Success ≠ hard work or “working smart” but one’s ability to bear hardship

There’s a Chinese idiom “吃苦” which literally translates to “Eating Bitterness”. The true meaning of the idiom is to bear hardship and it’s a lesson that Chinese parents impart on their kids in regards to all things in life. In order to “taste sweetness”, one must sacrifice time and effort. It’s definitely a more complete answer than “just work hard” as successful people often say. Working hard is almost always a given… anybody can work hard for at least a short period of time. You can be the hardest working ditch digger, but at the end of a day you’re still a ditch digger and making ditch digging pay (as an example).

Being and working smart is usually the other half of the equation and people usually mention this because if you’re a smart person and not successful, then it obviously implies that you’re missing the hardworking part. I like to think that I was born smart, was well educated growing up, and very creative in finding ways to be more efficient (aka getting things done with as little effort as possible). I’m naturally lazy. The Chinese zodiac said that snakes (people born in 1989) are lazy. Perhaps it’s all been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyways, mostly through necessity, I’ve been able to suck it up, focus, and work ridiculously hard for spurts at a time. I’m talking 20+ hour work days, 90 hour work weeks, etc. Bursts of hard work and effort are not sustainable, however and when I get burnt out, the results (profits, in this case) are directly affected. By nature, the bursts of hard work and bouts of laziness balance each out and I make a decent living. I often think to myself, “If only I could suck it up and just work hard for a year. Imagine how much money I’d have!”. But then that leads into the topic of finding the perfect balance in life…

I’ve never quite seen the concept of “Eating Bitterness” presented quite so concisely and accurately as this presenter has done. It’s a Ted Talk from 2013, but I’ve just seen it for the first time.

It’s titled, “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”. Looking back over the last 6 years of running my business, there hasn’t been a better way to describe this process.


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