How Hard Are You Really Working?

Tom Stevenson

Photo by Places of our Lives on Reshot

The inspiration for this post came from an unlikely source.

I have been reading Haruki Murakami’s acclaimed novel Norwegian Wood. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend you do. It’s a riveting book that had me hooked from the first page.

As I was making my way through the book, there was a particular passage that stood out to me.

Reading that passage I felt my head nodding almost instinctively as my eyes met the words.

It was like Murakami had bored into my mind and placed my thoughts into his novel. I felt a deep resonation with the passage and pondered it long after I had stopped reading.

The passage detailed a conversation between the protagonist Watanabe and his friend Nagasawa, where they discuss how hard people work.

Nagasawa is scathing of his fellow students at the university where he and Watanabe study. He states they do not work anywhere near as hard as he does. The work they do is without direction and purpose.

This passage touched on something I had been contemplating for a while and brought it to the forefront of my mind.

We all work, but how much of it is meaningful. How much of it has direction and purpose? Nagasawa went on to say, people simply working hard without direction is manual labour.

I couldn’t help but agree with him.

Why Do You Work

The reason the passage from Norwegian Wood resonated with me so strongly was that I have been wondering just how hard I have been working recently.

My current goal is to increase my income from my travel blog and Medium during this year.

To reach that goal, I have to put in a lot of hard work. A lot of it, menial in regards to writing posts and fine-tuning my travel blog.

Mixed in with this, I have to balance the demands of travelling around and finding time to work while I am on the road. This means I have less time than I would ideally like to work on my site and reach my goal.

With that said, I can spend more time working than travelling if I want to, but I have to strike a balance, otherwise, I will waste my travels.

I have to manage my time effectively and ensure the work I am doing is worthwhile and I’m not just working for the sake of it.

Well, I have to be honest and say that I could definitely make better use of my time.

I find it a struggle to start work and end up watching youtube video after youtube video before actually starting work.

I’m no stranger to hard work, but given the choice, my mind will wander and I will procrastinate. We all like to think we work hard but is the work we are doing worthwhile?

Anybody can work hard, but if it leads nowhere, then that work is pointless. Very few of us are able to get ourselves into the zone where we churn out our best work on a regular basis.

Is it because humans are inherently lazy, or is it because modern life has made us lazy? It’s a tough question to answer. Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

All I know is that whenever I work hard I succeed, it’s just getting to the point where I get into a flow and do the work that’s the tricky part.

Work Hard Instead of Doing Hard Work

The difference between working hard and doing hard work is subtle.

When I was in New Zealand, one of the jobs I did was replacing wastewater pipes.

This was a tough job.

From the long hours to the strenuous work, to the pleasantries the Foreman would shout at you every now and again, it was tough. By all intents and purposes, I was working hard every day, especially in the physical sense.

But what was the purpose of the work? Apart from rebuilding a broken city, did the work serve a purpose for myself? Did it further my goals, or was I just spinning plates to earn money to enjoy my travels?

The same was true of my previous job. In four months, the job will cease to exist. I spent 8 hours a day working hard for money so that I could invest in my site, but was it worth it?

Was I wasting my time busting my ass to do the work, when I was under-appreciated and I didn’t want to be there?

I may have been working hard, but it was work without a purpose. I was not furthering myself during those hours.

The difference is that working hard can be applied to anything, but when you work hard on something that allows you to lead your life the way you want to, it becomes work with purpose, with direction.

It’s too easy to go through life and work without any purpose. We may be working hard but we are not going anywhere with it.

We are spinning wheels on a stationary bike. All the effort we put in keeps us rooted to the same spot.

Working hard on yourself is the toughest thing you can do. We don’t like to admit our faults. We don’t like to acknowledge that we need to change.

But, working on yourself is the most important investment you can make.

As Nagasawa stated in Norwegian Wood, it’s no good to look up at the sky and wait for the fruit to drop, you have to make it drop yourself.

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