Throughout my years in high school and university I believed that hard work was a requirement to be successful. But now I have completely changed my view on this. In this post I will explain how my perspective shifted and why working hard should not be idolised when trying to achieve any form of "success".
Hard Work Idolisation
It seems like since forever ago that hard work has always been idolised as a prerequisite to achieve success. The saying I'll sleep when I'm dead is a popular phrase that became the punchline of the work-all-night club. YouTube is filled with motivational video compilations of hard-work speeches. The classic Will Smith - Not Afraid to Die on a Treadmill - interview is another well-referenced cultural moment that pushed the narritive about working hard being the key to success.
The argument of this post is not that hard work is not important. But rather the degree of hard work and context of where it is applied. For example, in professional sports hard work is most definitely required. But if you are a janitor cleaning floors then hard work will most likely not reward you in the same way.
Shifting the Narrative
The narrative in online communities can change suddenly when one new idea is shared and adopted by enough people. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss is one example of a catalyst that pushed a new narrative for working smarter instead of working harder.
Remote work used to be considered costly and limited to certain types of work like being an influencer or a blogger. RemoteOK and Nomadlist helped transform this into a new narrative. Now remote work is not only largely acceptable across the world, but in some cases many companies are being formed as remote-only companies, completely distributed across the world.
Using Lifestyle as a Filter for Work
I came across an interesting perspective from Daniel Vassalo, where he talks about using lifestyle design as a filter for work and life decisions. For example if you are self-employed and enjoy your work-life as you only need to work for 5 hours every day, then every decision for work should be focussed on maintaining the lifestyle you have. This means that if you were to receive a new client that required you to work 10 hours per day you would rather not work with that client because it clashes with your desired lifestyle. Of course, humans are complex creatures and our desires change by the day so sometimes you might be flexible on the lifestyle you have.
Lifestyle decision-making helps you gain a lot of clarity about what it is you actually desire. If you need more money then by all means work the extra hours if that's what it takes. But if time, flexibility, even more relaxation is your desired lifestyle, then make decisions that favour that instead.
The Future of Work
The world has been moving in the direction of remote and online work. And it will continue to move in this direction. But what other kinds of desires will shape the perspective of work? Naval talks about what he thinks the future of work will look like and believes we will one day live in a world where we all receive notifications of new work opportunities, we complete the work that day, our work gets reviewed and we get paid immediately and directly. Most futurists believe something similar to this vision.
I believe lifestyle design will be a big proponent for how work is shaped in the future. Five-day work-weeks and 9-5 jobs will not last forever. We will see new structures shaped by the demands of people's lifestyles. Even if that means the majority of people want to stay at home or work remotely from an island in the Carribean.
Why Hard Work is Overrated
With the way work has transformed over the years it is difficult to see why hard work will matter as much in the types of work we do. Especially if our preferred lifestyles are that of more relaxation, learning and playing. I believe that time, random opportunity and serendipity will have more impact on "success" than hard work ever could.