Are you 100% satisfied with your work? Are you doing what you want and love to do? And if you are doing it, does it satisfy all your needs? If your answer is yes to all these questions, then you really have no need to read this article. If your answered no, then read on.
Right from our childhood we were told by our parents and teachers to work hard. They said hard work will result in happiness and success in life. But as we grew up, we encountered conflicting ideas such as smart work and inspired action.
And we also see conflicting things in our daily life, like the manual worker who works so hard in the hot sun but doesn’t seem that have the “success” in life that the society imposes on us. And there are people who make a lot of money without hard work. Life is not fair – or so it seems.
For the past several years I have thought very deeply about the concept of hard work, smart work, inspired action, motivation and effortless success. Sometimes it would lead to pure frustration and backing out because the ideas and advice from others would be so conflicting with each other. Finding the right path to take would seem like an impossible goal.
Finally, I have come up with a concept which seems to fit all the questions we have into one framework. Looks like there are different types of hard work. All hard work models lead so some kind of result but different results in each case. I have come up with 3 major classifications of ‘hard work’.
The 3 Types of Hard Work Are
- Working Hard to Meet Physiological, Safety and Social Needs
- Working Hard to Improve Social Status by Consuming More or Achieving Something for the Sake of Recognition
- Working Hard to Realize Full Potential of the Self and for a Higher Purpose
You may have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is represented in the above figure. By integrating the concept of hard work into this model, I will be explaining you the different types of hard work and the different results each type would produce.
1. Working Hard to Meet Physiological, Safety and Social Needs
This is the first type of hard work and is more common with young people who are getting started in life. Man works to earn a living. First he works to satisfy his basic needs and then he works more so that he can have security. Then he needs a family (social need) and he has to provide for his family.
In this type of hard work, a man is motivated to work hard because he has no other option. He has to because his basic needs are so important that when such needs go unmet, his and his family’s very survival would be under question. The only motivation to work is to earn money for himself and his family. Usually we get a job when we are in this stage of life.
In this type of hard work, a man may not be motivated to go that extra mile. Even if he does, it would be only because that can earn him more money. Like working extra hours in the office so that his boss may give him a promotion. Not to create a better product or provide better customer service. There is no higher purpose involved in this type of work. And without higher purpose, the world doesn’t become a better place. Life goes on, the world goes on, but nothing changes.
In today’s world, we take so much for granted. The phone, the internet, electricity, automobiles, genetically modified high yield seeds, medical advancement and so on. But remember that the scientists who invented such technology and the entrepreneurs who brought the technology to the common man’s hand did not work from this level. They worked to realize their full potential, unleash their creativity, fulfil their souls through a higher purpose and make this world a better place. More on this in the later part of this article where I talk about Type 3 hard work.
For a lot of people, basic needs are met. But still they work hard. Very hard. But not for any higher purpose. They are the ones who work to improve their social status by earning more and spending more or to achieve something purely for the sake of recognition from other people. They are the Type 2 hard workers…
2. Working Hard to Improve Social Status by Consuming More
Some people work very hard. Harder than any normal man would work. They would seem to already have the basic needs met way beyond the minimum. They will have all the safety and security in the world and can provide more than enough for their family, but still they will work hard.
Where does this motivation come from? The 4th level of Maslow’s hierarchy is Esteem. Here things like social status, respect of others, confidence and achievement come into play. Achievement not for the purpose of achieving something for its own sake, but for the social recognition it brings.
Esteem is a psychological need (which comes after physiological needs) and it gives a good sense of high status for the man among his peers. High status in the society means better chance of survival. This was more applicable in the evolutionary stages of man, such as when men were in tribes, a leader of the tribe has a better chance of survival.
When man is under pressure to be better than his relatives and neighbours, he spends more so that he gets a perception of being better in the minds of others. To spend more, one has to earn more and he works hard.
“The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American dream.” – Tommy Hilfiger
When Tommy Hilfiger said the above words, he probably meant that hard work equals earning more money, money equals better lifestyle for the self. He did not talk about hard work for a higher purpose.
Here’s another quote which refers to the same Type 2 Hard work we are talking about.
“The American Dream is still alive out there, and hard work will get you there. You don’t necessarily need to have an Ivy League education or to have millions of dollars startup money. It can be done with an idea, hard work and determination.” – Bill Rancic
And it is obvious that the American Dream is about the individual man rising up socially and not about any higher purpose.
According to Wikipedia:
“The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.”
And The American Dream is not just for America. It represents an idea. It is common in Europe, Australia, India and so on.
In the end, this type of hard work will have been in vain except for the fact that man lived “high”. He wore fine clothes, drove foreign luxury automobiles, lived in a big home and lived a high consumption lifestyle.
Society, parents, family and friends, unfortunately, label this man as “a success”, though he did not contribute anything to this world. He did not make the world a better place. He probably made it worse by hyper consumption and wasting resources.
BTW, Did I mention that the man did not really enjoy what he did in work and hence real innovation and life changing ideas doesn’t come up in this type of hard work as well. Corporate managers who work hard to rise up in rank and earn more hardly enjoy their jobs.
In his blog post titled: The paradox of Success, Panayiotis Vitakis wrote:
“Top performance in any facet of life can only be achieved when someone’s heart is really into what they are doing. Yet in corporate environments, top performance is mostly associated with the desire to acquire wealth and power, stripped of any real enjoyment and love for the work itself. At best, hard work is regarded as a means to an end, the necessary evil that one has to endure in order to succeed.”
Type 2 Hard work is also the most dangerous one because here’s where ethical boundaries are crossed. When a man does not enjoy what he does and is fully focused on earning money or achieving something just for the sake of social recognition – he cuts ethical corners and takes a shortcut to success.
An athlete who enjoys running a marathon or a 100m sprint doesn’t take drugs to win. A politician who enjoys helping people and developing his country doesn’t demand bribes. A business man who enjoys creating valuable products and services won’t cheat on a deal, sell sub par products in the market and create fake financial accounts.
In my opinion, people who are focused on rising up socially are the ones who create the maximum damage to the society and the world.
“If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.” Joseph Kirkland
In the above quote, Joseph Kirkland suggests that hard work is not a wonderful thing. It is easy to make out that he is talking about Type 2 hard work. Though he was a novelist, he was probably more focused on earning more money and achieving social status than changing the world for the better. No doubt that he despises hard work.
Having said so much about Type 2 hard work and chasing money, power and social status. I also want to add that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong in following this path. It is just a matter of maturity. With time you will understand that this is a slippery slope and is hard to maintain direction. Because there are irresistible temptations on the path, there is never enough because someone always has it better than you and there is no lasting satisfaction regardless of how much you achieve financially.
If you are following the money instead of focusing on value creation, it is almost impossible to enjoy what you are doing. Rare exceptions are there, but in general this is true. Speaking for which, leads us to the most important part of this article.
3. Working Hard to Realize Full Potential of the Self
Some people have their basic needs met but they still work hard. But they do not work hard to earn more so that they can spend more. They are not looking to improve their social status through a high consumption lifestyle. They are just too mature to buy-in to the demands of our modern society.
They work hard to achieve something. Achievement for the sake of achievement and not to improve social status. They work to realise their full potential as an individual human being in this world. They have a higher purpose. They are the only type of hard workers who actually end up enjoying what they do. They are the ones who change the world.
- Albert Einstein did not work hard so that he could get the title of the world’s best scientist. He solved equations for the pure joy of it.
- Mahatma Gandhi worked hard to bring freedom to India. Not to gain social status but out of the real true wanting to free India.
- Steve Jobs did not work for money. He wanted to put a dent in the universe.
- Michael Dell wanted to bring low cost but high quality branded computers to the mass market.
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin Founded Google to change how the world’s information was organized and delivered.
- Mark Zuckerberg founded facebook so that he can change the way people socialize and connect.
- J. K. Rowling did not write Harry Potter series without absolutely loving the process. She entertained 400 million people including me and my brother.
Some people do focus on earning a lot of money as entrepreneurs but they do not use that money for consumption or to improve social status by buying costly toys. They reinvest the money to grow their businesses. And at some point they may get into philanthropic activities. But more often than not, they just keep growing their businesses. Their businesses are usually highly efficient and provide high quality products and services which make this world a better place to live in.
Musicians, painters, poets, authors, innovators, public speakers, scientists, entrepreneurs, culinary artists, sculptors etc. work to realise their potential, unleash their creativity and make this world a fine place to live in. After a whole day of tiring work, they are not burned out. Though their physical body may feel tired, their soul is enriched through the work they do. They feel more energetic than they were in the beginning of the day.
“All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard work.” – Thomas J. Watson
You express yourself through creation and not through possession. Type 3 hard workers want to create. Type 2 hard workers want to own more things. Type 1 hard workers work because they have no choice.
A litmus test to check if a person is doing Type 3 hard work is: provide him with his basic needs and take money out of the equation. Would he still work? If yes then he is Type 3. Since Type 2 hard workers only work to earn more so that they can spend more, there will not be any motivation to work if they don’t earn for their ‘hard work’ that they despise.
“Happiness is the real sense of fulfilment that comes from hard work.” Joseph Barbara
In the above quote, I am pretty sure that Joseph Barbara is referring to Type 3 in my classification.
Writing this 2000+ word article was back breaking. I had to spend hours reading every quote from history about hard work. Think about every idea and word several times before I published it. But I thoroughly enjoyed the process. And the motivation? For the first time ever in the history of mankind, I wanted to classify hard work into its different types. Because the term has been overused. It has been misused. Abused. Misunderstood. Confused.
Having said that working for money, power and social status alone is not a worthy goal, ironically, The richest and the most respected people in the world are the ones who did not chase money, power or social status. Since they focused on creating value for the world, it all came back to them 10 fold. 100 fold. Sometimes a 1000 fold. And my boy, that’s how you make money!
Tell me, would you ever want to work hard just for the money? Now please go and change the world! We will be watching you!