Monday Mornings with Madison

Perspiration: The Role of Hard Work in Success

Over the last two weeks we looked at the role of motivation and inspiration in success.  Most people who are successful have both internal sources of motivation and external sources of inspiration.  Combined, they provide a great deal of the impetus that makes things happen.  But the truth is that even the most successful, driven people have times when there are neither motivated nor inspired.  At those times, the job still has to get done.

When motivation and inspiration both run out, that is when it is time to rely on the good, old-fashioned work ethic.  The most successful people know that there is no substitute for hard work.  Long after bursts of motivation run dry and sparks of inspiration fizzle out, perspiration – rolling up the sleeves and putting the nose to the grindstone — is what carries the day.  Forget the adage about ‘working smarter, not harder.’  At the end of the day, evidence shows that what is often needed most is just simple hard work.  Here’s why.

Hard Work = Success

The truth is that few successful people ever just stumbled into success.  Few ‘get rich quick’ schemes ever work. Most people who have thriving careers or earn great wealth or achieve a very high position don’t do so without putting in a lot of hard work.  Take for instance Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.  Mr. Buffet was once quoted as saying that he was “wired at birth to allocate capital.”  While he may have had a particular talent for understanding investments, he was not born knowing about investments. The self-made billionaire achieved great wealth and success because he put in an enormous amount of hard work over many years.  He is known for his discipline and the long hours he spends studying financial statements and potential investment targets.

Indeed, very few people achieve greatness without a lot of work.  Even chess legend Bobby Fischer, who became a chess grandmaster at age 16, put in a lot of hard work into becoming the world’s greatest chess champion.  He spent nine years of intensive study perfecting his game.  Success isn’t handed to anyone.  It requires hard work.  Some of the most successful sports legends were also some of the hardest workers in sports including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Jerry Rice, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Floyd Mayweather.

Hard Work Is A Relative Term

Of course, not all work generates equal reward.  The hard work of education reaps greater rewards than the hard, back-breaking work of laying brick.  Hard work pays better dividends when there are fewer or no people can do that specific kind of work,   That accounts for the disparity between laborers that go home caked in dirt and sweat every day with little income to show for it, and those who sit in air conditioned offices doing white-collar work and receive three, four, or ten times the pay for what may seem like easy work such as hitting keys on a computer or talking on the phone. Thus, the term “hard work” is relative.  On the one hand, moving boxes all day may not generate much income but is also a low stress job.  On the other hand, programming computers or forecasting stock prices may be less physically demanding but considerably more stressful and lucrative.  In fact, hard work actually pays when an individual takes the initiative and exploits opportunities.  Then, the ratio of pay to effort is best.

Most Believe in Value of Hard Work

Thomas Edison, one of America’s greatest inventors, once said “There is no substitute for hard work.”  The general wisdom agrees that hard work pays.  Since 1994, Pew Research Center has asked whether or not people agree with the statement that “most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard.”  The Pew Research Center has asked the same question 10 times since 1994.  The first year, 68% of the public agreed that hard work would pay off.  The proportion saying that hard work pays peaked in 1999, when roughly three-quarters (74%) expressed that view.  This year, 63% of the general public said hard work pays off while 34% said it did not necessarily lead to success. So it seems that the majority of people do believe in the immutable value of hard work, but the consensus rises and falls based on the well-being of the economy and tightness of the labor market.

Edison also once said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”  Coming from a man who achieved great success and made major contributions that changed the world, that is a sound observation.  The next time a project or challenge arises, consider that while motivation, inspiration, genius and talent may all be useful and helpful, ultimately hard work is what is needed to get it done and achieve success.  The good news is that this creates a fairly level playing field for everyone that wants to succeed.  Stop looking for the easy way out, roll up the sleeves and get to work.

Quote of the Week

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi


© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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