Last week I mentioned that we are facing a big decision about if (and when) to expand our Grade A Dairy and Cheese Plant. We’ve been having lots of conversations about it as a family and one of the children made an interesting comment. He said, “I think we should build; we’re willing to work as hard as necessary to make it a success.”
As a mother, those words thrilled me. I have spent many, many hours of my life teaching my children to embrace hard work. Being willing to work hard for a long-term goal is one skill (of many) that is important to living a successful life. So to hear him say that and watch most of the children nod their heads in agreement was very validating.
But as I was thinking about the comment, it raises two bigger questions.
1. Is it worth that hard work?
2. Does hard work alone guarantee success?
Let’s talk about the first point. I’ve said many times that I am terrible at achieving “balance” in my life. In fact, I have to admit, that I no longer even try. I see so many articles and hear conversations about work/life balance and I really think it’s something of a myth.
Instead, I recognize that there are seasons to life and I try to balance out the seasons. For example, last year during kidding season we delivered 149 baby goats. There was no balance during that time period. It was all baby goats all the time.
We are on watch 24/7 in the barn. We work around the clock to feed the babies and care for the moms. We don’t schedule anything off the farm and minimize anything scheduled here on the farm. Everyone is available all the time in case they are needed. We do the best we can to keep ourselves well fed and getting some sleep. Everything else can wait.
There’s no work/life balance during that time period. But we don’t really expect there to be.
We know what’s coming and we embrace it. By the time it’s over, we’re completely exhausted and yet we can’t wait for next year to be able to do it again!
So I don’t try to achieve balance during kidding season. Instead, we take a 2-3 week vacation right before kidding season begins so we are thoroughly rested and ready to tackle the hard work, joys, and occasional tears that kidding season brings.
Is the hard work of kidding season worth it? Absolutely. And if you ask each of the children, they’ll all tell you the same thing. In fact, Brett and Mason will be married and living off the farm this kidding season and they’re already talking about how they’re going to fit in and modify their lives since they won’t be living here.
But that doesn’t mean that everything that might require hard work is worth it. Kidding season is a relatively short period of time. It’s 6-8 weeks of intensive effort. We can manage that. If we build a cheese plant, it might require intensive effort for a much longer time period. We have to decide as a business and as a family if that effort is worth it.
The second point is even more complicated – can hard work alone guarantee success?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I have to say that I don’t think it does. I think hard work is a necessary piece, but I think that sometimes circumstances prevent success no matter how hard you are willing to work.
Let’s pretend that we launch a new business and we’re working 100 hours per week. There’s so much to do and every day we’re making huge strides. That can be maintained for a while. But if we continue to work 100 hour weeks with no breaks, over time, our hard work starts to break down and become ineffective. We start to make poor decisions. We start to ignore our family. We start to ignore our health. We move from making poor decisions to making bad decisions.
It’s not enough to work hard. You need to be able to work smart in addition to working hard and sometimes that means not working.
So I’m glad that my children are willing to work hard. Their hard work will be considered in our decision making process. But I want my children to clearly understand that working hard doesn’t always guarantee success and that working hard doesn’t always prevent financial troubles or even the failure of a business. (Although their willingness to work hard does make it easier to recover from financial setbacks if they occur.)
Overall I believe that working hard (especially if you’re also working smart) does increase your chances of being “lucky” and finding success. As Thomas Jefferson* once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work the more I have of it.”
What about you? Do you think that hard work is a cure-all?