Some people just don’t understand “hard work.”

Written on
August 10, 2019
by
Peter Hostrawser


Look on social media these days and you are bound to find a “Put in the work” or a “Hard Work” meme trying to inspire us all to do something.  In my experience being a teacher and a teen business coach, I constantly hear phrases like “kids just don’t want to work” or “hard work is the only thing to success.”  I’m not disagreeing with these statements.  It is an age old statement usually aimed at people who are considered “lazy.”  Heck, even as I write this, my 14 year old is still in bed at 10:45am.  

On the surface, the hard work statement makes a lot of sense.  Work hard and you will get things done and attain success.  As I have worked with students and clients, however, I have found that people really want to work hard.  The problem is that they don’t know how.  

In my experiences, we as educators and mentors struggle to define exactly what hard work is.  I myself have been guilty of expecting a young person to understand it without explaining or modeling it.  As a teacher, I sometimes forget that just modeling what hard work looks like without actually breaking it down for people won’t work all that well.  

Key phrase here is “breaking it down.”

Most people will see a big project or assignment coming at them and they will freeze.  An overwhelming sensation comes over us and we see the big picture of all the things we have to accomplish.  Think about in school when you get the syllabus on the first day.  We all get a little overwhelmed while looking at all the things we have to do.  We look at the end goal and not the journey.  I have heard hundreds if not thousands of students say something like “I have to get an A in this class.”  I usually follow up with a question about how they are going to do that.  The response is always a vague one which is usually formed around working harder.  Lately, I have dug further into what work harder means to the student.  I find that they really don’t know what it means other than do the work.  

What I find interesting is that the student doesn’t know WHY they are not doing the work outside of being lazy.  

When I break it down it usually comes to a combination of two things… they are actually lazy and they are afraid to fail because they don’t see the path to getting things done.  They are unorganized.  They are trying to eat the entire elephant in one bite.  What I like to do is to help people set up small manageable pieces towards the goals.  Every piece they finish, we celebrate.  The challenge is finding the right size of pieces people can manage.  As an educator and business coach, this is where a lot of mentoring, listening, facilitating, and basically caring for one another comes into play.  

So until we actually help people manage and organize their “hard work”, we will continue to see the “hard work” memes with little or no effect on anyone.  

I challenge anyone who has succeeded by “working hard” to mentor someone who is struggling.  Break down exactly when you began to figure out how to work hard.  Communicate that to people who need it rather than just saying “you gotta put in the hard work.”  In my experiences, when this is done, people build some confidence with small victories and start to figure out their own method of “hard work.”  


Peter Hostrawser
Creator of Disrupt Education
Change Outdated Traditional Educational Systems #Blogger | #KeynoteSpeaker | #Teacher | #Designthinker | #disrupteducation
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