You can work hard for nothing

What would you say is the number one secret of success?
I am convinced that if you put this question to the people around you, many of them would tell you it is hard work.

What do you think?

Is it always hard work that makes people succeed? Are people who work hard always successful? Does hard work always bring success? Don’t you know some very hard working people who cannot afford bread on their tables?

These are important questions to think about. I remember in my younger days I coined a slogan which ran thus:

The secret of success is hard work.
Work hard while you can;
Your success will be guaranteed.

Although I would still say this today, it looks evident that hard work is not enough. Of course, no one can deny that most of the people who succeed work very hard. The 19th century philosopher, essayist, lecturer and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson underscores the importance of hard work when he says,

“There is no way to succeed in an art but to take off your coat, grind paint and work like a digger on the rail-road, all day and everyday.”
He makes a strong point.
We must work hard to succeed.
We must work hard to make our mark.
We must work hard to have food on our table.
No one says otherwise. One of the greatest scientists and inventors of all times, Thomas Edison does not say otherwise. In fact, he puts it most beautifully in his legendary quote ,

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine perception perspiration.”

Elsewhere he tells us,

“I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by hard work.”
I remember my learned University Professor, Bernard Fonlon, used to tell us,“To get somewhere in life you must strain every nerve, For, if work is to be productive, it must be done with energy. There is no way out of it.Those who have a will to succeed must shun delight and live laborious days.”

Lord Milverton, is clear, “The price of progress must be paid in the currency of hard work…Prosperity is not easily come by. You cannot buy it. You do not receive it as a gift or hit upon it like an accident; it must be fought for to death by all who hope to share it.”

Hard work pays and pays very well.  I think that is settled. Generally it is the most hard working student who is usually rewarded at the end of his studies with excellent results. The hard working farmer will reap a better harvest at the end of the season than the lazy one.

If you look at the great men of the world you may go away with the impression that they do not work at all; but they work.  If we go by the American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow it is usually hard work that takes them to their ivory towers. This is what he says:

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight; but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

I agree 100%. We cannot, for one moment, doubt that hard work is a very important key to success.

Yet, we must be careful

We must be careful how we look at it; and how we work. It does not suffice to work hard. Not everyone who works hard succeeds. Some people work very hard but fail woefully. Why so? There are reasons:

  • Hard work is not the only factor in success.
  • If you work hard and ignore the other factors, you are in trouble.
  • You must work hard but intelligently.
  • If you work hard stupidly you will go nowhere.

Let me make this clearer.
There is the story of the two men who spent their day splitting wood. One of them worked very hard from morning till evening without a rest while the other did not work as hard. He took off a few minutes time and again to rest. At the end of the day the man who was taking off time to rest split more wood than the man who worked hard without a rest. Surprised, the man who worked very hard asked: “How comes you have split more wood than me when I worked harder than you. I never rested whereas you rested many times.

Honestly, the man could not understand. Many of us would not either. The lesson is clear.  This is what the man who kept taking off time to rest  said:

‘when I took off time to rest, that was when I sharpened my axe.”

Do you see the point?  Brilliant . isn’t it?

Many of us work without taking off time to sharpen our axes.If you want your work to produce good results, it does not suffice to work very hard. You need to take off time to sharpen your axe. Working with a blunt axe is to work like a foolish worker. It is to work like an ass.
Many of us work very hard but we work like foolish workers. We do not take off time to sharpen our axes. I know that if you are a writer you work very hard writing, which is good. Do you take off time to sharpen your axe? How do you do that? What of you who are not a writer, do you take off time to sharpen your axe? Let’s share!

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8 thoughts on “You can work hard for nothing

  1. Like it but how do you sharpen your axe in a world that every thing seems twisted for some selfish reasons? I mean where merit has been thrown away ?

  2. I enjoyed this post. Perhaps because it resonated with me. I am an extremely hard worker, yet I do not sharpen my axe. And by that, I simply mean I don’t enjoy things. It’s like I feel I don’t have the right. It’s what I saw modeled by my mother who had five of us and then died at the age of 44. Another reason I don’t relax is that I don’t feel I have the right to relax. In my life, only the boys did that. And believe me they also worked, but they somehow also enjoyed life.

    I think it’s sad but sometimes people will judge how hard you work by how much you have. This is not true, but it doesn’t stop people from using it as a measuring tool.

    • Thank you Anne for your comment. I love it. The reason we share ideas is to support one another to grow. I am happy you have been very open about your own life. I work very hard myself. The problem is not actually with working hard. It is with working hard and doing the wrong things. If we work hard and do the right things that bring success, success will come and with it happiness.Just continue to work hard but make sure you are doing work that will bring yo success. Are you coming back? I would love it.

  3. Great write-up. Very much like something useful of yore. But much more mature and better researched. True, hardwork must be guided by wisedom if one wants to succeed. But where is the place of luck in all of this? I am sure that luck or the supernatural or destiny equally merits some consideration. I hope you will some thought to this. Congratulations. Ateh Francis

  4. It is quite true. “Learning without play make Jack a dull boy”. It is not what you do that makes you succeed but is positioning your self in the right place at the right time.

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