To Succeed in Life, You Need to Work Hard, Right?

In our western society, hard work seems like the answer to every problem. 

Need more money? Work hard, and you’ll get it.

Want better relationships? Work hard, and you’ll have them.

Want that promotion or a new job? Work hard, and you’ll get it.

I remember when I was a little boy, my grandfather told me that “without hard work, nothing will happen.”

There is some truth to that, but I don’t think that our obsession with hard work is very productive.

“Even When You Are Not Working, You Are Working.”

Recently, I was watching Steve Martin’s Masterclass on stand-up comedy, and he said something which struck me.

It was something along the lines that the world is your playground and that you should keep in mind that “even when you’re not working, you’re working.”

Hearing this from one of the most successful comedians, writers, and performers made me think deeply about my approach to work.

I realize that whatever I do – writing, gaming, training, my brain is working all the time. It doesn’t stop even for a second.

Even when I’m sleeping, my brain is still working. That’s why we dream – because our unconscious is working 24/7, and it recreates our biggest fears, desires, or just random events.

Yes, there are ways like meditation and journaling to quiet our brain and become more aware of it, but for the most part, it stays active.

We Can Use This Fact To Our Advantage. 

Think about the last time you forgot your keys. You put them on the table, and when you went to get them, they were gone. You looked everywhere, but you couldn’t find them. Then, just before you had to go, you remembered that you had put them on your bedroom table.

Your conscious or prefrontal cortex can only remember so much, but your unconscious or the so-called animal brain remembers everything. We just can’t access this information whenever we want.

That’s why it’s beneficial when you work on a specific project for more extended periods and get stuck, to let your mind wander. Forget everything about that project, and the next time you start working on it, you’ll have the solution to the problem.

Use Technology As A Way to Support Your Work, Not As A Distraction

We are living in an attention economy. Everything around us is battling to get our attention – Facebook, Instagram, E-mail, Youtube, latest cat vs. cucumbers video.

While we have to accept that this is the way modern companies operate, we have to be mindful of how we use our tech.

The technology itself is not a bad thing, it can be a great tool that helps us achieve our highest goals, but it can also be our worst enemy, making us slaves to distractions.

The problem is that our phones and their hundreds of apps are taking away our ability to be by ourselves. To let our minds wander and think without distractions, without being stimulated by apps like Facebook, Instagram, or Gmail.

People like Darwin, Nietzsche, Einstein were famous for being daydreamers. Einstein even came up with his theory of relativity when he let his mind wander from the math he was working on.

There Are A Few Ways We Can Restrict Our Technology Use To Support Our Work.

First, we have to think about what do we really need. On which apps or piece of tech, we depend to make our income and maintain our connections.

Everything else that doesn’t cut it has to go. We have to adopt a minimalistic approach to our tech usage so we can maximize its value.

There is no other way around it. We have tried the opposite – downloading the latest app without thinking about how it would serve us in the long run. 

How far it got us?

Work Hard And Rest Like A Pro

Now that you have restricted your technology use, we can talk about rest.

It sounds like a dirty word, especially in a society that celebrates hard work and going the extra mile.

Personally, I have nothing against working hard towards building your dreams and goals. My point is that if you keep giving all your efforts every single day without adequate rest, you’ll burn yourself out.

It happened to me once, and I don’t want to repeat that. I was exhausted all the time, even depressed, and I didn’t want to work ever again, only to lie down and relax.

Doesn’t sound very productive, does it?

So how can we rest better?

What I found out for me is that 10-15 minutes of adequate recovery are far better than hours spend lying down scrolling on social media.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a project which took me all day. I had to rewrite an entire sales funnel because the client didn’t like the first one. I started writing at 7 am and finished it at 7 pm. 

How Did I Work For So Long?

Well, my phone was in the other room. I didn’t even bother to touch it, because I knew it would distract me.

Then, every time I got tired or my mind needed some relax, I just lay down and let it wander for a while, no more than 15-20 minutes.

I just focused on being aware, aware of my breathing, and my thoughts. It was a form of meditation.

After the break was over, I’d get up and get back to writing.

And the client loved the finished product, which made me really proud. It is all that matters – to deliver quality work that my clients will love.

But that wouldn’t happen if every time I took a break, I was scrolling down through Instagram, Facebook, or watching the last Youtube video.

The idea of rest is just to rest, not doing anything else which will occupy your mind. If you’re going to work, work, if you’re going to rest, rest, but don’t access app after app after app and then wonder why you feel like shit.

To Summarize

  • Hard work is useful and can be productive only when combined with adequate rest.
  • Daydreaming is not a waste of time – it’s beneficial both for your mental health and work.
  • Limiting our technology use can help us have free, uninterrupted time.
  • Quality beats quantity, 15-20 minutes of undisrupted rest is far better than spending 1 hour “chilling” on social media.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I appreciate it.

If you have found this valuable in any way, feel free to share it with someone who needs to see it.