Does Hard Work “Fix” Everything?

Last week I mentioned that we are facing a big decision about if (and when) to expand our Grade A Dairy and Cheese Plant.  We’ve been having lots of conversations about it as a family and one of the children made an interesting comment.  He said, “I think we should build; we’re willing to work as hard as necessary to make it a success.”

As a mother, those words thrilled me.  I have spent many, many hours of my life teaching my children to embrace hard work.  Being willing to work hard for a long-term goal is one skill (of many) that is important to living a successful life.  So to hear him say that and watch most of the children nod their heads in agreement was very validating.

But as I was thinking about the comment, it raises two bigger questions.

1. Is it worth that hard work?

2. Does hard work alone guarantee success?

Let’s talk about the first point.  I’ve said many times that I am terrible at achieving “balance” in my life.  In fact, I have to admit, that I no longer even try.  I see so many articles and hear conversations about work/life balance and I really think it’s something of a myth.

Instead, I recognize that there are seasons to life and I try to balance out the seasons.  For example, last year during kidding season we delivered 149 baby goats.  There was no balance during that time period.  It was all baby goats all the time.

Feeding Baby Goats

We are on watch 24/7 in the barn.  We work around the clock to feed the babies and care for the moms.  We don’t schedule anything off the farm and minimize anything scheduled here on the farm.  Everyone is available all the time in case they are needed.  We do the best  we can to keep ourselves well fed and getting some sleep.  Everything else can wait.

There’s no work/life balance during that time period.  But we don’t really expect there to be.

We know what’s coming and we embrace it.  By the time it’s over, we’re completely exhausted and yet we can’t wait for next year to be able to do it again!

So I don’t try to achieve balance during kidding season.  Instead, we take a 2-3 week vacation right before kidding season begins so we are thoroughly rested and ready to tackle the hard work, joys, and occasional tears that kidding season brings.

Is the hard work of kidding season worth it?  Absolutely.  And if you ask each of the children, they’ll all tell you the same thing.  In fact, Brett and Mason will be married and living off the farm this kidding season and they’re already talking about how they’re going to fit in and modify their lives since they won’t be living here.

Goat Delivery Reposition

But that doesn’t mean that everything that might require hard work is worth it.  Kidding season is a relatively short period of time.  It’s 6-8 weeks of intensive effort.  We can manage that.  If we build a cheese plant, it might require intensive effort for a much longer time period.  We have to decide as a business and as a family if that effort is worth it.

The second point is even more complicated – can hard work alone guarantee success?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I have to say that I don’t think it does.  I think hard work is a necessary piece, but I think that sometimes circumstances prevent success no matter how hard you are willing to work.

Let’s pretend that we launch a new business and we’re working 100 hours per week.  There’s so much to do and every day we’re making huge strides.  That can be maintained for a while.  But if we continue to work 100 hour weeks with no breaks, over time, our hard work starts to break down and become ineffective.  We start to make poor decisions.  We start to ignore our family.  We start to ignore our health.  We move from making poor decisions to making bad decisions.

It’s not enough to work hard.  You need to be able to work smart in addition to working hard and sometimes that means not working.

So I’m glad that my children are willing to work hard.  Their hard work will be considered in our decision making process.  But I want my children to clearly understand that working hard doesn’t always guarantee success and that working hard doesn’t always prevent financial troubles or even the failure of a business.  (Although their willingness to work hard does make it easier to recover from financial setbacks if they occur.)

Overall I believe that working hard (especially if you’re also working smart) does increase your chances of being “lucky” and finding success.  As Thomas Jefferson* once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work the more I have of it.”

What about you?  Do you think that hard work is a cure-all?





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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Laura

    No, I agree with you, it’s not a cure-all. There are a small subset of situations where hard work isn’t needed to succeed, but in the vast majority where success is possible, hard work is needed. (And in many cases, it will help you succeed sooner or more completely even if you could ‘get away’ without it.)

    But there are situations where no amount of hard work is going to pull them to success, and still others where no *reasonable* amount of hard work is going to pull them to success. (Is it really “success” if the business succeeds but your personal and family health are destroyed, for example? Asked that clearly, the answer is different than I think many people would reach if they’ve laser-focused on the business part of the equation to evaluate “success”. That is mostly a question of not having all the outputs you care about measured, I suspect!)

    It’s easy to say “oh, no amount of hard work could have saved that” if you didn’t save it. But it’s also sometimes true, and being able to analyze that and pull out as early as possible (preferably before starting) lets you put that hard work toward something it *can* help succeed, sooner. It’s especially important to know what your measure of success is, and what you are and aren’t willing to trade for it, because otherwise it’s really easy to just keep throwing hard work after the already-spent hard work. The fallacy of sunk costs is real, and living it out is not fun or useful.

    (As an aside, I’m not trying to be anti-socially guest-y. Discus appears to not be working with the Facebook/Twitter affiliate logins for me, however. It gives me the popup and I authorize it, but it appears to not actually sign me in to post.)

    • goatmilkstuff

      I think you nailed it when you said – Is it really “success” if the business succeeds but your personal and family health are destroyed, for example? That’s the point that I think is so easily missed when you’re in the trenches of building a business.
      That’s weird with Disqus, hopefully they get it figured out soon. We are actually going to be migrating the blog as part of the new website, so maybe that will fix it also. PJ

  • Phillip Dodd

    Good points. Do your jobs as unto the Lord. AND Nothing done in the Lord is in vain. The outcome is not in our hands. That takes so much of the burden off our shoulders, yes? And I would love to see a goat cheese business start! Love it! Maybe hire more help, though. You’re gaining a son-in-law but maybe he already works there! Congrats btw! d