Hard Work Pays Off – True or False? (or why this myth may be the greatest load of baloney known to man) This week’s “Coffee with Colm”

Picture the scene – old country pub – rural Ireland – old farmer dressed in black, flat cap on his head, staring into his black pint, shakes his head and utters the immortal words, “Hard work is never easy.”

Such wisdom!

That story was recited to me years ago by a friend whose family have a home in Donegal after he had heard the sage words tumble from the old man’s mouth. We laughed about the simple wisdom in it many’s the time. We may have laughed, but it is true.

You’ve heard it said, you may have even said it to others – told your children perhaps – “Hard work pays off.” Does it? Really?

Or is this the greatest load of baloney known to man?

I think it might be the greatest load of baloney known to man to be honest.

But before we go any further, let’s agree on something – it is going to take hard work, and lots of it, to be successful, however that does not mean that hard work always pays off; indeed if hard work alone were all it took to be successful (if we assume financial success for one moment) then every mother of four young children would be multi-millionaire! Talk about hard work!

So hard work alone doesn’t necessarily pay off – hard work can sometimes simply be ‘hard work’.

Ye, as I said earlier it still takes hard work to succeed.

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

To find out about the 10,000 hour rule, watch the 8-minute video, listen to the 8-minute podcast, or read on below…

Apparently it takes 10,000 hours of focused effort to become expert in anything. Want to be a great musician? practice for 10,000 hours. Want to be a fantastic accountant? ply your trade for 10,000 hours. Artist, paint for 10,000 hours – footballer, play for 10, … well you get the picture – do nothing for 10,000 hours and … well, say no more…

So on the basis that it’s going to take 10,000 hours to be successful, doesn’t it make sense that we figure out before we start if the 10,000 hours is going to be worth it – in our terms. My definition of success is likely different to yours. The hard work required will only pay off for you and me if we apply it into an area that is worthwhile for you and me individually. The payoff could be anything. Could be recognition, could be money, fame, artistic prowess, anything, but without that payoff being worth it, hard work will simply, as I stated earlier, be hard work.

I am sure you can think of people who work themselves to the bone, perhaps have done for years, perhaps a lifetime and never got a breakthrough? Can you see them? No disrespect intended to anyone here, I respect anyone who puts in the effort, but I propose to you if I may that they are simply applying their hard work, their sweat and blood in the wrong areas or without focus on an end result in mind. There is something not quite in sync – they are living and dying by the myth that hard work always pays off!

Will you have to work hard to be successful? Yes you will. Are there any guarantees? No there aren’t. But you have to decide for yourself what is worth working (perhaps risking) hard for and then apply yourself to it.

Stephen Covey said it best; we must ‘Begin With The End In Mind.” We MUST. We must begin with the end in mind and set out on our 10,000 hour journey knowing if we stick the course we will arrive.

Once you know what the destination looks like you can begin to direct all your efforts towards that outcome. That will absolutely give you the best opportunity for success – despite there being no guarantees.

Most people don’t know. Most people I meet have no idea what success looks like for them – they just define it vaguely as ‘more’. More money, more time, more possessions, more happiness but how much is more? More is never achieved! How much is enough?

Imagine your career as you driving a car. You are driving hard and fast to achieve. But it’s not working. You’re not happy. You haven’t got enough. You’re frustrated. So you decide you need to work harder, that should do it, so you drive faster, but you fail to see because you have no destination in mind, you are driving around in circles – getting nowhere faster and faster.

Now imagine you decide on a destination. You have metaphorically been driving in circles around Dublin or Cork or Limerick faster and faster and one day you realize that Letterkenny in Donegal is your definition of success – Eureka! You now have an end in mind, you now have direction, you can now get on the right road (perhaps for the first time in your life) and you know that so long as you stick the course, so long as you put in your 10,000 hours you should arrive!

That, my friend is the only time that hard work pays off and you know this to be true; you know this makes perfect sense. If you do not know where you are headed, then be prepared to work hard for the rest of your life.

The sage in the pub in Donegal said it, “Hard work is never easy” and hard work does not necessarily pay off, however, hard work will – I correct myself – hard work CAN only pay off if it is directed towards an outcome that works for you.

As ever as we finish, I am asking the two questions:

  1. What is the Big Rock for you around this topic of Hard Work Pays Off? Does it? Doesn’t it? What are your thoughts? Do you need a direction within which to apply the hard work you are doing?
  2. What One Thing can you do this week that will have the biggest positive impact on your Hard Work Big Rock?

Will you commit to doing it? I hope so.

Thanks for thinking with me you.


Bye for now.

Yours truly,


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FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

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2 Responses to “Hard Work Pays Off – True or False? (or why this myth may be the greatest load of baloney known to man) This week’s “Coffee with Colm””
  1. Devesh Bhatt

    Doesn’t well directed hardwork also include safeguarding one’s own interest and rights? Something so fundamental that people tend to ignore these days — maybe i am talking moreso in context of developing countries , but yes it happens everywhere.

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