Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Points on Working Hard Without Even Trying

I read a fair number of blogs:The Art of Non-Conformity, UpMarket, Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and tons of others--ask in the comments if you want the list. All post content that emphasizes standing out from the crowd, living your own life, and resisting dependence on the ideas and manipulation of others. Lately I've been inspired by two different mantras that turn up on these sites: without hard work, you'll get nowhere, and  life is really not as hard as most people make it, so stop trying so hard.

I am very good at carrying two thoughts in my head at the same time, even if I can't carry a plate and a glass of lemonade three feet without spilling it. I've decided to make "work hard without even trying" it one of my mantras. Here are a few thoughts that percolated about it.

  1. Hard work, done correctly, is an enjoyable thing. Somewhere, way back in the depths of my primordial brain, I got the idea that working hard should hurt. The more the better. Surprisingly, I became not-so-very excited about working hard. It's not that I'm lazy. I just associated hard work as a very unpleasant means to the enjoyable end. When you decide to go into business for yourself (of just live a life involving conscious thought rather than following the crowd everywhere) this belief limits you. Hard work should be fun--maybe not every second, but the majority of the time. The enjoyment of reaching goals, tasting the fruits of your labors, and the simple process of doing something well all require hard work, but can be done with a smile on your face--if your goal and labor are toward the right things for you.
  2. Trying hard usually fails. Yoda said it--there is no try. I always hated "there is no try" because hyper-positivity irritates me. Since I've written a post on aggressive positivity, I may need to explain. Positivity says "I can do this, or I am intelligent enough to let it go and move on." Aggressive positivity says "I hate where I am right now, and it will take a while to get somewhere else. But I will not let it squash me. I can do this, or I am intelligent enough, etc." Hyper-positivity says "You can do anything, and if you fail I will slap you with a pithy saying to show you're a loser!" The people I knew who whipped out "there is no try" applied it to other people's problems.  I say "I'll try" when I'm afraid of failure. Saying "I will" implies you will keep doing until you reach your goal. So trying hard implies the possibility not of intelligent failure, where you realize you just had a bad idea, but of out-and-out, ugly, "I-give-up-on-my-life-dream-because-I'm-not-good-enough-for-it" kind of failure. So don't 'try hard'. Work hard at something great.
  3. Real hard work assumes thought. I picture someone trying hard as sloughing away at a task because she believes it should be done. I picture someone working hard as heading towards a goal. Hard work, the kind that is fun and rewarding, assumes you have thought through the path you have chosen. In Chrisitanity, we have the concept of 'counting the cost.' Jesus told his followers that He required 100% committment from them. Being like Him is non-negotiable. So He urged those considering it to look long and hard at their life. He offered them unlimited love, the miracle of forgiveness from sin, and the gift of eternal life--but the cost was giving up anything that got in the way. Living the life you love has a similar commitment. If you are willing to walk your path, and cut out anything that doesn't take you toward your destination, you will work hard. Before you start cutting things out of life, you need to think. So real hard work requires thoughtful consideration, so that when you give everything you have to a goal, you end up with something worth everything you have.
Working hard without trying has opened my eyes to a world of fulfillment. I still hop on the treadmill of "urgent but unimportant" work, but I catch myself quickly. Do you have places you want to go? Stop trying, and begin working hard!

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