I always hear people boast about how they have worked hard to achieve whatever success they believe they have attained. I have listened to citations and have read biographies where successes are attributed to hard work.
I understand hard work to mean vigorous and untiring efforts one puts into a task or endeavour in pursuit of success. It’s a necessary component of human struggle in this our earthly existential space. It’s something most persons must embrace if they’re to live a meaningful life.
However, we must always resist the temptation to be boastful about our achievements when we believe they have come as a result of our hard work. This is because hard work is never enough; one also needs other things to be in their favour on the road to success. These include getting necessary assistance from people that matter at any point, getting the opportunities needed to express your skills and talents, and of course being lucky.
Luck is that existential element that intervenes to grant us favour irrespective of whether we deserve it or not. This is what may also be termed fortune or grace, depending on one’s language and religio-philosophical disposition. Whatever term one uses, the bottom line is that this element does not rely on our hard work or any other quality for that matter.
So, while you boast about how hard you have worked to get to where you’re, remember to be grateful for the luck (i.e. grace or fortune) you have been given. There are many people that have worked even harder than you but their hard work was not blessed with success.
Very successful football coach and former manager of Manchester United Football Club, Sir Alex Ferguson, wrote in his memoir, MANAGING MY LIFE, that his experience as a coach has shown him beyond doubt that everything does not rely on one’s effort. He noted that some days, for instance, turns out to be a bad one for a football team with everything going wrong for no explainable reasons. You may find your best players struggling to replicate what they have done effortlessly every other day. The opponent may miskick a ball and it will bounce off the body of your own player and goes into your own net. You may want to bring on a player from the bench to replace a non-performing one on the pitch only for you to discover that he has suddenly become sick. Everything going wrong! Ferguson also noted that on another day, you may just have the opposite fortune where everything goes right, resulting in your team earning a victory which you know deep down you that you do not deserve.
Above all, when we boast about our hard work, let’s bear in mind that our ability to work (let alone work hard) is, in the first place, a product of life and good health. We are not responsible for either of these. Many people possess the talent and the desire to work hard but have not been given the health of body and/or mind to do this. Some had their life cut short before they could see the result of their work or even before they could work at all.
It’s not exactly right to always present success as the only evidence of hard work. Such may be misleading at times. Rather let’s remain humble and show gratitude for whatever success we have been given. Let’s be thankful for the ability to work and the fortune to see the fruit of our work. Above all, let’s be generous with the product of our labour, for it’s the best and most noble way to show gratitude for the grace to work and reap from our work.
This is my meditation this midweek.
Henry Chigozie Duru, PhD, teaches journalism and mass communication at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria.