In recent ages, hard work has been celebrated and with good reason. It has been the most recognized ingredient for success by icons across every industry. Almost every individual at the top of their craft, has attributed hard work as the major reason they were able to reach those heights. Many can argue that without it, success isn’t possible, and the evidence would suggest that they’re right. Don’t take my word for it, let the icons speak for themselves.
- Bill Gates is often quoted saying that he “didn’t take one day off” in his twenties.
- When Arnold Schwarzenegger was told that someone just spent 12 hours working, he would ask what else they did. Also, made sure to mention they have more time left in their day.
- Floyd Mayweather is famous for his mantra: “hard work, dedication,” and being found training at 3 a.m.
- Elon Musk was known to sleep in his office, while working on a shoestring budget with his brother.
- Mark Cuban is known to not have taken a vacation for 7 years while building his first company.
I can go on and on about guys like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, or Steve Balmer, but the truth is, it isn’t a secret that the harder you work the luckier you get. You will always hear whispers from the “work smarter, not harder” crowd which has a minimal truth to it. Only because punching the sidewalk 12 hours a day is hard work, but if your goal isn’t to toughen or break your knuckles, then it is largely a waste of time. Working hard aimlessly is fruitless. However, between two guys who are working smart, it’s the one that works harder and for longer that will win.
As far as introduction length for an article goes, this one takes the cake. But before we get into how to work hard, lets talk about what hard work is. Because everyone talks about working hard, but no one really talks about the activity that they define hard work to be.
Let’s make it all relative.
What is Hard Work?
Hard work is whatever your profession requires you do to either make you better or make you more. If you’re an athlete it can mean working out beyond what you thought your limits for that day. Pushing yourself for more time with higher intensity. For an entrepreneur, it can be mean staying up all night to prepare for a pitch or reading information necessary to grow his company to the next level, and doing this with sustained effort for weeks, months, or years. For an actor, it can be spending more time reading the same line over and over until you finally learn to tap into the emotion necessary for that one moment. Hard work is whatever makes you cross your previous limits, whether it’s the limits in your mental growth, physical growth, or financial growth.
What I consider to be a breath of fresh air in regards to hard work has been the recent discussion of deliberate practice. Made famous in the book “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin. In his book, Colvin discusses deliberate practice as what makes world class experts. Deliberate practice isn’t just doing an activity, it’s doing it with a purpose. Its pushing your limits and correcting every microscopic error in your craft.
Let’s use a boxer as an example. Most boxers just jump on the heavy bag and hit it for an X number of rounds and call that hard work. Deliberate practice for a boxer would mean to throw every punch with intention, with a coach nearby to critique the speed, form, and power of every single punch thrown. Each punch would be thrown with more effort and precision than the last, until excellence becomes the norm.
Hard work is whatever makes you more. More smart, more rich, more talented, more of whatever it is you’re looking to be. Its a combination of BOTH, the quantity, and the quality of the hours put it in.
Now that we defined what hard work is, let’s discuss what we’re here to discuss: how to work hard.
How to Work Hard
The way to work hard will depend on your nature. There are two ways to work hard that both require different methods to optimize your performance. There is the marathon runner or the sprinter. You’re either the tortoise or the hare.
Tortoise vs Hare
If you’re not familiar with the old tale: The Tortoise and the Hare.
The are a few morals to this story which include being humble and being patient. But I see this story differently. One thing I see different is that the hare is more than capable of winning the race. Two, is they both cross the finish line. While the tortoise is patient and resilient, the hare is confident and explosive. Both personalities have their place for different people and different situations. Whichever you are, here is your guide to working hard.
Maybe the hare is your personality type. You live on the extreme end of life. There is no in between for you. You either can’t stop working or you can’t find yourself making the bed because you can’t get out of it. Some days you’re in the mood to stop and smell the roses and others, you just want to smell the roses burn. You’re either going hard, or at a complete stop. You’re an extremist. Now this can be discouraging because of everyone saying how important discipline and long term thinking is. But don’t listen to them, success is there for the likes of you, and many people have proven it. Or maybe you are the exact opposite but tight deadlines require you to be a hare. Either way, here is your guide.
Short Term Goals
The most important part of being a hare, is to set short term goals. The long-term plan is important, but you must create a staircase process for your goals. Set one goal, let’s say developing a mobile app, attaining a certification or simply learning a new skill. Then write down every single short term goal that will get you there. Then, the fun starts.
Crash and Go
Now it’s time to get to work. You will follow simple step by step process to demolish your goals. One goal at a time you will lock in, and give everything you have, to that one goal. If you’re a hare, this will be up your alley because it will require full blown extremism. This can be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Here is how it’s done.
Lay out a plan for your goal on paper. What the goal is and what actions you have to take to get it done. Then use all of your productive energy to get it done. Intense focus is the key . Once its done, rest for 10% to 15% of the time it took you to get it done. Rinse and repeat for all subsequent goals. With these intense sprints followed by short breaks, you will make it to the finish line. Instead of the checkered flag, its success that you’ll see.
Throw Out All Schedules
Don’t worry about what time you have to wake up and what time you have to go to sleep. This is a sprint and in a sprint, you don’t allocate your energy, you give it all you’ve got in one go. Do this every day. Don’t focus on how much time you spent doing something, just do it as long as you can. Only stop when you simply are incapable of being productive.
Cut Out All Distractions
Again, this doesn’t matter if its daily, or weekly, or monthly, get rid of all distractions. This means no text messages, no Friday night drinks, no phone calls to friends and family. You need to zero in on your target. This is a sprint, and in a sprint, you don’t allocate your energy, you give it all you’ve got. Put your phone on airplane mode, cancel your Netflix subscription, get a website blocker. This is the time to cut yourself off from the world.
When you work hard without a vice you will get tired, there will be a time to rest, and that’s when you’re done. Until then, there are things you can do to push yourself. This isn’t the time to worry about how tired you will look or keeping your stimulants to a minimum because you don’t want to get jittery. This is a sprint, and in a sprint, you don’t allocate your energy, you give it all you’ve got.
“But I Get Tired”- Solving the Energy Problem
If you’re human you will get tired after long periods of focus, often it won’t even take an entire day, 60 to 90 minutes will usually do. There are two ways to reset your brain, short breaks or stimulants.
This can include anything you consider a break. Whether you like to take short walks, play video games or just get ten minutes of shut eye. The key to working hard as the Hare is to keep going until you can’t, then shut off for a bit. This works on a long term and short term scale. If you get tired in the day, take a short break. Using the steps system can help with this. One of my favorite things to do for a quick recharge would be to nap or meditate. I would put on binaural beats and get 15 minutes of shut eye, or 30 minutes of meditation if I was too wired to sleep. This is the only thing that made 16 hour days a possibility.
Perhaps one of my favorite methods of shutting off the safe guards in your brain that tell you to stop. There are many to choose from so discuss some of the ones that are most widely used. Starting with the heavyweight champ of stimulants:
If you’re reading this article then you’re curious about how to work hard, which can only mean you’ve made yourself very familiar with caffeine. Most of the time, people use the same source and the same amount of caffeine daily. Which is smart, unless you’re in a sprint. I recommend staying consistent with the source but upping the dose slightly once you reach tolerance. Upping it by 15% every week or so will do, if your source of caffeine makes it possible to calculate.
You can also throw something else into the chemical cocktail.
If you’re reading an article about hard work and you’re not yet familiar with nootropics, then you’re in for a treat. Nootropics are essentially any kind of drug or supplement that provides mental enhancement. Here is a more eloquent definition of it.
Before I go on, I have to say please see a professional before consuming any of the nootropics that I mention here and know that I do not condone the obtaining of any of these illegally.
Now let’s talk about some nootropics that are most widely used by hard workers worldwide.
Originally created for people who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. It is not used by people who have a deficit of energy due to their demanding lifestyle. Adderall isn’t a drug to be taken lightly but it does have some very potent effects on energy and focus. This drug can help keep you up and keep you going. My personal experience with Adderall has given me an increase in energy, creativity, optimism and a sharp decrease in sleep. I’ve never consumed the drug for long periods so never suffered any real side effects. If you don’t suffer from ADD or ADHD, then it is best only used as needed and not daily. I’ve personally only used it for sprints not lasting longer than a week.
Originally created for those that suffer from a narcolepsy, this drug does wonders as a nootropic. It is often prescribed by doctors for those that have irregular working schedules and can aid those sprints to push yourself further and give you the energy you need. So far I have been using sprinting as an analogy,but it has actually been known to be used by actual sprinters to improve athletic performance and studies have shown that it does, in fact, improve cognition. You can find it advertised as the “real life NZT,” a reference to the drug from the movie “Limitless.” Anecdotally speaking, this drug is way different from Adderall. It kept me up for longer and helped me plan things for the future much better. It tapped into my creative juices like no other nootropic and gives you a sense of “I know what I’m doing.” The longest I have ever taken it is a week straight, with the only side effect being a severe lack of sleep.
Vyvanse is another drug that is prescribed for ADHD and is supposed to improve focus. For me, however, it did the exact opposite. It made my wander in a million different directions, but not in a negative way. Maybe I tapped into the female brain because I could focus on multiple things at once, something men are usually incapable of. It provided a tremendous increase in energy and positive feelings, almost to the point of euphoria.
If I haven’t said it enough, please don’t engage in these activities without first consulting a medical professional and always follow the prescribed dose.
Now we start getting into things you can buy from your local vitamin shop or Amazon.com. Alpha brain is often listed as a nonprescription alternative to Adderall. From my experience, it’s not quite the same. Alpha brain provided me with more energy and focus but more of a calm feeling then any of the drugs mentioned above. It provides the same level of optimism alongside a calm confidence rather than energy in the form of restlessness. I also had no trouble falling asleep on it. In fact, it is recommended to be taken before bed to enhance lucid dreaming. If you’re interested in trying alpha brain you can buy it from the link below.
There are many other nootropics out there, but these are the main ones that I have experience with. Use them at your own risk.
Use Them Once You Get Tired
When it comes to hare style working, you must manage your energy because you will get tired. It’s not easy to push yourself at a consistent pace. I personally never started hare type projects with nootropics, but instead saved them for when I started to burn out. At that point you need a second wind, and nootropics serve that purpose.
The Real Crash
Once you have used the stimulants and nootropics to push yourself eventually the real crash will come. You will get burned out, and that’s okay. It’s important to recognize this crash and whether you are done with your project or not, it is a must that you reset. This is the point where another cup of coffee, more nootropics, a day off, or more sleep will simply not make you more productive.
Your mind and your body are saying enough is enough. Now you must completely shut off. Take time off work, about 10% to 15% of the time that you’ve been working. My ritual was getting off all stimulants, including caffeine so that I can reset my tolerance, then binge watching movies and shows. I did this until the horrific headaches and withdrawals were over. It took anywhere from three days to a week depending on the length of the binge. Once I felt like my batteries were recharged. I’d start the cycle all over again. This is the time to catch up on all personal things you’ve been neglecting.
Enjoy the Roller Coaster
The hare isn’t a routine for the faint of heart but most entrepreneurs are familiar with it. You’ll go between grandiose highs to manic lows, even when not much has changed to make you feel that way. If you can do it right, in the end you will have demolished your goals in record time.
If you carry this personality, then you most likely have what is called German discipline. You know one of those people that are early to bed, and early to rise, starting their day with a workout and a well-balanced breakfast. Even if you don’t quite have the discipline yet, you’re probably very patient and plan your life in years and decades vs weeks and months. Or maybe you’re the hare but a new life goal has required a new you. Whatever your situation, lets discuss how to optimize your efforts to work hard as a tortoise.
Long Term Plans
Whether you’re the tortoise type or required to be, make sure to set long term goals. Include short term goals that will get you there so that you can track your progress, but make sure your long-term plan spans years or decades. With your short-term plans spanning months or years that all lead up to the end goal. The key to accomplishing this will be writing down a daily routine that will help you work on the long term plan.
Think about what activities you must do daily to accomplish what you set out to accomplish, and write them down. Check back into your notebook daily to make sure you’re following the routine until it becomes natural to you. Consistency is the key. Unlike being the hare, this is a marathon, and in a marathon, you must be strategic about your allocation of energy to make it the finish line. Adjust your schedule so that you’re starting work at the same time every day and finishing it at the same time every day. Whatever doesn’t get done, gets put off until tomorrow. You must be strict with your consumption of energy. Make sure to plan your breaks the same way and take at least one day off every week.
Separate Work and Play
One thing the hare and the tortoise have in common is that they cannot be bothered while they’re at work. Make sure work time is always work time. If anything gets in the way of work on a Monday, make sure it doesn’t repeat itself on a Tuesday. Constantly optimize your day so that when you’re at work, you’re working. However, don’t take your work home with you. When you’re at home or out with friends, forget what happened at your place of hustle. This is the best way to prevent burnout.
As the tortoise, you must follow the most important rule of success: if it’s not sustainable, don’t do it. This is a long-term game and if you’re going to succeed you must bring this rule into every area of your life. This includes exercise routines, diets, schedules and habits. Before you decide to do anything, ask yourself if it’s sustainable, if it’s not, don’t do it.
Unlike the hare routine, which isn’t great for your overall health, as the tortoise you must do the opposite. You must outlast your competition and be able to stay in the game for a long time with all of your faculties remaining sharp. Make sure to take care of yourself with the things you put in your body. Every time you put something in your body ask yourself if its nourishing you or if it’s hurting you. The decision becomes very simple at that time. For the most part it can be common sense like “candy = bad” and “salad = good.” However, most people don’t realize things like getting a good 8 hours of sleep is detrimental. That’s not your mom and I talking either, that’s multiple scientific studies. Lastly, whats being healthy without a good exercise regimen? Implement one that is most fun for you, so that you can do it consistently.
With the tortoise, the stimulant game is a little simpler, with a lot less choices than the hare. Stimulants do help us work harder but this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and in a marathon, you must be strategic about your allocation of energy to make it to the finish line. You’re better off staying 100% stimulant free. However, If you decide to take any stimulants on the long-term path there is a simple formula you should follow to be successful with it. That formula is this:
The same amount, at the same time, every single day.
Don’t skip days, don’t add dosages, don’t wait until later or do it earlier. Get your body on a routine to consume the same thing every day to avoid the roller coaster. Which so eloquently brings me to my next point.
Avoid the Roller Coaster
If you’re the hare you have no choice but to enjoy the ups and downs, as the tortoise you can’t afford it. Following the rules above will help but this goes for mental and emotional health too. Avoid all things that can cause you to spiral out of control, whether they’re arrogant bouts of optimism, a state of rage, or dark sadness, you can’t afford to veer into the extremes of emotional imbalance. Do your best to stay calm in all situations that life throws at you and if you find yourself distressed, find a way to destress. This can include doing things you enjoy, whether its walking in the park, going on a dinner date or reading a book outside as the birds chirp. It’s a must that you find ways to destress, daily.
Tortoise vs Hare – Who’s Better?
There is no such thing as “better” in this case. The hare is great for getting things done in a shorter amount of time, but will lose in the long race. The tortoise on the other hand, isn’t good for short term goals. You will find yourself constantly falling behind because you are trying to find balance in a situation that has no room for it. It is though, the sustainable approach that you would need to get you to a finish line that is some distance away. There is one thing to keep mind when working hard towards your goals: sometimes it’s not about who you are, but who you have to become, to be successful.
Hard Work Comes in Different Shapes
Hopefully that gave you an idea that hard work isn’t a once size fits all. It will always depend on who you are, what you do, and what your goals are. Hard work is whatever activity will give you the result you are seeking. The reason it’s often celebrated is because it really is the opposite of easy. It requires you to fight the part of your brain that hasn’t evolved, that same part of your brain that is wired to rest and conserve energy because it’s what was necessary for our ancestors to survive in the wild. But I encourage you to push your pre-frontal cortex beyond what you thought was capable. Work hard, and don’t stop until you reach your goals.
Key Lessons for Everyone
It doesn’t matter who you are, there are a few things you must understand in regards to hard work.
Stamina Doesn’t Come Over Night
One thing that is required to work hard is putting in hours, day after day. If you’re just starting out on your road to success, its completely okay that you find yourself collapsing in exhaustion after just a few hours of work. Your mind is a lot like your muscles and must be trained accordingly. No one wakes up being able to run a 20-mile marathon. First you run one, then two, and work your way up a mile at a time. Hard work is the same.
All those legends you read about, all went through an “I suck and I’m tired” phase and some of them still experience it to this day. In the book “Tools of Titans” by Time Ferris, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about how after one hour of intense concentration, he absolutely has to take a break. Sounds familiar? And this is coming from the poster boy of what success looks like. Bodybuilding champion turned highest paid actor turned governor of California. Don’t be so hard on yourself and trust the process.
You Won’t Always Love it
There is a lot of talk about following your passion and loving what you do and if you can do that “you will never work a day in your life.” It sounds great and it’s also false. No matter how much you love what you do, there will always be an element of work attached to it, that is where discipline will pull you through. In Mike Tyson’s words discipline is “doing something you hate doing, but doing it like you love it.” Your passion will mostly revolve around things you love doing, but no passion or road to success is paved without fighting your reluctance to do the monotonous tasks. Find out what they are and demolish them with the same energy that you do the tasks you love.
It’s easy to pretend like your day is happening to you and all these things are “distracting” you from work. But the truth is the procrastinator in you is letting those things distract you on purpose so that you have a poor excuse later for why you didn’t get it done. The fact is you let those things distract you because you were being lazy. In fact, some psychologist theorize that procrastination and laziness stem from a lack of self belief. So fight your subconscious demons with action. Make sure you prioritize your life in such a manner that the only things that get done before work are once in a life time emergencies. The rest can wait.
Get to Work
The most important thing in hard work is sustained focus. Sit down with a notebook, create some goals, create an action plan for those goals and then make sure you see that plan daily and stick to it with sustained focus. One of the best fighters of all time who went undefeated after 20 years straight says it best, it’s all about “hard work, dedication.”
If you’re still having a hard time figuring out how to work hard, contact me here and I will create a game plan for you to work hard and tell you exactly what you need to do and how to do it, personally customized to your craft.
Now I’m going leave you off with my favorite quote about hard work:
Work until excellence becomes the norm.
I’m Sean Dudayev, and this was my tantrum.