When Hard Work Is Not Hard at All

Miniature Workers
Image from Flickr by JD Hancock

We have all heard the phrase “hard work” many times throughout our lives. But is hard work really hard? In this post, I would argue that hard work may not be as hard as we think.

Luck and hard work

When someone becomes successful, people will attribute that person’s success either to luck or hard work. Even those whose success is mostly due to luck, would claim that their success is achieved through “hard work.”

Why? Probably because being lucky is something some people tend to become jealous about, but by claiming to work hard, people will admire you. People who work hard are often considered disciplined, persistent, and sometimes loving, too.

Defining hard work

But let’s suppose a person really worked to achieved something. Can we say that person worked hard?

First, let us define hard work. To most people working hard means:

    • Working for an extended period of time: hours, days, weeks; even months and years.
    • Working at a task one is not familiar with.
    • Working to achieve a significant goal.
    • Working at a task that one doesn’t really want to do, but does it anyway because other people expect him/her to do so.
    • Working at something that benefits other people.


Hard work is abstract

Listed above are some traits of work that is considered hard. But I’m sure each one of us has his own definition of hard work.

It’s because hard work is an abstract concept, and most people have difficulty picturing an abstract concept like hard work in their minds.

On the contrary, we can easily picture concrete things like cars, mountains, or computers in our minds.

When hard work is not really hard

So, given enough background on the concept known as hard work; it’s time to know when hard work is not hard at all:

  • Work intensity is decreased via familiarization.
    If a person is used to doing a certain task, the task becomes easier over time. In which case, what was once hard is now easy.

    Example: when you were young, you struggled with writing words on a sheet of paper, but now, it’s so easy that you can do it even when your eyes are closed.

  • Work intensity is relative.
    A task that one person finds difficult, might be an easy task for another.

    Example: Tim is having difficulty lifting 30 pounds, but for Alex it’s a piece of cake, since he can lift a maximum of 150 pounds.

  • Work intensity is determined by an individual’s outlook.
    If a person is willing to do something, he/she may view the task as easy, regardless of its actual difficulty. On the other hand, a relatively light task, may be viewed as hard by a person who doesn’t like to do the task in the first place.

    Example: Alisa, a mother of two teenagers, ordered her sons, Jim and Billy, to clean their rooms.Jim who likes seeing things in order, willingly followed her mother’s command. On the other hand, Billy, who would rather play soccer outside, also cleaned his room, but with a frown on his face.

    For Jim, the work he has to do is easy because he likes it; while Billy views his work as hard because he thinks he would rather be doing something else.



Hard work is an abstract concept. That’s why it means different things to different people. We have to remind ourselves that:

    • Work becomes easier as time goes by.
    • Work that is hard for one person, may be easy for another.
    • Work that is willingly done by a person, becomes easier.



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