Most successful people don’t work more hours than you do. None of the people who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff are doing it just by working more hours than you are. And I hate to say, but they are not smarter than you either. They are succeeding by doing hard work, not long work. They spend more hours working on making difficult decisions, not following routine.

As the economy plods along, many of us are choosing to take the easy way out. We are going to work for the man (the boss), letting him do all the hard work (thinking, innovating, challenging the status quo) while we put in the long hours (follow instructions, capture the data and punch the files). We are going back to the future, to a definition of work that embraces the grindstone.

Some people (a precious few, so far) are realising that this temporary recession is the best opportunity that they have ever had. They are working harder than ever, mentally, and taking all sorts of emotional and personal risks that are bound to pay off.

Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you would rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection.

Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier and, after you have done that, to do it again the next day.

The big insight: The riskier your (smart) co-worker’s hard work appears to be, the safer it really is. It’s the people having difficult conversations, inventing remarkable products, and pushing the envelope (and, perhaps, still going home at 5:00 p.m.) who are building a recession-proof future for themselves.

So today, when you go to work, really sweat. Your time is worth the effort.

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