Hard Work, Memories and the Future

The other day my eleven year old daughter Hailey, who plays competitive soccer asked me…Female athlete jumping over bar, low angle view (lens flare)

“Why can’t I just be good without having to work so hard?”

Which I quickly replied, because anything worth being good at is worth working hard for.

In that moment, I spiraled into my youth and remembered almost verbatim having that conversation with my father.

In fact, I think I had that conversation more than a hundred times between my 7th and 17th birthday.

And while I’d like to say that I took it to heart, I really don’t think it was until my competitive athletic career was over that I recognized the real value in hard work.

Not wanting to allow the same mistake from my children I push them hard at a young age to see the value of hard work.

However, in almost karmic bliss I have to often remind myself that they are kids and further hard work isn’t always fun…even as an adult.

When Hard Work Pays Off

As an adult I have become a relentless hard worker, not to mention way over competitive. (People like me can and have turned eating into a sport)

While often cynical about the demarcation between working hard and being effective, I am still one that shoots for extraordinary effectiveness 23 hours a day.

That leaves an hour for quality sleep and a few additional hours for a sort of one eye open sleep where vision, creativity and clarity are sought. I digress…

The thing about hard work is that it is far too often misconstrued for busyness.

As adults we run around and pull our hair out claiming to be working so hard. But we know that hours and hard work are hardly interdependent.

Unless we choose to make them that way.

Hard work really does pay off. When it is properly applied.

I want you to think about something that you are really good at. Perhaps public speaking, finance or cooking.

Naturally when we are really good at something we take it for granted.

We don’t push ourselves to continually get better, but we enjoy the fruits of being pretty good, great or excellent. But there is always room to improve.

The difference between each of those levels of good, great and excellent can be quite subtle, but beyond natural ability what sets them apart?

Going from Good to Great to Excellent

Obviously one of the biggest constraints in becoming better at anything is the desire to improve.

Do you want to take a talent to the next level or are you content with where you are at?

This pertains to athletes, educators, professionals as well as just about every other facet of life.

Whether or not you have the potential is only important if you are willing to put in the work. If the work doesn’t interest you then your potential really doesn’t matter.

But She has Such Great Potential

Have you ever had an employee, student or another person cross your path and they seemed so capable of accomplishing great things but they never pan out?

What is the usual rationale for why their performance suffers?

In my experience this is almost always where work ethic comes in. Those that are not willing to work cannot realize their potential.

This demographic will continually disappoint.

Teaching Work Ethic

So here is something to consider…

We can teach someone all of the tangible items to master their craft.

For a good cook they can go to culinary school.

A top athlete can train at the most advanced facilities with the most knowledgable coaches.

A young manager can get an MBA from a prestigious business school.

But will any of them put in the work thereafter to maximize those opportunities?

This really depends on putting in the work. For none of those tremendous learning opportunities will teach or make someone work harder.

That is up to them and if you ask me work ethic can be learned by example, but is mostly up to the individual making a conscious decision to commit to excellence.

The Future of Hard Work

Vicariously through raising my kids I am constantly reminded of the path to excellence.

In studies, sports and even social interaction.

I also am humbled by the great things that a child can accomplish with so little effort and then frustrated by a lack of willingness to accomplish more.

As children desire to play, create and change, they can teach us as adults that our ultimate success and failure in our careers and our lives will come down to not only what we are capable of doing, but what we are willing to work for.

There are many things worth working for, no matter how good you already are at them.

The difference between being where you are and where you want to be may just be decided by whether you are willing to work to get there.

How hard do you work to accomplish your goals?