Work Hard



“Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”– Thomas Edison

You can use rituals and routines to work hard and stand out from the crowd.   If you don’t know how to work hard, you can quickly learn the mindset and some proven practices to work hard and get results.

There is a lot of truth in “work smarter, not harder.”  There is also truth in “work hard, play hard.”   While balance is important, so is the ability to “go all out” or be “all in,” or really push yourself.  If you want to take you, your life, or what you do to the next level, that’s what it takes.

Working hard is an ability that many of the most successful people share in common.  Whether you look at Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, John Wooden, Tony Robbins, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bruce Lee, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki … they all learned how to work hard.

I’ve learned to work hard from an early age.  I’ve learned the discipline of getting things done.  I’ve learned that “where there is a will, there is a way.”  I’ve also learned the power of techniques to get rapid results and amplify my impact.  I’ve learned the power of clarity to create focus.  I’ve learned the power of passion to make things happen despite the odds.  I’ve learned the power of growth and the importance of continuous learning.

The thing that stands out for me across all of this is how success really is a numbers game, a skills game, and especially an effort game.  Even the ability to work hard is a skill.  Some people luck into it out of desperation (“necessity is the mother of invention”).  Others design for it.  They find their passion.  They find their purpose.  They play at their work, and they follow their growth.  That’s the smart part.

In the book, Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky writes about “rituals for perspiration” and how to work hard.  More importantly, he shares the reason and mindset behind “why” work hard.

Out-Work Them

One way to win over the competition is to simply out-work them.  Scott writes:

“Roy Spence, chairman of GSD&M Idea City — the powerful ad agency behind brands such as Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Krispy Kreme, and the famous ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ campaign — was once asked by Fast Company magazine how he keeps up the pace amidst serious competitors vying for his firm’s accounts.  ‘The one thing that will out-trump everything is just to out-work the bastards,’ he proclaimed.  ‘You’ve got to out-work them, out-think them, and out-passion them.  But what a thrill.’”

Perspiration is the Best Form of Differentiation

The productive artist rises to the top, simply by acting on inspiration and executing ideas.   Too many creative people fall pray to resistance or let their ideas die a slow death of inaction.  Scott writes:

“Perspiration is the best form of differentiation, especially in the creative world.  Work ethic alone can single-handedly give your ideas the boost that makes all the difference.  Unfortunately, perspiration is not glamorous.  Endless late nights, multiple redrafts, and countless meetings consume the majority of your time — all with the intention of breathing life into your projects.  Passion for your work will also play an important role.  Passion yields tolerance — tolerance for all of the frustration and hardship that come your way as you seek to make your ideas happen.”

Structure Your Time to Bring Out Your Best

One of the best ways to bring out your best is to design your time.   Structure your time so you can execute your ideas and think deeply on your thoughts.  Scott writes:

“In order to channel your ability to focus — and perspire — for extended periods of time, you will likely need to develop a consistent work schedule.  Structuring time spent executing ideas is a best practice of admired creative leaders across industries.  It is the only way to keep up with the continuous stream of Action Steps and allocate sufficient time for deep thought.”

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves, lean in, and work hard.  In many cases, working hard comes with the territory.  The key is to make it meaningful, connect it to your passion, and find your growth in a way that lights your fire.  That’s the part that’s up to you.  And that’s your power.

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  1. Hi J.D.,

    If I believe in something I will get it done, no matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes. If I don’t, I won’t. This helps me keep myself in moral alignment. I don’t sign up or put myself in places where I’d be doing something I don’t want to be doing. It took me quite awhile to figure this out.


  2. Hi J.D,

    I have been reading your articals from more than 1 yr.
    Really i have learned lot from it.


  3. @ Jimmy — I believe it.

    I think hard work gets a bad wrap. The key threats are:
    – Your ladder up against the wrong wall
    – “If-Then” thinking
    – Out of balance
    – Wrong strategies/tactics
    – Meaningless void

    But if you know how to deal with the key threats, then the upside is enormous. Hmmm … maybe one of my future books I should write is — “The Upside of Hard Work.”

    If you “invest” your time in your passion work and “pull” yourself forward with your values, it’s a recipe for success (you never lose by spending more time in your values.)

    @ Giulietta — You know what it means to make things happen.

    Will is a powerful thing.

    You found a key lesson in life — don’t sign up for stuff that sucks your life force out.

    @ Ashok — Thank you.

    There is more time ahead of us than behind us.

  4. It’s very hard to work hard 🙂 but it’s the only way to survive. It’s not a matter of being the best, it’s a matter of survival nowadays. And the 1st enemy we fight is ourselfs. The probability of getting lazy over time is enormous: complacency.

    Great articles, always, JD.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. @ Hugo — You’re right and the ultimate key here is to find passions that “pull” us through the tough stuff.

    Sometimes that means finding a problem we hate. Sometimes that means finding a problem we love. In either case, the staying power is our passion … we must never let our pilot light go out, and we must find ways to fan our flames.

    Our values add the fuel to our fires. When we connect with them, we amplify what we’re capable of.

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