The only alternative is to work harder

What do you do if you feel you are born unlucky? What do you do if you feel that the whole world is conspiring against you to make you not succeed? And, what do you do if you feel you have less intellect, less resources and less everything to succeed?

The short and sweet answer is to work harder. You cannot control luck. You cannot control amount of financial resources you have. But what you can definitely control is the amount of effort. Your competitior or neighbour might be advantaged in all respects but you can compensate all that just by working harder.

Really, putting in a lot of effort gives you a lot of chances to make mistakes, try out things and fail. What you have to loose here is your effort, which of course you must have unlimited supply of.

If your nearest competitor or neighbour works X hours, you must work for X+1 hours. If he pitches to Y bloggers, you must pitch to Y+1 bloggers. Of course, you cannot match him in his $5 million funding and a huge team of sales guys. But what you can match (and even exceed) is your persistence and sheer drive to succeed.

Yep, I know it is sounding a bit like self-help bookish type, but I have observed and realized that success is an equation with a lot of variables. Most of the variables you have little or no control on but one variable which has a lot of influence on the result is effort and persistence. Controlling the value of this variable is entirely upto you and hence affecting chances of being successful is your will.

What are your thoughts on this? Does hard work really increases the probability of success?


  1. Hmmm..I am surprised by this entry from you dude. Seems like you had a setback, but I wouldnt have thought that you would care about it enough to think like this 🙂 nice and tru thot tho…

    1. @anshuman No setbacks 🙂 — Just that this thought had been in my back of mind and I wanted to crystallize it in the post. Things are going great and I expect a roller coaster year ahead

  2. The carpenter who is doing some renovation work on my building works 10 hours a day doing heavy labour stuff. Even then – his chances of becoming well off are very low.

    Hard work alone is meaningless. Action without direction will make you go round and round.

    So strategy – doing the right work – is as important as working hard.

    Also – who says luck can’t be hacked?

    1. The more people you know – the luckier you get. So make an effort to connect with more folks.

    2. Research actually shows that having an optimistic attitude leads to being luckier than having a pessimistic attitude. Optimism is a choice. Keep an open and optimistic mind.

    3. Don’t disregard your hunches and gut feelings. The more you disregard them, the less you’ll get them, and the less luckier you’ll be.

    1. You are right about the carpenter but I bet that the carpenter who is working 10 hours a day is better off than his co-workers who just do 5 hours a day. My point is that there are a LOT of factors for success, but one of the simplest which you can control is the amount of effort you put.

      The circumstances of the carpenter may never allow him to very successful, but still he would be better of than doing hard work than not doing that at all.

      All the other points you mention are valid, except perhaps having an optimistic attitude. I think it is good to be sane but not so good to know you will definitely be successful, when in fact the chances are slim. You don’t want to be blind by overjoying optimism.

  3. I’d say you are mistaken. The best way to get ahead is to work smarter, not harder. Just working hard will not get you far, sadly…

  4. I completely agree that strategy is as important as hard work, but I feel like the example of the carpenter is a little confusing because the post says that hard work is the only controllable factor in success, not being well off. There is an important distinction, as you no doubt realize, between being successful and being well off. I don’t mean to sound nitpicky; you make a very good point! And, I like your comments on hacking luck. We’re humans, dang it! and we can hack whatever we want 🙂

    Regarding optimism, I think that having a positive attitude makes you more likely to see opportunities and take action on them. Generally when I’m all bummed out and negative I take an “it’s not worth it” approach and don’t bother with things that might otherwise have been awesome. Of course, as you mention Paras, you can be blinded by an optimism that borders on fanatic.

    Maybe I am nitpicking… definition is important, though, right? Anyway, I just found your blog today and I’ve been enjoying it, so I guess I was really just looking for an excuse to comment! Thanks for some good reading!

  5. “Your competitior or neighbour might be advantaged in all respects but you can compensate all that just by working harder.”

    If you are doing something where lots of other people can do it better than you, instead of working harder, find something different where you have an advantage over everybody else. Alternatively, figure out what you can do (or learn) so that you have the advantage, not your competitor.

  6. Well said Paras.
    Carpenter can do a much better life with some innovation along with the hard work that he is doing.

  7. IMHO there are means and ends. Real challenge in life is to distinguish btn them. ‘handwork’ is tool , a mean.Each situation or problem need different tool at different stage of development sometime u need ‘creativity’ to come up with with non existing solution, sometime u need sheer intelligence to connects the dots, sometimes its question of persistence.Like wise there exist other many ways as suggested my other commenter. The well being of doer lie in selection of right end and right tools in reaching to that end.

    In your case carpenter will be lead even better life if can select and work in area more rewarding and less competitive.If ‘leading a better life is goal’ then why get fixated to carpentering 🙂 …why not exotic art designer or collector….

    BTW here is what Caterina of flicker fame has to say on this subject :

  8. Work as much as you are paid to.

    Never work over office hours for free, otherwise you devalue yourself and then it creates a negative impression should you ever want to have a life or kids and want to cut back your hours to normal office hours.

    If you are paid for every single hour, then it’s up to your boss to justify the extra cost if they want you to work longer hours outside of 9-5.

    Don’t work too hard though, otherwise you will burn out.

    Longevity comes with sustainable moderately paced working, not giving yourself a heart attack at 35.

    Lastly, with regards to IT which I work in, it’s a waste of time to deal with middle to lower layers much when higher level people are so much faster. Companies are now starting to realize that having a team of 6, 4 of which are only 2nd line is a total waste of time and money, when you could have a team of 4 superstars for the same money that can all work faster and get more done in the same time.

    This causes IT to be an ever more closed off ecosystem to new entry as it simply isn’t worth most companys’ time or money to deal with lower to middle level IT folks and have to deal with skills/productivity/churn and upskilling and all sorts of problems associated to it. I actually had yet another experience of this with an ISP I dealt with recently that offered me a job.

  9. Follow this rule Mr. Paras :-

    1. Hard Work resulting in completion of a work at hand neatly and successfully results in internal satisfaction and hapiness .

    2. Smart Work to hone/sharpen your talent/remove weaknesses and showcase to the world , sooner or later world will take notice at you as to why you are so happy with your work .( which the carpenter doesnt dare to think about becuase of background /uneducation )

    3. Cheat Work ( never get into this business but be aware that 99% of your competition can get into cheat work )

    4. Last but not the least – Work Hard ..enjoy life even harder .

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