Designers, programmers, tech entrepreneurs, and investors love talking about how hard their work is.
Let’s get real.
Hard work is picking lettuce 8 hours a day in 90 degree heat.
Hard work is being a single mother or father who has to work two minimum wage jobs back to back with nary a recuperative break all day.
Hard work is heaving dirt and rock on a construction site. Or working with industrial equipment that could crush you if you make the wrong move.
Rule of thumb: If it’s hard you’ll have trouble finding people who want to do it. There’s no shortage of people who want to be programmers, designers, strategists, social media consultants, entrepreneurs, investors, etc… But try finding people to work the farm. Hard work is doing the work other people don’t want to do.
Coding, or designing, or writing pitch decks, or making sales calls, or preparing spreadsheets, or writing blog posts, or social media marketing, or buying ads, or choosing the right color, or picking the right paper, or making a layout responsive, or investing in companies, or doing due diligence, or making decisions, or coming up with a strategy, or allocating capital, or figuring out how to spend the budget, or reading up on a subject is not hard work. That’s just work. If you can do it in an air conditioned room, with no physical threat to you or someone else, while seated, it ain’t hard work.
It may be challenging work. It may be creative work. It may be skilled work. It may require multiple tries to get it right. You may have to learn new things. You may be rejected a bunch. You may get hung up on. You may not know how to get from A to B. You may have to persuade. You may have to deal with people you don’t like. You may have to sell something someone doesn’t know they want. You may have to be creative. You may have to build something that hasn’t been built before. You may have to battle entrenched interests. You may have to put in a few days or weeks in a row to figure something out you’re stuck on. You may have to make tradeoffs. But that’s the work. Not achieving the outcome you wanted doesn’t make it hard, it means you have more work to do.
If you enjoy it most of the time, it’s probably not hard.
Solving a problem doesn’t mean you worked hard. It means you decided to put in the work to solve the problem. Maybe you thought about it differently. Maybe you came at it from an angle no one else did. Maybe you just decided to take something on other people couldn’t see. None of those things make it hard.
And maybe you’re really good at something, while other people are very very bad at it. But that doesn’t make it hard either.
Long hours don’t equal hard work. They just equal long hours. The time you put in has nothing to do with how hard something is.
Brainstorming isn’t hard work. Riffing isn’t hard work. Networking isn’t hard work. Going to conferences isn’t hard work. Dodging traffic isn’t hard work — it’s commuting. It may be shitty, but it isn’t hard.
And please, giving your opinion isn’t hard work. Bouncing from meeting to meeting giving advice isn’t hard work.
I get why people love calling their work hard. It feels good. It feels important. It makes you feel like you’re doing something that some other people would choose not to do. I absolutely get that.
But none of that makes it hard.
We all have work to do. Do good work. Do creative work. Do thoughtful work. Do your best. But there’s no need to flatter yourself about how hard it was.