I read Jason Fried’s recent piece on hard work. It was thought-provoking. It continued a larger conversation. We all search for meaning. We’re all looking for values that can guide us. We want to make sense of why we do, what we do. We’re hoping that our life’s purpose will lead us to happiness and peace of mind.
So, where does hard work fit into that equation? And what does it mean?
Oxford defines hard work as, “a great deal of effort or endurance.”
Merriam-Webster defines hardworking as, “industrious, diligent.”
Effort. Endurance. Diligence. Industriousness
All very desirable qualities.
As an author and coach, one of my biggest role models is the late, great Coach John Wooden. His Pyramid of Success has served as inspiration and a baseline for me over the course of my career. It’s provided me with invaluable guidance and direction. There’s no coincidence that one of the cornerstones of his pyramid is Industriousness.
He defines this term — in light of its effect on success — as follows:
“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.”
You Get to Define Hard Work
Hard work, I’ve come to believe through experience and research, is both what we physically exert and mentally, a state of mind. Think about it — unless you’re under duress or strict direction, why would you work hard? Well, you’d work hard for something you believe in. You’d work hard for something you’ve thought and planned for, that will lead you to happiness, success or a well-being.
This is my personal definition of hard work:
Working intelligently and vigorously at a given task to complete it with maximum efficiency
Here’s the point: No one gets to define hard work for anyone else. Just like success, you define hard work for yourself. Your definition of hard work should support your definition of success!
It’s best for each of us to take the term and apply it to our own life. For me, hard work means going to my job each day, giving my all, then coming home and loving my family with all my heart, writing a new book, writing and marketing for my personal business. I try my darnedest to do these things with maximum effort and a positive attitude.
The days where I don’t feel like I give things my all, I don’t feel successful. I don’t feel happy. There are people counting on me! Employees that I manage and mentor, co-workers, family members and people who enjoy what I have to write about. I desire to give my all to bring value to the lives of others. This is empowered by a sense of commitment.
In other words, we work hard because we care. No one works hard for no reason at all. We have families to support, dreams to work toward and curiosities to satisfy. We have an innate sense of liberty inside all of us. We do things in some instances to survive, others to amuse ourselves, but many of us make an impact because we want to leave a legacy.
No one likes being told what is “good” or what is “bad.” More succinctly: none of us like being judged or criticized. We want to be helped in a constructive, caring manner. And we want to give back help in a kind, compassionate way that is helpful for others.
While there’s no comparison between the single mother working three jobs and the Fortune 500 software developer who configures technology platforms, this shouldn’t diminish the self-worth or value of someone’s output. That’s entirely up to the individual. I can’t possibly compare my definition of hard work to a day laborer in a third-world country. It would be ridiculous.
That person has a much different definition of hard work than the one I have for myself. And guess what? That’s fine. That’s what makes all of us unique. We should all work to contribute to society and do what we can to make our lives — and the lives of those around us — better, no matter our circumstances.
So, I pose the question to you. How do you define hard work? What does that mean to you? You saw my definition of hard work. You might have read Jason’s thoughts on the subject. There is surely value in this term. It’s been passed down from generation to generation, largely because it does have universal, significant meaning.
There are universal values to hold dear and things we come to agreement on as a society for the betterment of ourselves. Then, there are the things we get to define as they relate to our journey. Know what your values are. Understand what matters most to you and what you want to pursue. Define it for yourself. Then, live it. Crush it.
Looking to grow in your life and career? Book a free coaching call with me here and let’s talk!
Join my newsletter for emotional intelligence and productivity content! and Check out my Amazon bestseller, Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader.