When Hard Work is not Enough
By CAROL LI
The formula for reaching any aspiration is tested and proven: big hopes plus hard work equals success. It is not simply an opinion, but rather a fact.
After all, sayings such as “just do it” and “hard work pays off” do not just manifest from thin air; people consider hard work as a factor that will guarantee success because it allows us to expand our innate talents. Motivational messages in enthusiastic advertisements and inspirational movies cement this concept in ambitious minds, relentlessly encouraging individuals to pursue their dreams with all their energy.
However, people should realize that working hard does not necessarily bring success, as there are many other elements such as experience, skill and time that contribute to attaining purposeful goals. The tough truth is that everyone and everything has limitations, but these limitations are part of being human, not lack of self worth.
While many turn to hard work and long hours to complete their life-long goals, people need to consider the many elements to succeed. For example, building connections in the competitive job market has become increasingly emphasized. In this day and age, there is not only a focus on accomplishments but also on real-world experience. Colleges look for well-rounded individuals with knowledge and social experiences, and bosses may consider factors other than productivity when deciding on promotions.
However, hard work cannot alleviate one’s job or college deficits overnight if one is simply working blindly toward an ambiguous goal. Rather, people must adapt to their limitations by adjusting their goals or lifestyles accordingly. For example, extraordinary athletes excel due to a possible genetic or physical advantage. Those who not have this characteristic will never be able to reach the capabilities of the athletes that posses an upper hand, no matter how much effort is put in. With society strongly emphasizing that everything can be accomplished through effort, diligent individuals may feel unaccomplished and discouraged when they encounter anything less than success. And as society focuses on inspiring and mind-blowing success stories, we fail to shine a spotlight on a natural part of life: failure. The idea that hard work will always prevail may sweep this very concept under the rug, misleading people to believe that failure is not an option in their journey to success.
For instance, people hoping to achieve their dreams often look up to role models who accomplished the same or similar aspiration. While role models may inspire individuals to continue pursuing their dreams, it may be difficult to achieve the same level of success simply through hard work. As much as we yearn to be like our idols, we need to see that we are not the idols we admire, but individuals with our own unique set of skills and talents. At the end of the day, it is perfectly fine if we do not excel in a particular field, because we may simply excel in another discipline that is more suited for us.
Furthermore, the determined mindset to persistently pursue dreams may compel individuals to overwork themselves, indirectly putting pressure and stress upon their lives. In a study done by Harvard Business Review, overwork-related stress can lead to a variety of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, diabetes, impaired memory and heart disease. Yet, many people continue to commit entirely to their aspirations, blind to the detrimental impact on physical and mental health. Consequently, the belief that “hard work pays off” has its limits conveyed clearly with all the harmful factors from only focusing on working hard and neglecting personal health.
Despite these constraints, hard work ultimately plays a significant part in the road to success. In the book Outliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell, the author states that 10,000 hours of practice is required to become an expert in any field, leading to the rise of the popular 10,000 hour rule.
But what Gladwell fails to realize is that many people cannot realistically dedicate themselves to 10,000 hours of practice to one field due to marriage, family or other everyday commitments. Instead of dedicating ten years to aspirations, individuals should adjust their mindset to work smarter, not harder. From this, people can achieve their fullest potential that takes into consideration the inescapable limitations that are present in their lives.
As a result, working hard may not be the cure-all that optimistic dreamers seek. Individuals should realize the limitations present in blindly chasing unrealistic aspirations, and focus on reachable accomplishments through the mindset of working smart.