If my athletic career taught me one thing, it is that big successes come only after inordinately long periods of disciplined preparation. This principle is probably one of the most important things I’ve ever learned, but it is far from a secret. Speaking generally, I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not had some sort of experience with the concept of hard work leading to success.

Why then do we on a whole have such trouble following this principle? It is certainly not for the lack of slogans or sayings: “Practice makes perfect”, “No pain, no gain”, “Eyes on the prize” etc…. Additionally, there are a whole slew of “motivational posters” (and an even greater number of joke motivational posters) that all tout the merits of courage, perseverance, and discipline.

In my view, the reason that these “motivational” materials don’t work is because they all focus on the reward of success, which in actuality is never guaranteed. There is always uncertainty. Some find success easily and some work a lifetime without feeling like they’ve ever reached it.

That is why the only way to really guarantee success is to forget about it all together! If hard work itself is the thing that is rewarding – then there is no chance for failure

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  • Well, there’s something to be said for intrinsic (vs. extrinsic) motivation. Wikipedia seems to have a decent write-up (I haven’t read it, it’s just long and the ToC seems comprehensive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation).

    I would postulate, in opposition, that success is never guaranteed. Hard work increases the probability of success, but doesn’t guarantee it. Assuming it does falls victim to selection bias; that is, if everyone successful has worked hard, then concluding working hard makes one successful ignores all those who work hard and are not successful.

    I think it involves a great deal of luck, in this economy. One thing the financial crisis has pointed out to me in vivid detail – far more than before – is just how inefficient our labor market is. Where “efficiency” is “people are paid in proportion to what they contribute.” Some industries would be higher-paying, but only because it required either natural abilities, or a lot of training, to be able to perform the work.

    That doesn’t seem to resemble our economy.

  • Oh, should have mentioned: That’s a cute rhetorical trick you play.

    1. People who set criteria for success may work hard for a lifetime, and never “feel successful” (achieve success).
    2. Therefore, if you abandon the criteria altogether, then anything you do can be called “successful!”

    Victory! :-)