Work Fucking Hard
Darius Foroux
3.5K146

In response to Work Fucking Hard: Maybe, don’t work so fucking hard?

At first, I nodded along as I read the article. Having been raised by a high flying government executive and an assistant school principle, with a slathering of extended rhodes scholars, professors & doctors (YES mum you’ve told me a million times already), a “work hard” ethic was instilled in me from the word Go.

Or could we argue that actually, it wasn’t hard work for any of us -because we were lucky enough to be born with genetically good brains into a privileged society that favoured white people, with a booming mining & agriculture industry that was creating national wealth to feed into free higher education and job opportunities, into careers that paid well so we worked less & had more time to spend on our partners, children, family, friends & community, and working on all of those things was easier, not harder? But I digress.

So what exactly does working hard look like? You mention 7 days a week? Or is it long hours per day? Or is it concentrating non-stop for the hours you are at work? Is it quantified by the amount of adrenalin pumping through your veins as you focus with laser-like energy to get shit done? The stress (and health ramifications) the body endures as a result? Is it sucking it up on the days you just don’t want to work, and forcing yourself to do it anyway? Is it how tense your jaw is, how big your headache is from concentrating so hard for so long? Is work merely effort? Forward momentum? With anything? Isn’t that being alive? So is work just doing something? Anything? Even breathing expends energy.

Don’t get me wrong, I think doing something constructive with our days is incredibly important to our self-identity & self-worth, establishing independence, feeling we give a meaningful contribution to society, or the gaining of knowledge and wisdom that we can perhaps pass on to new generations in turn. Sometimes it’s essential to survival; I’m thinking of several indigenous tribes in Australia, PNG and the Amazon that don’t “work” in front of a computer but who still have to expend energy to fish/hunt/forage for food so they can, y’know, eat.

But I guess I want to share that it doesn’t always look like how we expect. Even the times of going reaaaally slow, working gently, resting, relaxing, lazing around all day reflecting and/or doing sweet FA, are constructive and contributing to our health & happiness. And these don’t have to be token “rest times” in between all the “hard fucking work”. They too, can require long enduring effort, and if the hours doing this outnumber the hours working, well that’s ok too.

I went to a workshop recently, where an (unemployed) spiritual mentor spoke of living off the grid, completely self sufficiently, in a shack out in the middle of freakin’ nowhere, spending most days delving into the spiritual mysteries within, tending his garden and leisurely reading books. He expended effort but I suspect many would not describe that as “working fucking hard”. And yet, he is productive and fulfilled in his own way.

When I travelled through far north Australia a few years back, I was surprised at the large roaming grey nomad population everywhere I looked – retirees in caravans, to be precise. Now I’m sure it was a chore for them to look up on the map how to get to the next destination, or to drive around and find a grocery store in yet another unknown town, do the dishes & laundry etc. But overall, I would not say they “work hard”. Simply that they are constructive with their retirement and seem to enjoy expending the effort greatly.

I recall the many stories in the book Changing Gears, of people across Australia the author had met, while biking across Australia after quitting a high flying agency executive job. So many people, who happily chose to live humble low-effort-low-income “simple” lives. Or even nomadic lives with nothing but the shirt on their back. One famous fellow spends his whole life walking (yes, walking, and if you’ve ever seen a map of Australia you might appreciate the enormity of his efforts) from one end of the country to the other and back. He doesn’t have a job or family, & lives off coins found on the side of the road. He is essentially a roaming homeless guy, but he expends effort every single day. Does he work fucking hard? Not sure, but he certainly is productive in my books.

I know the original article wasn’t about wealth, but it’s so synonymous with work & effort, I feel it important to separate them out for those who see them as so absolutely fused together. Let’s be clear that wealth does not indicate how hard you have worked, or expended effort, or been productive. Ok, moving on.

After working “hard” for my first 30 years, I changed tune. Yknow, study, homework, extra curricular activities…college & degree while holding 3 jobs and running the biggest campus society as president while starting up a freelance biz…working full time, while making short films until midnight every night, while going through a govt entrepreneur program to develop a startup, while maintaining a relationship, family & friend connections…working 7 days a week overseas on gruellingly long film sets, etc etc, you get the point. I just didn’t stop. Every minute of the day and night was doing something.

Then my goals started changing, I grew up and realised life isn’t about what we do, it’s how we do it. Yknow, it’s the journey not the destination stuff.

I started spending less effort on career, and more effort being still. Do you know how much effort it takes to shut the mind up and be still? A 10 day meditation course I did explains that it takes that long for the mind to rest, and it wasn’t wrong. Chatting to the other participants afterwards, many do it again because encorporating the discipline into their daily lives is harder than they imagined and they need another peace fix. Now, if you saw that hall full of 100 meditators, I’m pretty sure describing them as “working fucking hard” would be, for many, the last thing uttered. Yet many are there to battle depression, or cancer, or deep heartrending grief, or just go on the long & sometimes arduous spiritual journey within, to explore the truth. Sitting silently with ourselves is, I would argue, one of the hardest things to do, and takes huge amount of effort and discipline.

I recall the story of Joseph Campbell, famous for his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, who just got sick of life one day, packed up and moved to the country where he isolated himself for five years and just did nothing but read all the books he’d wanted to, but never had the time to before. He read books all day, every day, for FIVE YEARS. I believe that would be viewed as leisure, not working fucking hard. BUT, as it turns out, all his efforts, his productivity, culminated in something. Who woulda thunk.

I learned to enjoy being a freelancer and having loads of time off in between jobs to do Not Much At All. I slowed down. I sometimes lay in bed all day and pondered. It was awesome. Lately, as a solo mum, I clock long hours but the work is increasingly easier the older my son gets, and I’m cool with that. As a writer, I also spend loads of time doing nothing; pondering, reflecting, meditating, imagining, or vaguely absorbing the world around me. Is that “working fucking hard”? I’m not sure. A friend who is a primary school teacher once shared with me, after talking about kids, TV, iPads & helicopter parenting, “we are losing the art of being bored”. The ability to sit around and do nothing, to just be present, to let ideas come if they wish, or to just zone out. We’ve always got to be doing something; swiping to another page, checking emails, checking status updates, playing another level of the game, throwing our neuroses on others via social media, coming up with the strategy for tomorrow’s meeting, sorting staff issues, keeping up date night, cooking dinner, doing laundry, picking up kids from school…always “working fucking hard”.

I guess I’m saying that it’s ok to not work fucking hard. Not just as token rest, but as a way of life. It’s ok to work slowly and gently, if that’s your thing. And that even when working fucking hard, it can look like inaction just as much as action.

Then there’s the love what you do thing…

Google tells me that “This statement is often attributed to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius, but the student considers this assertion anachronistic. Job choice flexibility was sharply limited in the era of Confucius.”

Yes, I suspect that the word ‘work’ gets dropped when the effort being expended is fun, challenging and mostly enjoyable. Regardless of whether there is income for the effort.

But how many people in the world realistically get this option?

It reminds me of the hullaballoo (isn’t that a great word?) around Steve Jobs oft quoted 2005 university speech;

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…”

But as this Do What You Love Mantra Devalues Hard Work article points out so well, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have had such a swell job he loves without standing on the backs of low paid overworked Chinese factory workers half a globe away.

“Most work, let’s face it, is not the least bit loveable, and a good deal of it is barely tolerable. And this isn’t going to change, no matter how many Steve Jobs quotes we share on Facebook. Tough, low-wage work isn’t going away. In fact, jobs in the service and care industries are booming. But a “do what you love” ethos hides such work, and the conditions of its workers, by keeping individuals focussed on the self and the belief that there is bliss to be found in a job if only they strive harder than those around them. The truth is, any of us in a position to choose and chase work out of love do so from a place of relative privilege.”

So yeah – the do something you love thing has a shadow side as well. If we all did it, there’d be no-one to hire to clean the toilets in highschools, take the late shift serving at the pub, or to roll cigarettes in a Malaysian factory.

So, just some ponderings and points of view that I wanted to add to the discussion. Cheerio!

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