“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds!” – Gordon B. Hinkley
Depending on specific calling in life, one capacity or talent or a combination of a few or many, may be the critical factor or factors for success. But one factor common to all is plain old hard work. The capacity for hard work may manifest in physical and/or mental applications of the self. Curiously, even if surprisingly, many people in various fields just pay lip service to working hard. When the rubber is supposed to meet the road, they either fail, falter or perform only sub-optimally.
What is hard work? How do you develop the capacity for it? Hard work, in our context here, refers to the coordination and diligent application of physical and/or mental effort towards achieving an objective. A Kenyan athlete that competes in the forty-two kilometer London marathon and completes same within two hours works on several factors to help him establish an excellent ‘running economy’ that will lead him to success. He trains to gain an ideal body weight for his body size; he optimizes his oxygen intake at various speeds etc. When the race starts, he must execute his tactics to maintain good speeds at various points, from start to the finish.
What about a research scientist holed up in a laboratory? What does she require to succeed? In a paper titled “Successful Scientist: What’s the winning Formula”, April Stull and Eric Ciappio summarized what they considered as the ten key qualities of a successful scientist as passionate about their career, resilience, orientation to detail, creative thinking, determination, knowledgeable, team play, self-motivation and effective communication. All these require varying levels of mental and physical strengths and the application of both at different times over the scientist’s career.
Whether you a marathoner, research scientist or an entrepreneur, and no matter your other talents, you need to work hard to stand a good chance of success in your calling. How is that achieved?
• Realise that you need to work hard: Unless you realise, accept, and internalize the need to work hard as a key factor towards success, you will not be sufficiently “bought in” to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and how it needs to be done.
• Interest in what you do: Without sufficient level of interest in what you do, you will not be motivated to fully commit. Without full commitment, you will not apply your all and the chances for success will be drastically diminished.
• Have objective(s) to achieve: Your acceptance of the need to work hard; your interest in what you do; your commitment to do what needs to be done form a loop with the objectives you wish you to achieve. Without clear and desirable objective(s), you can put effort but tire out over time because there are no mileposts to indicate achievements. Without achievements, you will, over time, loose motivation.
• Create a routine: No matter how motivated you are, unless you create a routine, you can fail to apply the efforts you really need to or if you do you do it will be inefficiently. Even as we expect the vagaries of daily activities to distort our plans, a skeleton of your routine will maintain a structure and create discipline in what you do.
• Refresh and Reinvigorate: Physical and mental efforts take a toll on us. Over time, they can not only overheat us but also actually cause system break down. To not only avoid those but keep us strong and alert at all times, we have to disengage from time to time to refresh and reinvigorate. This is required to sustain our performance levels at optimum. Regular exercises, vacations, changes in environments, vocations, etc. all have a way of refreshing us.
The challenges an entrepreneur faces on a daily basis requires physical and mental strengths of great proportions. Working hard is necessary if we are to be able to overcome constrains as achieve our short and long term objectives.
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things. But if we get on the treadmill together, there are two things: You are getting off first, or I am going to die!” – Will Smith
What about perseverance? Perseverance is about doing more than the hard work you have already put in. In all endeavours, what we considered was our best effort is sometimes not good enough. Doing better than our best physically and mentally is in the realm of perseverance. Perseverance is about pushing yourself beyond what you had considered was your best and still do everything right through unanticipated challenges and obstacles. It is about being steadfast even when the situation has drastically changed. It is, in many cases in life, the difference between success and failure. As Newt Gingrich put it, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of the doing the hard work you already did”!
What are the qualities of people who persevere? They are extremely focused, keeping noise and distractions out; They are competent in what they do and highly creative when the unexpected turns up; They are not worried about bad situations. Instead, they just focus on what needs to be done, etc.
In whatever it is that you do, work hard, persevere when your hard work wasn’t enough and enjoy doing so!