Those damn Protestants.
It could be argued that no theology has shaped the dynamic of our wonderful country as much as the Protestant work ethic. Hard work is embedded into our culture. Work ethic is a badge of honor, passed down from generation to generation.
My parents spent a lot of time and energy teaching me the value and importance of hard work.
Recently, millennials have challenged that idea. The common consensus within the former generations is that millennials don’t like to work hard. This interests me.
Where does this idea come from? Why are so many young entrepreneurs failing in business, moving from job to job and living with their parents longer? Is it simply a matter of work ethic?
Let’s find out.
First – Why Do We Work So Hard?
Americans work too many hours. We are by far the hardest working developed nation in the world. There really is no close second.
Why do we do this?
As I have already eluded to, the belief systems of this nation’s first settlers still live on today. The psychological significance of the Protestant work ethic still has huge impact on us and our collective mentality.
Protestants, beginning with Martin Luther, reconceptualized worldly work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to consistently work diligently as a sign of grace.
Simply put, work does not bring us to salvation. The work is the salvation.
The Protestant work ethic is essentially the father of capitalism, and the term “Protestant Work Ethic” was coined by Max Weber in his iconic book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
But… The Times are Changing
The grumbling from our grandparents and employers does have substance behind it. Mellinialls do view work differently than previous generations.
Many sociologists credit the great recession as the reasoning behind this. An entire generation put through the expensive education system only to graduate and realize there was no work available and no way to default on their loans.
The old system is dying. Wake up early. Stay up late. First one in last one out. Millennials aren’t buying into this anymore.
Studies show that millennials are much more interested in a work life balance and an alignment with their beliefs than they are with climbing the corporate ladder.
We are more motivated by our freedom, our time flexibility, and our input into society.
What Does This Mean For Our Workforce??
It means that you have a huge opportunity.
Over the next decade, we will learn some fascinating lessons regarding the millennial workforce. We will learn about the success of the shared economy, about the corporate structure and the success of freelance business.
None of these lessons will be able to prove that hard work does not pay off.
There have been articles and reports recently making claims like “NEWSFLASH – Your hard work doesn’t always pay off.”
This is true. Sometimes, you may work very hard and you may fail. Sometimes you come in second, sometimes you come in last. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that hard work does pay off in the end.
Nowhere is this more evident than with business owners. Every successful business owner you will ever meet will have a near-obsessive relationship with work and success.
Bill Gates went days without showering, leaving his office or even leaving his desk to eat while he was building his company.
Here is the point people are missing…
Working very hard for someone else may not always pay off. A corporate raise and promotion structure has more factors than simply work ethic. Politics, policies on race and gender, relationships and results all play a role in determining whether you will get that big break. You may want to think twice about working long hours for the company you work for.
But in the grand scheme of life, being a hard worker will put you in the front of the pack every time. The trick is not to get stuck working your ass off for someone else. The trick is to work your ass off for yourself!
Hard Work Is Only The First Ingredient
Does hard work really pay off??
But hard work by itself is not enough. You must have a goal and a direction.
The analogy compares hard with no direction to running on a treadmill. You can run and run but you don’t actually get anywhere. This is also true in life. You want to be sure you are working towards something. That your effort is aligned with a direction.
So if hard work is not enough, then what else is required?
To successfully build a business or a career, you must be dedicated and committed to progress over the course of years. Stamina is difficult. Working hard day and in day out is the deciding factor between the success stories and the people who almost made it.
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
– Calvin Cooledge
Stay Focused and Don’t Buy The Dream
It is the oldest sales trick in the book.
A good salesman will not actually sell a product or service, they will sell the results of using that product or service. They are selling an idea or a dream. Well, that is exactly what is happening here.
Advertisements on social media and magazines are full of tag lines such as “earn $10,000 a week from your kitchen.” That’s bullshit. That is a dream.
What the magazines don’t tell you is what it takes to actually get there. If you are looking to get into business for yourself you need to be prepared to work your fucking ass off. It is the only way.
In reality, we all owe a big thank you for the Protestant work ethic. America got to be what it is because of the influx of Protestant immigrants who were willing to work ungodly hours building railroads and bridges and blasting tunnels through the Rocky Mountains.
Don’t ever go for the easy way out.
Hard work pays off. You must ever let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.
Tyler Cranston says
Don’t forget about skills.
Skills is the most underrated trait when it comes to hard work.
Skills can only be acquired through 10,000’s of hours of execution.
Hard work means nothing today. If it were true then wouldn’t 3rd world countries be the wealthiest?
Great blog Tim.
Tim Stodz says
Thank you Tyler. I appreciate the kind words. I checked out your blog. Very cool what you’re doing. Keep going! Maybe I’ll write a piece for your site one day.
Very nice, no replacement for hard work, whether mentally or physically. and nothing beats persistence. Not giving up is in itself a path to success.