The Myth about Hard Work
Here’s an update on the Book Journey.
Sorry I’ve been a bit silent on here – juggling various bits of the business and writing a book has really put my “productivity guru” status to the test… thanks for sticking with me.
Going forward, I’m going to try to send an update every other week or so, with some notes on what me and our research squad worked on that week, and some lessons learned.
✍️ What we worked on this week
This week, we dug deep into the following topics:
- Procrastination: Classic, one of our absolute favourite topics. I realised that I’ve never really thought hard about what “procrastination” means.
- Suffering culture: There’s this belief in Western culture that work needs to be HARD for it to have value. We’re sort of allergic to having fun at work. Some of my family still ask me “When are you going to get a proper job and stop making YouTube videos?” I think part of the reason why doing YouTube isn’t seen as a proper job is that it seems like “fun” rather than “work” (amongst other things). So, our research question for the week was: why do we live in a culture where “HARD WORK = GOOD” and “FUN WORK = MEH“?
- Boredom: We also looked into the concept of boredom – what does it mean to be bored? Is boredom always a bad thing? Are we bad at being bored?
🧠 The most interesting thing we learned
We found reading up on “suffering culture” really interesting.
Here’s the puzzle:
- We live in a world where most of us think that SUCCESS = working hard, grinning and bearing it, doing things with a David Goggins vibe.
- But… most of us would probably be happier if we could have fun along the way and succeed.
From my reading, here’s how we ended up in this puzzle:
- We all want happiness, purpose, and meaning in life.
- Back in the 1500s, people found an answer in religion. The solution was to work hard and consume little so that you will be rewarded by God (this is where the “Protestant Work Ethic” idea came from).
- In modern times, an “extreme” work ethic has replaced religion to create meaning in our lives. We want from work what we want from religion: belonging, meaning, purpose, community. And we think we can only get this if the work is “hard”. Working hard is seen as virtuous and hard workers are seen as deserving of their success.
- So now, we define ourselves by what we are paid for and how much we work. And anyone who wants a chance of succeeding has to play this “I work hard” signalling game.
Here’s a quote from philosopher Bertrand Russel’s 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness” where he suggests we should move towards a 4-hour work day (he was clearly way ahead of his time).
A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organised diminution of work.
❓Question of the week
One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how we can enjoy our work more even if we don’t find it fun. Back in medical school, I had various tricks to make studying more fun like colour-coding my revision timetable. So, my question for you this week is:
Do you have any examples of tips and tricks you use to make boring work more fun and enjoyable?
I’d love to hear from you about this. If you’re up for sharing a story that might feature in the book, please reply here. The form will ask you for your name and email (optional) so that we can give you credit for the story, or potentially reach out to you to ask for more details 🙂
📢 Answers from last week’s questions
Thanks to all of you who took part in our survey on procrastination. Here are some cool things we found from the survey
- A dash of “fun” makes hard work easier to complete – most people say that they’re more likely to procrastinate from things that are EASY but NOT FUN (2nd bar) compared to things that are HARD but FUN (3rd bar).
- Tons of people struggle with procrastination. When asked whether ‘dealing with procrastination is something I’ve struggled with’, over 52% reported 10/10 on 0-10 scale.
That’s it from me for now. Have a great week!