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Is hard work the only answer to success?

work hard at the right thingsSince I can remember, I have always been told to work hard. 

Try hard in school. Get good grades. Go to university. 

Get a good job. 

Then you’ll be happy…apparently. 

But is this truly the path to success? Well no. Not necessarily. 

Over the last few years I’ve worked with many successful people, and companies. But I can tell you firsthand that the grind-for-grinds sake mentality isn’t everything. 


Overextension vs Pace

Burnout is a real issue. Because it snowballs. Slowly building up until you explode like a watermelon wrapped tightly in 1000 elastic bands.

The key to effective work is pacing. 

Take a marathon runner for example. 

Their first mile can be their slowest. 

They could run that first mile 2x faster. 

But they don’t. 

Because they need to pace themselves for the next 25.2 miles. 

When working, remember to choose the right tasks. Don’t sprint the first mile as the  exhaustion will spiral into an overall slow time for the whole race. 

Pacing allows you to spend your time on the tasks that truly count. 

Why grind through the night when you could recharge and come back in even stronger the next morning? 


The Mexican Fisherman Tale

Have you heard the tale of the Mexican fisherman? Watch this video for an audio visual story. But the story goes something like this: 

An American investment banker visited a small Mexican village by the coast. He saw a fisherman docking his boat with some large tuna. The banker praised the fishman for the quality of the fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

“Not long.” The fisherman replied. 

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, catch the fish to feed my family, then the rest of the day I play with my children, and stroll the village each evening with my wife where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.”

The American scoffed, “Here’s what you should do instead. You should spend more time fishing, and sell all your fish in the market. Then after you have saved enough of the profits, you can buy another boat. 

You can then hire people to work on that boat and using the proceeds from this, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. 

Then instead of selling your fish to a middleman you could sell directly to the customer, eventually opening your own cannery. You could then control the product, processing, and distribution. 

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City. 

You could then put your company on the stock market, go public and BOOM you could retire!”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

“15 – 20 years.” The American replied. 

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American said, “Then you would retire. sleep late, go fishing with your family, play with your children, and stroll the village with your wife each evening sipping wine, and playing guitar with your amigos.”

The underlying message from this story is that the work you do shouldn’t prohibit your happiness in the present. 

Your work should empower you. 

You don’t have to work for work's sake. 

Enjoy the journey as much as you look forward to the end goal. 


Work Smart AND Hard

While remembering the title of this article, the point that I want to push across in this post is that working hard is a tool. 

Of course you will need to put work in to achieve your goals. 

But the workload shouldn’t be unmanageable. 

It shouldn’t poison other areas of your life. 


Relaxation and Recovery. 

Downtime isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity for everyone. No matter where you are in life. 

You need time to recover. Just like your body needs rest. So does your mind. 

Humans are not machines. Make sure that you are able to switch off. 

Before your breaking point. 

When you are overwhelmed it is often too late. 

Try to mitigate your own stress and that snowball effect to avoid burning out. 


Family and Relationships. 

Spending time with family isn’t one thing. It is everything. 

Your relationships in life are a strength. 

The love, support and connection are what fuels the purpose for life. 


The Bottom Line

The culture of non-stop productivity is misguided. Not just that but it is toxic. 

Working hard is a necessary trait needed to be successful. 

But it is not THE only one. 

Don’t get so caught up in comparison that you lose sight of what happiness and the purpose of your life could be… 

Is your success really worth the sacrifice of connection, well-being and fulfillment? 

It shouldn’t be. 

Let’s start by reinjecting the idea that the purpose of life is embracing human connection, recovery and enjoyment.