I just saw something online that said if you work hard you will succeed. While I love the simplicity of that thought, unfortunately it’s just not true. There are a lot of you out there working your butts off and not getting the recognition or the money you deserve. And, for many of you, you certainly aren’t succeeding as far as actually enjoying your work.
So is the answer to work even harder? Probably not — at least not without making sure what you are doing will get you somewhere you want to go. Success comes in many forms. But none of them are the result of hard work only. So what’s the rest of the formula?
Examples of working hard w/o big payoff
Before we get to the rest of the formula, let’s look at a few examples where hard work doesn’t lead to anything but frustration and more hard work.
- Mary works at a pharmacy where her manager is great at not being around when things get busy. Or when emergencies happen. So Mary winds up working long hours and making sure everything doesn’t fall apart. She’s done this for ten years and is still in debt. And her boss just bought a new boat.
- Steve went into business for himself. And the moment he gave notice to his 9 to 5 job was one of the highlights of his life. But now he works harder than ever — about 100 hours a week — and yet his business is always trying to find new customers. The joy he felt initially has long since faded. And his family never gets to see him.
- Laura joined a fast food company that made it look like she could work her way up to owning her own franchise one day. But she has watched person after person move ahead, while she’s always the first in and first out from her shift. And yes … she is a hard worker. Everyone says that.
So what’s the problem. Why isn’t hard work working for Mary, Steve, and Laura? And why do people who don’t work nearly as hard as they do get to succeed? Well, some of it has to do with where they are putting their energy. And their focus. Also how others perceive them.
Not that goofing off is the answer
Please don’t get me wrong. Successful people do work hard. Harder than many of us can ever imagine. But all hard workers are not successful. (See syllogism / false premise for more on this type of inaccurate logic.) Then again, rarely are continual shirkers successful either.
While on occasion we may see examples of people who seem to do almost nothing and get ahead, for the most part that’s not the magic formula. Unless, maybe, you are related to the boss or somehow their favorite regardless of work ethic or ability.
What’s the secret beyond work hard?
As I mentioned earlier, a big part of the “secret” formula deals with where you put your energy and career focus. And how others perceive you and your contributions.
Sitting quietly in your cubicle completing pile after pile of work may win you some praise, but it doesn’t paint a picture of innovator or leader. And it most likely won’t get you to the heights of success.
NOTE: Important to remember that for some that’s just fine. Not everyone wants whatever the label of success may mean to the rest of the world. Nor is success the same for everyone.
Questions to ask yourself
But if you are looking to move ahead and have a vision of success you want (or would like to find one), here are some things to ask yourself:
- Do you step forward or simply hold back waiting to be given your assignment?
- Do you come up with new ideas / projects / ways to save money or improve things?
- Are you afraid to fail? Or don’t know how to handle failure when it happens?
- Do you create a solid support base around yourself?
- Do you worry about what everyone else thinks to the point of remaining in the shadows?
- Are you aiming for goals you really want for yourself?
- Are you taking actions to learn more skills / meet people in areas you care about?
- Have you done anything recently to think about what you really want long-term?
Whose dream are you working on?
One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is “Are you working on somebody else’s dream or your own?” Putting all your effort into what you think you’re supposed to be rarely gets you to your true vision of success.
And while a lot can be gained by working hard wherever you are, you also might want to be putting those lessons (good and bad) into your thinking about future goals. Are you also working toward what you really want for yourself? Have you even stopped to think about it?
Some hard work tips that can help
Create solid interpersonal connections
The greatest asset for any career are the work connections you form. But also ones you create while volunteering or at school or in professional organizations or other groups you belong to.
Look for opportunities and “skill niches”
While it’s great to be recognized for what we do, workplaces have things going on that you may not be invited to be part of automatically. It helps to keep alert to new opportunities or areas of expertise you might enjoy getting more involved in.
And that includes getting in on high-visibility projects and looking for niches you can make your own. And maybe one day even grow into an expertise you truly love and excel in.
Know how to do your own PR
No one likes a showoff. Or someone who goes around telling everyone how great they are all the time. But you also want to make sure that people know what you’re doing and what you might enjoy doing.
If you’ve completed an important project or solved a problem, let others know. Especially your boss. Not by bragging, but by sharing. And that is why creating solid, everyday connections matters so much.
Regular conversation provides opportunity to share your wins. And to let your interest in other things be known. Sitting quietly in your cubicle (and I am an introvert who enjoys just that) and waiting for people to recognize all your contributions won’t get you far. Unless, as i said before, that is exactly what you want. If so, cool.
More posts to help