness was the key to innovation and productivity. The paradox is that this is true, that innovation comes from making different choices and continually thinking and learning about one’s own performance.
As usual, Dan, your comments are spot on. Food for thought.
Thanks Dr. Scott. I enjoy how there is always another side to an idea. I often feel I am totally right until I begin thinking and writing.
Laziness is the mother of invention
This really hits home as I work in school on July 5. Will be writing those four questions (#2 – long hours) in my journal to ponder. All four questions need thoughts and answers. Thank you
Thanks Cleteus. I’m with you. The questions seem easy until you start thinking about them.
I feel a tension between keeping my head down and working regardless of results and evaluating if the work is actually worth it. The value of work pushes me to just keep on.
But, if long hours aren’t working…what makes me believe things will be different in the future. More long hours isn’t the answer.
But of course, Edison would say, keep on experimenting. You won’t succeed until you do.
It seems that making course adjustments while working might work best.
Best for the journey.
Really great points, Dan; each one could be the topic of a session with both staff and management! As our Agency Value of the Month for July is “The needs and desires of the Individuals we serve come first!” — the statement “Working to get things for yourself is normal. Working to bring value to others is greatness.” really says it all. It may also be a good addition when answering the “What’s in it for me?” question.
Keep them coming!
Thanks Mary Ellen. Yes. There’s lots of room for discussion. The internal battle of working for self cp. working to bring value to others is easier when we are surrounded by people who share that value. Best for the future.
This is a great post. BUT remember that you have to start from a place where you’re committed to outworking everyone in the room. In the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” society, people think they’re entitled to succeed just for showing up. Hard work can level the playing field when raw talent, experience, or connections unbalance the equation. Understanding the environment and making sure that you get (or take) the time you need is a skill worth cultivating. #Leaderhipfreak,
Thanks db…. Your BUT is well placed. I’ll take a hard worker with average talent over a lazy “hi potential”.
But but but I was told if its not working to work harder to dig in, head down.
For real lots of good points and if its not working that is the time to review your plan. Ask your team for input. I assure you one of them will say “I knew this was not going to work”. OK what do you think will work and why didn’t you say something before. FYI you may have found out why the plan was not working “buy in” is critical before moving forward with a plan. Good post sir.
Thanks Walt. You made me think about asking, “Where are we pouring more energy in than we are getting results out? Ask this before the world starts going black and courageously make course adjustments.
Don’t wait till the ships taking on water to avoid an iceberg.
Generally, effort is irrelevant. Only results matter.
I disagree that hard work is its own reward. If that were the case, mindless tasks like “dig a trench from here to lunchtime” would be a prize not a punishment.
Always glad to read your comments, Mitch.
Work is: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. (We may not achieve the desired result.)
If the only work you have is digging a ditch, dig it. If there are alternatives, choose the most useful form of work. Perhaps looking for a job.
If you actually have nothing to do, which is silly to say, don’t grab a shovel and dig a purposeless ditch. However, you might find someone who needs a ditch. Then by all means dig it.
In any case, when you have a choice between working and not working, choose working. There are few perfect jobs. Just work.
On working being it’s own reward: You are better for working, even if it doesn’t work out as expected.
Perhaps it’s useful to define work as something beyond physical activity. However, physical activity is better than inactivity for several reasons.
You might work, but not get the result you hoped to achieve. But all work has a result.
The work itself has value, even if the results disappoint. If the only thing that matters is results, you’re going to end up disappointed or reaching low so as to avoid disappointment.
I try not to use exceptions to the rule as reason to invalidate useful truths.
We can only accomplish what we strive to do, if we lack knowledge, learn what you need, if we lack direction, seek direction from others, if we need guidance ask for it.
The time factor only becomes relevant if we don’t allocate enough to the accomplish the tasks, whether we dig the ditch or hire someone else to dig the ditch, build the building, house etc.
Hard work whether physical or mental is still hard work, we need to learn to find ways to make it simpler on ourselves and only do what we can do with in our own boundaries! If tomorrow is another day for us it can continue, if not then it doesn’t matter, we accomplished what we could today!
These are such great points and questions to consider. In the past, I would create work for myself, thinking lots of work equaled value. The reality was that while managers appreciate the hard work, getting results efficiently is more prized. I wish I had these suggestions earlier in my career.
This is just what I needed…