A meme has been floating around for some time now about hard work – and how it is overrated. I’ve come across a number of “How I Work” articles by prominent entrepreneurs that talk about the merits of “sometimes” heading into the office, watching lots of television, and questioning the need for a 40-hour workweek.
Many of these articles profile people who have built multi-million dollar businesses – companies that required a 24/7 work ethic during the start-up phase. No doubt, in the early days, these same folks had rigorous schedules, spent long nights overcoming major technical challenges, and developed loyal communities – user by user – through ceaseless efforts.
So why all this talk about chilling out from those who must have worked tirelessly to get where they are? Something doesn’t add up. This trendy new approach to work seems absent of the ambition and relentless drive necessary to make ideas happen.
Certainly, it’s possible that these successful entrepreneurs have started to coast a bit – and with millions of customers, it is their prerogative to do so. I’m also aware that as we get older, start families, and settle down, it’s natural to think about how to work smarter. A 24/7 schedule isn’t sustainable forever. But I still can’t help but wonder if these entrepreneurs are sharing the right message?
So why all this talk about chilling out from those who must have worked tirelessly to get where they are? Something doesn’t add up.
The push towards tremendous achievements – the determination we see in visionaries ranging from Steve Jobs to your everyday start-up founder who quits her day job to pursue a dream – is what drives bold entrepreneurial pursuits. Such journeys, I have found, require incredible amounts of sheer energy, focus, and time.
Having recently concluded four years of interviews for a book on the topic of making ideas happen, I can say one thing for sure: Hard work is the single greatest competitive advantage. Ideas don’t happen because they are great. The genius is in the execution, aka the “99% perspiration” that has become this site’s namesake.
Perspiration implies sweat, self-discipline, and (yes) occasional exhaustion. I think this is what Malcolm Gladwell teaches us in his book Outliers when he proposes that a true mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours of doing it. There are no shortcuts to lasting success.
Hard work is the single greatest competitive advantage.