Why We Work Hard

Monday, March 25, 2013
I work (relatively) hard not because I believe in the American dream (although I do) but because I believe it makes my life easier.

There's one obvious benefit to hard work: mo' money, mo' money. As much as it pains me to admit, money really does make life easier and can contribute to our happiness . . .  at least up to $75,000 annually. After all, it's pretty nice to not have to stress out about paying bills and to be able to sometimes not buy only the store brand at the grocery store and hard work's about the only way I've found to avoid going into shock when both my health insurance and car insurance bills are due in the same month.

Of course, the downside of hard work is less free time and that means every once in a while we need a break from the daily grind if we want to avoid total burnout. Last week's trip to Michigan, provided me with a much needed break (although I did spend much of my time away knit, knit, knitting for the Etsy shop). Then, as is apt to happen after the excitement of airports, meals out, and time away, returning to said daily grind proved a little rough during the first days back in the office.

Yesterday, when I sat down for my daily four hours of morning office work (for thee day job) I found myself loathing the whole experience. I checked the clock every couple minutes, each time horrified at how little time had passed. There were so many other things I wanted to be doing (although now that I think of it, I can't really name any of those pressing, urgent things that were consuming me yesterday morning - maybe checking Pinterest?) and the last thing I felt like doing was answering emails and editing contracts. After an interminable 9 o'clock hour, suddenly I found it was nearly noon and then it was lunchtime and time for me to turn to more personal projects.

As I wrapped up afternoon finishing up a glut of housework such as watering plants, finally taking down the outdoor Christmas lights, and cleaning the bathroom, I couldn't help but feel pleased that I'd stuck with my morning work, despite the initial unpleasantness. If I'd putzed away the morning instead of doing the office work in the morning, I'd have had to have done the office work in the afternoon and then I'd still have a dirty bathroom today.

So I believe in hard work because it generally leads to nice things, like clean bathrooms. Hard work helps us reach our goals, it inspires us to be more ambitious, and I do think it makes us happier in the end. As much as I wanted to scroll through Pinterest yesterday morning, the long term result of opting for social media over actually work would have been cranky, disappointed Ada last night. 

The brilliant C. Hope Clark (if you're a writer and not subscribed to her free weekly e-newsletter Funds for Writers, do it now!!) wrote this argument for hard work and full days in her latest editorial:

"When you land contracts, for magazines and publishers, you are temporarily owned by editors. They expect you to jump, and jump with polish. When your writing career speeds up, people expect you to perform.

"Start now, while you're in your temporary lull, and develop a habit. Create projects. Assign them goals. And show up to work everyday. Because in the future, you'll be expected to hit the ground running, and that's hard to do if you've just been lying around." 
So when my dearest pal, procrastination, swings by for an impromptu date, I like to turn up "Hard Work" from Fame the Musical (so cheesy, I know, but near and dear to my heart because it was the first musical I ever saw in London - in the Aldwych Theatre on the Stand in April 2003) and get down to business.

Happy Monday!


  1. Somehow, we never made this connection, but I saw Fame in the spring of 2002 in the West End. I have no idea what theater it was at. More ways in which our lives overlap.

  2. I'm going to totally agree with you here. This is why I can't be completely self-employed, because I don't have the determination to show up every day. I'm better off with a 9-5 job outside of the house, even if it is only a couple days of the week. And my more personal projects I do when I have the energy and enthusiasm. Although after a Fiber Festival this passed weekend it looks like I might be putting a little more time into my rug-hooking, with workshops and starter kits :)

  3. This foreigner has a different view, maybe it is rather a socio cultural difference. I grew up safe and secure in a social democratic system which ensures my well being due to the taxes I had paid. I do work hard, but 37h per week. No more. I have 6 weeks paid vacation time and never lose health care. If sick the health care pays my salary and I do not lose my job. I am going through a very steep learning curve here in the USA. I wonder whether I would have the peace of mind (and strength) to be self employed in the USA.

  4. So timely for me to read this. Honestly, I am not inclined to work hard unless it is something I personally love, and then it doesn't feel like work anyway. And I suffer the consequences financially. I read Kajetana's comments above and I could relate, and yet I disagree that this is the best way to be. To pay taxes and rely on the government for your "well being." Interesting difference of philosophies! So as for me, since I DO live in America, I wish I felt more inclined to set some damn goals and work hard to reach them.


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