“I can say the willingness to get dirty has always defined us as an nation, and it’s a hallmark of hard work and a hallmark of fun, and dirt is not the enemy.”
I love the term “sweat equity.” For me this is defined as the return on investment you receive for the effort you personally put into a project or initiative. There is such value in doing the hard work that requires you to roll up your sleeves and “get dirty.”
This can take a lot of different forms depending on how you define your work. It can be getting dirty in the sense of diving into details on a work project or it can be as simple as literal dirt under your fingernails after working in your garden. No matter how you define “getting dirty” nothing replaces the joy and satisfaction of seeing a job well done because of your personal investment of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears.
I have long believed, and held as a core tenet for life, that work worth doing requires one to do whatever it takes to get the job done. No matter how dirty, messy or strenuous the work might be. Of course, this is bound by an adherence to what is morally and ethically right! Living by this principle is liberating because it keeps you focused on what needs to get done, and dispenses with the attitude that certain tasks or things are “beneath” you. Do what ever it takes to do the job done right.
So, go get dirty. Build up some sweat equity and revel in the fact that when the work is done, you will have created value that wasn’t there before.
“Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.”
I love the holidays, it is a magical time of year when everyone is a little nicer and there is extra time with friends and family. But I love when the holidays are over and it is time to get back to work. I welcome back the structure and discipline that makes success possible. It is hard to be “off” and have the same discipline that creates success. So, it is time to get back to work. Time to embrace the hard work and enjoy the effort.
Yes, there is joy that comes from hard work! The pursuit of some great goal or dream is awesome but the joy comes from the work itself. The pride that comes from having put in the effort, knowing that you are putting forth your very best and seeing results because of that work. Hard work is joyful. Hard work is fun. Hard work is a reward in and of itself. Embrace the work, because that is where joy truly lives.
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
Is perseverance still required if you love the hard work you are doing?
Personally I have found that even when I love the work, getting tired will still happen. But I have also found that perseverance is easy when you are mindful of what (or who) you are working for. It is hard to stay committed to the hard work if you don’t have a burning and compelling “why” that is driving you forward.
If you have a clearly defined “why” then perseverance is easy. If you have lost your “why” then you are going to lose the will to get it done. Stay focused on the why.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
There truly is no such thing as an “overnight success.” Sure, luck or chance can play a role, but one has to be ready for those opportunities when they arise. You can’t look at someone who happened to win the lottery as successful. Winning the lottery isn’t success, that is just being incredibly lucky against the odds, though based on all the research on the unhappiness of lottery winners I am not certain it is all that lucky…
I think it is important to remember that “success” is, or should be, internally defined, not externally defined based on whatever the world has decided success should look like. An artist who devotes their life to capturing a certain quality of light in their paintings is successful if they achieve their goal and are happy with the result. They might never sell a single painting, but they weren’t working and sacrificing in order to sell their work, they invested their time, effort and energy because they loved the work itself.
How do you define success? Is it through the lens of the modern world? Money, fame, fortune? Or is your definition of success based on something internal and intrinsic to oneself? Can you consider yourself successful if you are never rich and famous? What is it that you want to achieve, and will follow the recipe mentioned in this quote above to accomplish?
Regardless of how you define success, and what it is that you want to achieve, you can’t get there without demonstrating the attributes of “hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” These principles apply to everything in life, your marriage, your hobbies, your family relationships, your work, your projects, etc.
What stands out to me the most is this, if you don’t “love what you are doing or learning to do,” you are going to have a hard time generating the energy necessary to do all the other things required to make yourself successful.
Take the time to define your success and ensure that you truly love what it is you are doing. Then the hard work won’t feel quite so hard.
“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”
Where do you fall on this scale of energy and ability investment into your work? Are you “average?” Of course no one wants to be average so I assume that everyone would score themselves higher than 25%. But are you able to honestly say that you regularly put in more than 50% of your capacity?
If the answer is “no,” then why not? Not every day is going to be a 100% effort, or even a 50% effort kind of day. But the days where you invest over 50% should outnumber those that don’t. If that isn’t happening then perhaps there is something else going on.
If you are doing work that just doesn’t inspire and motivate you then let’s be honest, sometimes giving 25% can feel like 100%. It can feel like trying to fill a bucket that has tons of holes in it. No matter how much water you pour in, it simply won’t fill up.
There are two key components that are critical for you to score high on the work investment scale. One is the work itself, do you find it motivating and rewarding? The second is deeply understanding your “why.” Do you have a burning “why” that pushes you forward regardless of the work you are doing at the time?
Either the work will have to motivate you, or the “why” should. When you find both, that is when the magic happens. That’s how you score 100%.
That which we work for and earn through labor is what we truly value. Getting something without putting in the effort creates a false happiness that is both temporary and fleeting. But when you do the work, and you put in the effort, and you then earn the reward, you appreciate the experience in a far different way.
True prosperity isn’t measured on the scale of money or things. Real prosperity is relishing the joy that comes from hard work done well. Those that find this, have found alignment with God’s calling in their life.
If you look at prosperity through this lens how does it change your measures of success?
“When you live for a strong purpose, hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.”
What is the purpose that you live for? When did it become so strong that the work required to to fulfill your purpose became part of the joy?
With a deep purpose driving you forward you don’t have a choice when it comes to doing the hard work, it happens naturally because you couldn’t fathom not doing it. I would argue that when you truly live for a strong purpose that the hard work doesn’t feel like hard work. The effort is rewarding and while the hours might be long or the work intense, the fact that it is driven by purpose makes the work itself part of the motivation.
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”
Who works harder than you? Do you know anyone whom you respect that constantly and consistently puts in a degree of effort and brings an intensity to their work that you admire? What is their secret? Have you ever asked them? We all have the same 24 hour days, what causes some people to push harder and get more out of those same hours than you do? What prevents you from asking them, and finding your own way to do more and maximize your talents?
I believe that talent is a gift from God. We don’t control how much of it we receive but we can control how much of it we put to use. I view hard work as a form of showing my thankfulness and appreciation to God for the gifts He has given me. If He gave me a talent to use and I am lazy and don’t put for the effort to maximize it then I am dishonoring Him. I am reminded of this verse:
‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:23-24
In some ways I guess that the ability to do the hard work, no matter what, is a form of talent in itself. Another verse that reinforces this principle is:
‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.’ Ecclesiastes 9:10
Doing the hard work isn’t about getting the reward, it is about honoring our gifts. Find someone whom you respect for their hard work and ask them why and how they do it. Then find a way to do your hard work yourself.
“My father taught me to always do more than you get paid for as an investment in your future.”
My Dad had a very similar life lesson that he preached to my brother and myself. His lesson was “do whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter what, and then do a little more.” That has been a principle I have followed my entire life. No matter what it takes, get the job done, and do a little bit more.
I really like how this quote frames out very specifically that you should always do more than you are paid, because you are making an investment. Investments have returns and if you keep making them those returns will continue to grow. It isn’t just a money thing either, this wisdom could apply to life and how you treat others, how you serve others and how you spend your time. Always give more than expected…
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
When do you feel most alive at work? When does the work not feel like work at all but instead is energizing and motivating? I love it when the work is exceptionally hard but is so worth doing that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice in any way. That is magical. Are you there today? What would it take to capture that feeling?
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
Henry J. Kaiser
Hard work speaks for itself through the results that are generated. It is amazing how many folks want to talk about the activities they are engaged in versus the results they are seeking to achieve. All the activities and actions don’t matter if they results aren’t there.
If you are focused on the right things and then just let the results speak for themselves what else really needs to be said?
“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Tomorrow’s dreams are dependent on today’s hard work. It is far too easy to get lost in what you want to have happen instead of focusing on what is in the here and now. I will fully admit that I have been guilty of this far too often. As a highly goal driven person sometimes it easy to live in the future instead of focusing on what has to be done TODAY.
When training for an Ironman race it is hard to think about the magnitude of the race distance when it was almost a year away. The key is to focus on the training needed to do for a specific week, and then the even more specific effort that you need to put forth on a given day. Having a plan, trusting that plan, and doing the work on a daily basis is the reason that you can go into the race without any fear or nervousness about completing the 140.6 miles ahead of you. If you have done the hard work then you are prepared for the day ahead.
Being prepared for whatever God has planned for us means that we have to put in the hard work each and every day.
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Hard work is an investment with returns both in the near-term as well as the long-term. Near-term one can see the fruits of their labors and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. But over the long-term hard work is enabling future opportunities. Are those opportunities or chances guaranteed to come about? Of course not. But one thing is certain. Future dreams and aspirations are guaranteed NOT to happen if you don’t do the hard work today and every day. Waiting to get lucky is a path paved in disappointment and regret. Do the hard work, it is an investment in future opportunities.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
I don’t know about you but there just never seem to be enough hours in the day. The world today is busier than ever and the distractions are relentless.
I really love this quote because it makes you sit back and thing about the work you are doing. If you are doing something to check the box, achieve the minimum standard, etc, then why are you doing it all all? If it is something that needs to be done right, what needs to go in order for you to have the time to accomplish the task at hand?
Part of the challenge in today’s hyper busy world is that it is easier, and more acceptable unfortunately, to do more things, at the bare minimum level. That doesn’t create long-term sustainable success. Focusing on the few things that really matter, and then executing them to a degree of completion that ensures they won’t have to be redone is a guaranteed way to stand out from the crowd.
Besides, if you are so busy, how can taking the time to redo anything be a palatable option! Get it right, get it done, move on to the next important thing.
“Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. I had to put in the time to get back. And it was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it.”
There is almost nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment when you complete some momentous, all encompassing objective. The type of project where it took 100% of your effort and commitment. These are the ones where during the work it is so hard that you are just gutting it out, getting it done, never willing to compromise and deliver less than what you know you are capable of doing.
There might be almost no better feeling, but it only works to motivate you in the future if you take the time to reflect, learn, celebrate success, and then reset your head for the next one. I have to remind myself of this all the time as I am likely to jump from one all-encompassing thing to the next. Take a few minutes today to pause, reflect, breathe.
“The last thing you want to do is finish playing or doing anything and wish you would have worked harder.”
A strong finish to anything is rewarding because you know you are giving it your best effort, that the hard work and effort are paying off and you’re ending something on a very high note. As outlined in the quote above though it can be hard to revel in a strong finish if you think you left something out on the field or didn’t give an initiative your very best effort. But just sometimes that experience can be an incredible life lesson. I’ll give you a personal example. (Thanks for humoring me by reading a longer post with a personal story.)
A few years ago I competed in Ironman Maryland. It was a tough training year and I wasn’t at my optimum fitness for an Ironman race. But my race goals were pretty simple.
Enjoy the day. The race is the reward for lots of long training hours and I wanted to simply smile and enjoy every moment of the day.
Given my sub-optimum training I wanted to simply break 13 hours. No where close to a PR but something I knew I was capable of doing.
Finish the race… Always my 3rd goal in an Ironman race. You never know what is going to happen out on the race course. 12+ hours of endurance racing is a long day. (as an aside, when doing a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, & 26.2 run the real goal is always, “don’t drown, don’t crash, don’t fall down.”)
To keep from completely boring you with the details I’ll simply share that I had an amazing day and completely crushed goal #1. I don’t think I stopped smiling at any point, even when the effort was really really hard. It was a very personal and emotionally fulfilling event. But that’s not why I am sharing this story…
My finish time was 13:00:45.Yes, I missed my goal of breaking 13 hours by 46 seconds… During the last two miles of the run I knew it was going to be close and I picked up the pace. I was running as hard as I could during the last mile (aways easier with the crowd cheering for you) and was sprinting down the finish line chute. 46 seconds…
To put this in perspective I achieved 99.99903% of my goal. 46 seconds represented a .0009% point shortfall. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely not. Is it even remotely important in life? Not in any way. Does it take away from the experience? No way, no how. However, I will never think of this race without a rue smile and know that I could have worked just a little harder and easily achieved the goal I had set out to accomplish.
Am I disappointed? Not in any way. But it was, and is, such a great lesson to me on the importance of giving your best effort no matter what, because if you fall slightly short, you’ll look back and know that you could have done better… Finishing strong means bringing your best every single day. 99.999% isn’t 100% done.
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
What kind of dream motivates you to take it from a wish to reality? Is it big enough to make blisters worthwhile? It is big enough to make you overcome any obstacle? It is big enough to make you get up early in the morning and do the hard work before anyone else is even awake? I’d argue that if you aren’t doing those things, your dream isn’t big enough…