Why ‘Hard Working’ Isn’t A Compliment

Posted on May 16, 2013

Being classified as hard working is no longer something I strive for, nor admire. Don’t get me wrong, there are admirable aspects of a hard worker, but I think they can be achieved in other ways. For instance, I admire the parent who works multiple jobs to put their child through school. What I am actually admiring though, is the commitment and the willingness to sacrifice personally for your family- NOT the hard work!

Praising hard work in society is creating workaholics. We don’t praise alcoholics for getting drunk, but yet we praise workaholics for working more.

By praising ‘hard working’ people, we are inadvertently calling people lazy who have found a way to work smarter, not harder.

Pink Ribbon, Inc is a documentary on Netflix where ‘Stage 4′ club members talked about how calling people who lived through cancer,  ’survivors’ alienates people who are dying from cancer. What’s the opposite of a survivor? According to Wiki.Answers.com and WordHippo, depending on the context, the opposite of a survivor is either a casualty, victim, fatality, or loser. Although giving positive labels and celebrating those who have lived after cancer, we need to be conscious of what labels are saying about people without those labels.

Up until this weekend, I used to consider it bragging rights that I started working at 11 years old and have pretty much always had 2+ jobs at a time for almost 20 years. I’m only 30 and have already spent a TON of time working! The worst part, is that I considered myself smart with money. My expenses are very low, I have multiple revenue streams – some are even passive income- and yet I still felt this perpetual guilt about not working hard enough.

I don’t want to praise hard work anymore and instead want to praise effective work. You achieved the same results in 2 hours that used to take you 8? Woohoo! The problem with our society is that we associate time with work. Most people’s income is calculated by the hour or year- all measurements of time!

The thing is though, that when people get jealous of your achievements, it’s a lot easier to appease their jealousy by justifying success by hard work. “Well, he busted his butt and got his MBA while working full time so at least he deserves that promotion.” But if someone got a promotion over you who doesn’t come in early, or stay late like you do, wouldn’t you be fuming? That’s what society has succumbed to. The reason we’ve become this way is because it’s the easiest way to compare apples to apples- hour for hour. When in reality, no two people’s time is equal. We all have the same amount of time in a day, but I’d rather spend the majority of mine on a boat and you in the office. Time isn’t equal because it all depends on how much each individual values their time.

This is also the same reason we measure success with money- it’s the easiest way to measure, but not necessarily the proper way. I could go on a long rant about how the GDP is not the best way to measure the strength of an economy, but I’ll save that for some other time. For now, I’m just going to work on praising effective work rather than hard work.

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