Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't forget to work hard too....

We've all given as well as gotten advice to "work smart - not hard", but I do think it is a bit misleading - specially the "not hard" part.

In any given field, if you ask the people who excel - really excel - it turns out they practice like heck and work long hours. It might not seem hard work to them because they often also have a passion for what they do, but it is hard work nonetheless.

Take this quote from Scientific American:

"The one thing that all expertise theorists agree on is that it takes enormous effort to build these structures in the mind. Simon coined a psychological law of his own, the 10-year rule, which states that it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. Even child prodigies, such as Gauss in mathematics, Mozart in music and Bobby Fischer in chess, must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others.

Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time."

This is a well researched article which basically makes the point that experts in many fields are not just 'gifted', but more importantly 'driven'. The drive leads them on to practice their chosen skills to an extent that most people do not have the patience or desire for. And they continuously push themselves beyond their comfort zone - hard work.

Working smart can lead to short-lived victories, but true greatness almost always demands hard work too.


  1. Beela9:09 AM

    Hard work, when focused, well-directed and done systematically, can:

    -improve skills
    -improve self-esteem
    -expand mental capability
    -improve quality of life
    -provide mentorship

    most of all you learn that hard work can be enjoyable !

  2. Hamza M4:38 AM

    This was part of Fortune's Top 100 Business Leaders article, i think which was printed some where in 2006. It turns out that the only way one can be the smartest bugger in one's field is to be working hard on it, and constantly changing yourself. Fortune also gave the example of Tiger Woods, who changed his golfing style, after winning the PGA tour no-less, because he felt a change was required to remain at the top, and hence he is still the most respected golfer even though he is not number one.