Hard work pays. How many times have you heard this advice from well-meaning friends, well-wishers, motivational trainers, bestselling authors and, of course, your boss? In fact, toil is the cornerstone of success is what I have heard. I bet you have too. Society has given great importance to working hard. So much so that it's touted as the most important criteria for success. As a virtue, it earns respect and admiration for those who possess it.
In spite of overwhelming evidence in favour of working hard, I am tempted to differ. At the risk of sticking my neck out, I would like to say that in my opinion, hard work is overrated. If you observe the world carefully, you will find that for every individual, who works hard and achieves success, there are several who continue to slog, but get nowhere near it. For them, it remains a distant dream. Why? The answer lies at the 'heart' of the matter. Hard work by itself is not enough for success. In fact, working hard does not yield success at all—unless you have your heart in it. If your heart is not in what you do, no amount of hard work can pay.
Which brings me to another important aspect of work—competence. Unless you love what you do, it is impossible to be truly competent. Working hard without enjoying it, at best, produces modest results. At its worst, its outcome is discouraging. Have you ever wondered why so many intelligent individuals, who work hard and do all the right things, do not perform competently? It's because these individuals may be theoretically competent, but their heart lies elsewhere.
Hard work pays only when it is also heart work. Ironically, you will find that individuals who are passionate about are the most hardworking. Yet, ask them about their hard work and they usually shrug modestly. The reason why such individuals work the hardest is because when you love what you do, it becomes play, not work. When you're 'heart working', then working hard becomes an enormously satisfying experience—something you want to keep doing. Success then becomes just a by-product of enjoyment.
Another benefit of heart work is that it is healthy. Research suggests that working hard is therapeutic for those who enjoy their work. For them, it's even better than a vacation on a beach, which can become dreary if extended for too long.
So the next time you see a successful individual, stop and think, "Is it hard work or heart work that is driving his success?"
If you've been working hard in the hope that it will, some day, bring you success, I suggest you introspect. You will find that working hard is not the virtue it is made out to be. It's a liability, unless your heart is into it. But then, does it still remain hard work?
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