My Changing Thoughts on the Notion of “Hard Work”

Early in my career, I admired those who worked really hard. They put in extra hours, did whatever was asked of them: whatever it took to get the job done, and then some. They took on extra work just to take on extra work. I felt like I should do the same. After all, that’s what we are taught in school: work hard and you will get somewhere in life! Hard work is also rewarded in school to reinforce this idea. In general, if you work hard, you get good grades, recognition from teachers, Honor Society, your name printed in the paper, college acceptance letters…

In my 6 or so years of working in corporate America, I’ve found that “hard work” is never rewarded to scale with the amount of effort put in – instead,  “smart work” is where the big rewards lie (lay? I never know!). The people who see the inefficiencies and perhaps automate processes so that the company saves millions over time. People, who, instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done “just because that’s how it is”, take a step back and examine if there is a better way to do X, or if X even needs to be done at all.

Over time, my thoughts on “hard work” have evolved. But I’m thinking that the corporate world’s idea of “hard work” is evolving, too. As we take leaps ahead of the industrial revolution ways, where physically working harder than everyone else really did set you apart, it is  now “smart work” that distinguishes employees from others.


So, what do you think ?