Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hard Work is Overrated

I know what you're thinking...

"Arun, despite your devilish good looks, witty personality, and snappy dance moves, you've finally gone off the deep end."

Rest assured, I went off the deep end a long time ago, but I'm happy you appreciate the "ass-shimmy-of-wonder" that I recently added to my dance repertoire.

But to the point at hand, if you give me a few paragraphs, I think I can convince you that the idea of "the harder you work, the bigger the reward" is actually not only counterproductive, it's also flat out wrong (stop shaking your head at me, and keep reading).

Somehow, the idea of hard work has actually become glorified.  A lot of people wear it as a badge of honor.  "I work hard and bust my ass everyday!" While working long, hard hours is admirable to the extent that someone is enduring something difficult to attain something greater, it usually gets a disproportionate amount of credit for success.

The truth is, hard work is one small part of this greater thing that we all want.  Things like timing, luck, talent, and "working smart" play equally huge roles.  And if you work smart, then your odds of hitting the jackpot with timing and luck increase as well.  The thing is, people don't like to acknowledge the timing and luck part of the equation because it deflects the credit of accomplishment away from them.

But if we say, "I made it where I am because of a LOT of hard work" the credit belongs entirely to us which feels good.

There are a lot of blue collar workers out there that work tremendously long, hard, physically, and mentally exhausting hours, that by a lot of people's standards would not be considered "successful."

They're neither wealthy nor happy.

There are people working far harder than us that, through lack of talent, luck, or knowledge, have not been able to escape the grind of life.

Lets look at example of someone....oh, I don't know...ME (shocking, I know).

I would love to sit here and say, "Blog readers of the world!  I am where I am today because I worked harder than anyone else I knew!  Revel in my awesomeness!"

As good as that would feel, it's not the truth.  But you can still free to do some "Arun Reveling."

I am where I am because of some hard work, but really, its the combination of luck & timing, and seizing some fortuitous opportunities.

The truth is, I am NOT a particularly hard worker.  But what I am good at is figuring out what I have to do to deliver results that at least meet, but hopefully exceed expectations.

We tend to admire people who work really hard because we know how difficult it is and how much it sucks to do it.  So, when we finally work hard, we want some doggone recognition!  But is there any worse feeling than busting your ass only to receive NO credit or reward?  It's the reason many people are unhappy with their jobs.  Most people feel like they are under-paid, and under-appreciated at work despite their hard work.

To boot, most of us actually overestimate how hard we're actually working.  Again this is because people usually don't like work, so two hours of working hard, mentally feels like 10 hours of work.

Similarly, it feels amazing when you really work hard and something amazing happens as a result.  I lost a lot of weight when I was younger, and believe me, I busted my soft yet jelly-like booty in the gym so when I finally attained buns of steel (thank you Suzanne Somers Thigh Master), it felt so great that the credit was entirely mine.

BUT, there's the "smart work" aspect too.  I can kill myself in the gym everyday but if I'm eating ice-cream after my workouts, I'm not going to get anywhere.

Then there's the aspects we can't control.  I like playing basketball, but even if I train everyday and work really hard, its pretty unlikely that I'll ever be able to dunk (I've pretty much maximized my "Indian athletic dunking potential" and I can barely touch the rim).

Similarly, I don't care how much weight she loses, how much surgery she gets, or how long she works on her runway walk, Rosie O'Donnell will never be a super model.

But, if I truly I wanted to become a professional basketball player (which despite the way I utterly dominate people at such athletic games as H.O.R.S.E and P.I.G. will still never happen), I might "work smart" and focus on improving my passing and shooting skills, rather than killing myself trying to jump higher (the phrase should be, "White men AND Brown men can't jump").

Ok.  So I think I've made a decent point that hard work does not always result in success or happiness.  I think I've also been fairly convincing that hard work is not the only answer to achieving your goals, because if all you focus on is hard work, you're not utilizing other, more efficient resources to reaching the goal.   Then by the time you get there, you'll be unhappy and overworked which defeats the purpose of even achieving the goal in the first place.

Because the ultimate goal is to feel good, right?

So how do we use all of these other parts of "Arun's success equation of awesomeness" to minimize the amount of needless hard work we're doing?  Well, one thing we all struggle with is the urge to procrastinate.

Cafe Calabria - One of my "office" locations
When I was in business school, people always wondered why the hell I wasn't studying the night before a test or how I wasn't stressing about a deadline for a case study.  It's not that I'm some sort of business savant.

It's that I don't like having to bust my ass and work super hard with deadline ready to smash me in the face (and anyone who knows me, knows how much I treasure my face).  I leisurely studied and finished assignments because I started early and didn't procrastinate.  If there was one piece of advice I'd give to someone in order to avoid working hard, it's to not procrastinate.

Another thing is identifying your talents/interests.  When I was an Engineer, work seemed really hard.  I HATED having to sit down and calculate some weird systems reliability prediction or create a logistics outline. I didn't like it, it didn't come naturally to me, and I never looked forward to work which made even regular work seem like hard work.

An 8 hour day at work consisted of 2 or 3 hours of actual work which felt like 12 hours of work.  It's the reason I would spend hours doing ultra productive things like chasing a bee around the office.

These days, I provide marketing expertise to companies which I find incredibly enjoyable.  I love being creative, developing new ideas, and working with people.  Marketing and working with people is something that comes much more naturally for me which makes it fun to work.  It also means that I don't have to grind on certain problems like I did when I was an engineer because now I'm in a profession that aligns much better with my talents and answers to problems come very quickly and easily to me.

I actually like work and mornings go by super fast.

So it's not that you shouldn't work hard, especially if you're enjoying work.  The point is that hard work is waaay overvalued in terms of the results it delivers, and you shouldn't have to bust ass at something you're not enjoying at the expense of overall well-being.  It defeats the purpose of making life enjoyable.  The journey should be just as enjoyable as the reward, and if it isn't, think about how to get the same results without grinding, and don't feel bad about not killing yourself everyday.

Ok, now stop slacking and get back to work.