Blog

Stories from a life in progress.

"Hard work"

I have a bone to pick.  I don't know who I'm picking it with, but it feels like a bone that needs picking.

Here's the thing.  Pick any book on success, any kind of "reaching your dreams!" blog or e-book or Facebook page or anything, and at some point it will talk to you about the need for hard work.  It may focus on it with some force (if it is written by someone honest) or it may just toss it out as a passing reference (if it is written by someone more interested in selling stuff), but it will more than likely get mentioned.

Before I listen to one more writer or speaker or anyone on the subject of success I would like to ask one thing:  What the hell do you mean by "hard work"?

All of these writers, all of the productivity gurus, the success-seminar speakers, even closer-to-home folks like parents and mentors who advise that "hard work" is necessary -- I know all of them mean well.  Really, I do.  (At least the honest ones who want to help people, not the selfish ones who just want to cheerlead people into giving them money.)  I totally give them credit for good intentions.  But good intentions can fall short, and for me, this one falls really short.

Do you know what happens when you hand a perfectionist like me a nebulous concept like "hard work"?  You would save me a fair amount of time and energy if you would just say "give up."  Because then I could go straight to that result and skip over the period of frantic flailing followed by an anxiety-ridden slide into exhausted depression.  If I'm going to land at a place where I feel doomed regardless, it would be nice to skip over the middle parts and not get my hopes up.

I don't know what "hard work" looks like or feels like, you see.  I don't know how to tell whether I'm doing it or not.  In my mind, "hard work" begins about two steps beyond wherever I stop.  No matter whether I've sat in a chair in my pajamas all day, or if I've been on the go for 15 hours straight, "hard work" is somewhere farther down the line.  I will never reach it.

Is that the wrong way to look at it?  Of course it is.  But that's how my mind works, you see, and without a quantifiable measure of what "hard work" looks like or feels like, I don't have a way to push back against it.

Until I find some actual metrics to define "hard work", I'm going to go ahead and treat it with the skepticism such a nebulous concept deserves.  I will hang mental quotation marks around it everywhere I find it, as a marker of my distrust and disdain for an idea which only manages to hurt me, not help me along.  I'll find my own way forward, thanks.