I have been seeing this motivational quote pop up on my social media feeds a lot lately:
“There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” — Author unknown
I’ll be honest, I really like the saying. As far as motivational quips go, it does the trick — after reading it I always feel like it’s time to get up and do something.
The paradox, however, is seeing this quote come up on the same feeds with article titles like “How to get rich quick,” “5 success hacks to try today,” and “Overnight billionaire.” It is a strange juxtaposition that has me thinking a lot lately about how we as a society view success, and more importantly, how we view the journey it takes to get there.
What is success, anyway?
In reality, every person on earth defines success differently. While some of us may have similar “recipes,” I truly believe that no goal or success story looks exactly the same.
Maybe you define success as starting a company that you later sell for five million dollars.
Perhaps you see success as being a product of hard work, grit, and vision that eventually leads you to be in charge of a team of 100.
Maybe you relate to the Merriam-Webster definition of success, even though it is a bit abstract:
a: degree or measure of succeeding
b: favorable or desired outcome
also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
You could see yourself as being successful only once you are truly happy.
Or, maybe you are a combination of some, all, or none of these. We are all different, so looking at success as being a specific, defined thing that anyone can hack their way to in a small amount of time is nonsensical.
Fast is not better
Would I like to achieve all my lifelong goals and become the most ideal version of myself tomorrow by doing virtually nothing? Sure, but that is because I, like all humans, am genetically predisposed to be lazy.
It is scientifically proven.
In a 2015 Current Biology study, researchers found that humans’ inherent laziness may be a trait left over from our ancestors’ days of conserving energy for the next hunt. They were able to prove that our nervous systems have a tendency to hoard calories, i.e. by walking in a certain way that conserves the most calories — even very small amounts.
While the study talked specifically about walking and discussed how it could be applied to other motor activities, I think it can be equally relevant when applied to this situation.
If you have the choice between working hard, thinking critically, and having to make very difficult decisions every day or just having your dream handed to you, what would you choose?
It is a hard question to answer — not because it is difficult to decide between the choices, but because we feel guilty. Of course we would love to have our ultimate successful lives handed to us with little to no effort on our part. We are, by nature, lazy beings, so obviously it would be wonderful to accept our dream on a silver platter. However, we have been taught that hard work is the path to success, so accepting the reward without putting in the effort makes us feel guilty (and maybe not so successful after all).
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the odds of that happening to any one of us are very low. Although some may find their way to “success” relatively quickly, most people are not handed the ultimate life without at least having to try a little bit. While it would be nice (in theory) to become successful by doing nothing, I believe that most people will feel more fulfilled (and less ashamed) to know that they have gone through the journey and earned their success — whatever it may be.
Work smart… and hard?
Lately, it seems like everyone has an opinion on the “work smart, not hard” idea. Some, like Tim Ferris (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) are all for it and say that working smart is how to really be successful in the new age. Others are more in the middle, insisting that if you cannot work any harder, then at least you can work smarter. Then there are the skeptics, who insist that the Tim Ferris’s of the world are standing in the way of you being a high performer, and that nothing can replace good ol’ hard work.
Whatever camp you are in, I think we can all agree that both hard work and smart work have value, and can lead to the outcomes you are hoping for.
I have seen Monitive to be a great example of working both hard and smart. Although the new version of our uptime monitoring service is currently being rewritten from scratch, Monitive has actually been around for over eight years. In the time since it was born into the world of tech, the industry has evolved and a need arose to drastically rethink both 1) how the product should be built and 2) how it should interact with users.
When our founder and CEO Lucian Daniliuc started rewriting Monitive almost two years ago, he knew the process would not be easy. Without hard work and smart work, we could not have gotten to where we are today (with beta testing set to begin… stay tuned!). The company itself has had a long road, and the most recent rewrite journey has had may obstacles — but when we finally launch in a few short months, we will certainly feel that we have earned any success we achieve.
Rather than searching for a quick and easy way to reach success, maybe we should be trying to find the right mix of smart and hard work that can help us along the journey. It is rewarding to work toward one’s goals, experience the highs and lows, and truly earn what eventually comes.
There is no way to “hack” success, not only because your definition is different than everyone else, but because if it was easy, everyone would do it.
And the most important step toward success that you can take?