An Ode to Hard Work
What ever happened to working hard? I don't mean hard physical labor; I mean taking pride in the work we do, being willing to go the extra mile, and understanding that no gain is ever made without effort. It seems that everywhere I look, people increasingly have a sour attitude about being asked to do anything beyond the bare minimum. Everybody wants a paycheck, but nobody wants to work hard. Let me give a few examples.
As part of my day job, I regularly call insurance companies to resolve problems with medical claims. Often a claim has been denied or paid in error because of a simple mistake. Fixing the mistake however, is more complicated. It requires several extra steps. When I call the insurance company, rarely do I speak to someone who is willing to do the extra work to get the claim processed correctly. Oh sure, on the phone they tell me it will be taken care of, but a month later I get another statement from the insurance company with the same mistake. A big part of my job is calling back over and over until finally I speak to someone who actually cares enough to do the job correctly. It's maddening! A small amount of effort would save me the time it takes to sit on hold and save the insurance company the cost of the stamp to send yet another wrong statement. Multiply that thousands of times across the nation for thousands of medical providers. It's an awful lot of wasted time and money. The problem is that the person answering the phone at the insurance company doesn't get paid any more if my problem gets fixed. She takes no pride in her job and doesn't care enough to do it correctly.
I challenge the reader to pay attention to the customer service received at various businesses, doctor's offices, or government buildings. Do you find that most people go the extra mile to help you and to make your visit pleasant? If you have an unusual or complicated request, do you find that employees are quick to offer extra assistance? I have found that when an employee is not working for a tip, the quality of service they offer is usually markedly lower. Many people do not bother to be helpful and cheerful when their paycheck is not directly affected. I find this very sad. Whatever happened to helping others because it's the right thing to do?
Another example of our collective fear of hard work comes from the very website you are browsing to read this article. Some people who write for Hubpages choose their topics by doing a little research on what is likely to bring the most amount of ad revenue from Google. They may know next to nothing about the topic, but they're going to clog up the internet with a poorly written piece in the hopes that they will make a few bucks. How about actually learning about something and then writing about it? How about taking the time to become truly immersed in a subject before typing something up? I don't mean to bash my fellow Hubbers, but I believe that a well written piece about something the author is knowledgable about will ultimately earn more revenue than a quickly pulled together article with nothing unique or valuable in content. It may not bring a quick payout, but high quality work will eventually pay off by building the author's reputation as a good writer with something worthwhile to say.
A third example is the trend in children's sports leagues to give everyone a trophy just for participating. What does that teach kids about life? Nothing! The team that wins should get a trophy because, in theory at least, that team worked harder. I understand that children's sports leagues are often quite unfair with a higher concentration of money and talent on one team; but still, life is not fair and kids may as well learn to deal with that reality. Anyone who works in corporate America will tell you that you get a bonus check for making a sale, not just for showing up at the meeting. Anyone can participate; the ones who work the hardest should get the rewards.
Another excellent example of our society's general laziness is the massive quantity of diet pills and fad diets on the market. The idea that you can lay around on the couch all day, pop a couple pills or drink a magic potion and end up with a muscular, taut body is preposterous. Why do so many Americans continue to fall for this trick? There's only one way to be fit and healthy and that is to eat right and exercise. There is no quick fix, no magic bean, no fountain of youth, and no prescription that will transform a fatty into a god or goddess of fitness. But people want an easy solution. They want to escape the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. Nobody wants to hear that the only way to get a bikini body is to haul themselves off the couch and onto the treadmill. The peddlers of diet pills are laughing all the way to the bank, laughing at our refusal to acknowledge that nobody ever gets anywhere without hard work.
When we fail to go above and beyond, when we do the bare minimum or we focus only on the payout and not on the quality of our work, I feel we cheat ourselves out of a great pleasure in life. That pleasure is laying in bed at night knowing we did our best and gave our all. Hard work is a reward in itself. The feeling of accomplishment is satisfying. Similarly, when we work hard and get a monetary payoff or a trophy, or we get to take a picture on top of the mountain we just climbed, we're experiencing success. When we get up at 6 a.m. to run every day for 3 months and then step on the scale and see the lowest number in years, in that moment, every one of those early morning workouts becomes worth it.
Hard work is the only thing I know of that can make you thinner, richer, more knowledgable, and happier without costing you a penny. So let's not be afraid to put in a few extra hours, go the extra mile, go out of our way to solve a problem for someone else, push a little harder in our workouts, or do more than we're asked. Success will naturally follow!