You may have looked at the title of this blog and wondered, who is this crazy person that thinks success can come in any other way but through HARD WORK. I am not here to deny or debate the value of hard work. However, what I do want to highlight is that it takes a lot more than HARD WORK to experience and enjoy success. In fact, the work part of success is in my mind the lowest common denominator. This topic is important to me because, (over the years and thousands of athlete interviews later) I believe we have taken the concept of hard work and exhausted its effectiveness. Go to any sporting event where young people are participating and someone: a coach, a parent, or now even other players will speak about the importance of work ethic and instead of the message coming from a place of inspiration, passion, and deeply held motivation and purpose it is almost a form of punishment and condemnation. It sounds like this: “Lets make sure we come with our lunch pale and outwork the other team.” When interviewed, many coaches start with talking about work ethic as though this is always the differentiating dynamic in wins and losses. In other venues, school, work, and relationships we bring the same focus to HARD WORK.
Like I said I am not in any way denying that work ethic isn’t valuable and a powerful contributor to success in all arenas of life. But, is it possible that we are losing some other very important SUCCESS FACTORS because we have obsessed with work ethic for SO LONG?
It would be fair to ask the question: What are some other important SUCCESS PRINCIPLES we should speak of instead?
Strategy: Energy without a plan or set of principles to focus that energy leaves many frustrated and without any capacity to evaluate and most importantly learn. When we highlight HARD WORK we often spend little to no time teaching the value of how to DIRECT and FOCUS that hard work to get a certain result. This is why when I ask athletes participating across multiple sports, “what is the key to success?”, often the only answer is WORK HARD. When people bring great work ethic to a challenge or competition with a substandard or non-existent strategy losing, disappointment, deep doubt, and discouragement are not far away.
Contribution Clarity: We all have more to offer a situation then simply going “ALL OUT.” When faced with challenges this is where we should be looking for our UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION. In other words, what was I able to CONTRIBUTE that is CLEAR to me! Often times we de-personalize contribution by putting it into the HARD WORK category. When athletes know what their teammates and coaches are counting on from them within a strategy designed to bring success, engagement and motivation is often higher. Success can then be shared at much deeper levels.
Adjustments: When studying those that are often consistently successful, what we learn is that adjustments are often a big part of this. Breaking down the nature of adjustments we realize that in order to make a helpful adjustment you need to start with a strategy, clarify roles and expectations, then observe how things are playing out to determine an adjustment that increases the probability of success. Unfortunately, most of the time the approach is not to make adjustments but WORK HARDER!! This often leads to greater frustration, discouragement, and a feeling of hopelessness.
Strategy, Clear Contribution Markers and Adjustments created from observation are not only powerful success factors but can be applied to any situation in life. Because of our obsession with HARK WORK we are not teaching our young people to add these valuable principles to their skill sets and because of this I believe we are not as successful as we could be individually and as teams.
Lets break our addiction to HARD WORK as the end all of success and get creative and committed to applying these other success principles. We might find that HARD WORK may actually increase within the growth of these other principles.