Among my values, I had listed “hard work”. When Amit was reading this, he said, “You know, I don’t associate you with hard work.”
To say I was surprised would be putting it mildly. This from the person who knows me best? I was so surprised, that, far from being upset or defensive, I was curious to know why he thought so.
He said some things that surprised me even more.
I’m the sort of person who waits for a “spark”, he said, and then I work on that. That’s not hard work. Hard work is slogging at something without any inspiration or enjoyment.
Again, this surprised me. First, I never saw myself as the sort of person who has a “spark” – in the sense of a spark of creativity. For instance, when I learned to play the violin over a period of many years, I was never the sort of person who was just good at it without trying. I tried very hard in terms of practising with concentration, commitment, dedication, determination… for years. I eventually became moderately good, but in my estimation, I was never brilliant.
And then, take writing. I know I’m good at expressing myself through writing. But, I classify my writing as narrative or reporting – not creative. I wish I had the “spark” to be more creative – with writing, with music – but I don’t feel I do.
I even feel that I put in a lot of “hard work” for tennis. It’s another thing that I’m not naturally good at, and I feel that any progress I ever make is by dint of sheer hard work.
But here’s the thing – according to Amit, working at something you enjoy – music, tennis, writing, whatever – is not hard work.
“So what do you mean by hard work, or what do you mean when you say I’m not hard working,” I asked him.
Once again, I was confused by his answer. He said, “See, you did your MA while you were working. That’s not an easy thing to do, most people could not have done it, but you did it. So it was not hard work for you.”
What I understood from him – and I may have got this not quite right – is that if I can manage to do something, without too much difficulty, that other people can’t do or struggle much more with, then it is due to my intelligence or skill, not due to my hard work.
While I’m happy for the backhanded compliment to my intelligence, I still don’t get it. Does it mean that if an intelligent person accomplishes something, it is not due to hard work? Or if someone naturally gifted at music or tennis or writing or photography or whatever, does well in their field, it is not due to hard work? Can’t you be both gifted and hard working?
Of course, Amit has not seen me at work. I’m sure that if I were to ask those of you who’ve worked with me, whether you thought I was “hard working”, the answer would be a resounding yes. (Leave a comment if you disagree!)
But what I ask you instead is this: What do you think constitutes hard work?