On numerous occasions I am asked by younger and mid-level executives about how they are to proceed to have a successful career. Being senior in age they mistakenly believe I have available to put on the table a cut and dried recipe for it. In doing so, I see the anxiety laden eyes of theirs that display the desirousness to seek success in the short possible time span and with least amount of work and effort. So this piece is dedicated to the young professionals who wish to build lives and professional careers. Let me forewarn that on table is no single tablet that will catapult you into leadership positions. It is all about ‘hard work’ and ‘sincerity’.
These two elements of being ‘sincere’ and being ‘hardworking’ are lethal tools for success in life let alone professional careers. Of late, management experts and guru’s have come up with terminologies like ‘smart work’ ‘do the right things’ and not merely ‘doing things, rightly’, etc. All these too have the underlying basis of hard work. To be a ‘smart worker’ you ought to be a hard worker. Being smart is not to be confused with achieving without toiling. No there can’t be any success or fulfilment without putting in hand work.
James W Elliot wrote, “Work is life and good work is good life.” Work creates our environment. And doing hard work within this environment opens up newer vistas of thought, leading to more work. The enthusiasm and dynamism put into work leaves behind rich dividends. The spirit to perform hard work resides within. The source of power therefore to indulge in hard work is within us and in our domain; it does not lie majorly on external conditions.
Hard work is akin to walking on top of summits giving to the person (pursuer) a vantage point, for a better vision than those who remain oblivious of the invisible. The view from the top is very different from the view that one gets from the foot hills. It requires hard work to climb to the summit. A Chinese proverb says, for a swift arrow pull hard on the string. Trust thyself for investing labour, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, ‘every breast vibrates to that iron string’.
Excellence is the reward of labour. The creative geniuses, Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, Edison and all those in human history who relentlessly excelled in their respective fields. “Genius begins great work; labour alone finishes them.”
In some book, I had read this beautiful coinage and summation of thought on hard work and perseverance. “There are certain things which I shall do whether they come easily or hard, whether I like them or not. I may be inferior in some of these things now but I do not have to remain inferior. I may be awkward and self conscious in some of my attempts but I shall keep on trying nevertheless. I shall make mistakes and suffer for them, but I will not lose hope or remain discouraged. I will not be the victim of my environment or hard luck but will master it instead,” (Froude).
Working hard for a living or as the mid eighties famous song lyrics went…‘Working hard for the money…’ is a disgrace to the concept of both ‘work’ and ‘life’. This, in my view is the most significant tragedy of our times. There has been a gradual decline and renunciation of respect towards the work, we all do. You look at a man and you see his work and vice versa you look at the work, you look at the man.
Natural talent alone takes you nowhere. It is the application that will. Accomplishments of worth have always been the result of prodigious workers. Even Noah worked very hard to build the Ark!
Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue; this is a universally accepted dictum. Happiness is the reaction to hard work coupled by sincerity. Examine the quality of your sincerity; ‘go to your bosom; knock these and ask your heart what it doth know,’ (Shakespeare).
In the building of a personality, the foundation has to have as its major reinforcements both hard work and sincerity. A building that lacks any of the essentials for the development of sound solid foundation is always prone to crumbling; and for sure, it will if not immediately, over time it will. So also will the personality that is mounted up but lacks goodwill and sincerity. Fall will that manager/supervisor too.
The element of sincerity in hard work is best explained in these lines of Herbert Hodge… in a lighter vein he says, “Here’s a good joke to play on your employer: get to your work earlier and leave a little later than you are supposed to. Handle his tools as if they belonged to you. Go out of your way to say a kind word about him to your fellow workers. When there is extra work that needs to be done volunteer to do it. Do not show surprise when he ‘gets on to you’ and offers you the head of the department or a partnership in the business. For this is the best part of the ‘joke’.”
Hard work must lead to harmony. To achieve harmony in settings, there is need to be honest; and honesty has to reflect in every aspect of the work undertaken. Honesty that is a consequence of fear and retribution is actually dishonesty. This clearly illustrates that I will be honest because I am watched; if the oversight were to be removed the tendency would be to bend towards dishonesty and hence ‘this hard work’ mask of sincerity will tear itself naturally to expose the deformed nakedness of insincerity. The dictum to follow is with malice towards none and good will towards all at work place and generally in life.
Sincerity must remain inseparable to the persona it should; not be altered to suit expediency. As professionals with a humane heart, we cannot allow ourselves to be subscribers to Oscar Wilde’s thought: a little sincerity is a dangerous thing and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
A persistent refusal to accept what the mirror of the inner heart reflects to you about your quality of sincerity, will make any to climb up the ivory towers or we may end up believing falsehood and render ourselves to being the emperor in new clothing!
Sincerity is being true to the inherent divine attribute of doing what pleases and for which no reward is sought from any man. ‘I want to sing like bird sings, not worrying who listens or what they sing.’
With sincerity as your nuclear weapon you can dwarf and maul a corporate Goliath or even the Barbarian supervisor. The most reliable medicine I always tell my senior retiring colleagues for good health is ‘work with sincerity’. Find a pre-occupation that interests and gives you both.
“Work should be tonic, not a grind; life a delight not a struggle.” Earnest, hardworking and sincere person, fears none.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist