Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hard Work

(I got to know Karen from MakinTheBacon last year when I was compiling my post on the "One Most Important Thing in Personal Finance". Over time, we have become friends through our frequent exchanges over email. This is a great one from her, so seat tight, buckle up and enjoy the post.)


What exactly is the definition of hard work?

Does it mean skipping lunch and break so you can finish that big project?

Working late because you’re on such a tight deadline?

Juggling way too many things at once because you can do it all?

It seems like that term gets thrown around too much. I work hard, thus I deserve this. I work way too hard. Work too hard, too much.  I know the majority of us work hard, but I think our degree of working hard varies from person to person.

Growing up, I considered myself to be a hard worker. I should specify that it only pertained to school. I was presented with this ideal from my parents that if I worked really hard in school (received good grades); I would get a great job, become successful in life, etc. That seemed to be the school of thought from their generation and perhaps from being immigrant parents. They placed a high value on education. They talked about what school this person went to, what they studied and what their profession is. When describing a person, my mom would always talk about what their academic background first. 

I worked hard in school, but only in school. Nothing else seemed to matter except doing well in school. Although many of my friends had after school part time jobs, for me, getting a job was out of the question. My parents were worried that it would interfere with my studies. I was only allowed to work during the summer break.  I will be the first one to admit that I was spoiled. I didn't have to cook (my mom never taught me how. I taught myself how to cook when I lived off-campus) and I rarely had to do chores.  Remember that saying,” Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Or something like that. 

Rather than teaching me the basic skills of living, they just did them for me.  I could be mistaken, but I think it may even be part of the culture.

I don’t think I had a really good grasp of time management until my final year of high school, when I was working part-time (to generate extra money for university) and studying at the same time. I probably should have started working part-time much earlier so I would have been better at multi-tasking and prioritizing by the time I entered my final year; the most stressful year of a teenager’s life.

I continued to work hard in university, putting in those long hours of class and long hours of studying.  I graduated, received my degree and applied to jobs, etc.

Then I hear of other peoples’ stories. Their struggles. Their successes. And their defeats.

And you know what?

It makes my hard work look like just the bare minimum.

It makes me seem lazy and unproductive.  It made me stop and think what have I done lately?? What have I accomplished so far??

And at the same time, it inspires me. It makes me want to really push myself and step outside of my comfort zone.

I look at what they achieved and think, if I put in THAT kind of hard work, then maybe my life will change for the better. I will become a better person.

I work hard at my full-time job, putting in the long 10-11 hours days and sometimes the occasional Saturday.  I work hard at my part-time job, several nights a week yelling, sweating and pushing my body to its physical limit.

I’m working hard on trying to reach out to people and network.  I’m attending meetings, presenting ideas and delegating tasks. For many of you, this may seem trivial and a regular part of what you do. To me, as an extremely introverted person, it’s hard work and stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I’m amazed at how much hard work, time and effort, many people put into their blogs and it shows.  Whether it is making a decent online income, seeing a significant spike in traffic or even transitioning to full-time employment and working for yourself, we know that hard work can pay off. You may not see it and it may not show as much, but I try to put in the effort for my own blog with my sporadic chunks of free time.

"To me hard work means to keep plugging away at something you believe in and not giving up even when there are failures and setbacks." 

Hard work means learning from your mistakes and trying not to make the same mistakes over and over again.  It involves asking the right questions from the right people and applying that knowledge. And when those questions have been answered, ask some more.

Hard work means taking a chance and trying something new, even if you have no idea what the outcome will be.

So, what hard work have you done lately?

About the Author:

Karen lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By day, she’s a public servant and by night, she is motivating people in group exercise classes. Karen blogs about personal finance, travel, life and everything in between at MakintheBacon. You can follow her on Twitter @MakintheBacon1.  When she’s not blogging, she’s most likely baking, biking, planning her next trip, reading, or obsessing over her finances.

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  1. I never feel like I work hard enough. I would put in short bursts of energy and would get great results all throughout high school/college. I still struggle with this now, where I'm very good in short time frames but burn out quickly. But your'e right, there's always someone working harder.

    1. Karen's piece on hard work is absolutely true - providing we don't get caught in the rat cage system. Some people work extremely hard and then waste the rewards of their hard work on escapism.

      But if we know our direction & objectives, then I believe hard work will be a contributing factor.