Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

May 28, 2009

Hard Work Ain't the Trick

One of the things I hear a lot--in fact, I even say it myself--when people are confronted with some sort of deficiency or failing is "I work hard!". On its face, this seems like a pretty simple statement. Working hard is a virtue, right? Surely that earns you *something*, right?


Hard work by itself is utterly irrelevant. What you work at and what you accomplish are the important aspects. I could work very hard at digging ditches and filling them back up and produce exactly nothing. Actually, I'd produce less than nothing because resources would be consumed in the process. Nor would I earn anything by so doing. Donald Trump, on the other hand, may step out of his jet, say a couple of words to his assistant and make millions. The difference is that Mr. Trump actually did something *valuable*.

I'm not saying that hard work isn't important. A willingness to work hard when and as it is necessary to accomplish certain goals is an important adjunct to living a productive life. But a pathological need to overexert yourself without first choosing a goal and having an idea what you're going to get out of it is silly. This is why many people work hard all their lives and never get anywhere--they are pursuing some activity that is only marginally more productive than digging ditches to nowhere. The fact that their labors were mighty does not provide any excuses.

The proper response when someone says "I work hard!" is "And accomplish what?"

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