By Jason Stewart

We hear this term all the time. We use it in sports and in business often. What is hard work? What does that phrase mean to you?

Recently, I was stopped at a red traffic light next to a woman in a brand new Panamera Porsche. She pulled up to me and rolled her window down and asked me if I needed some help (thinking I had honked my horn for her attention). I explained that it was not me who used my horn, but I did have a question for her. I proceeded to ask, “How do I turn this Honda Accord into a car like yours?” She paused, smirked and almost laughed toward the sky and replied simply “Hard work, that’s it”.

I thought about her response for the next several days. It made me think about the basketball players I come in contact with or coach. Her statement made me think about myself and my days as an aspiring athlete. Did I really know what hard work was when I was young and inexperienced? No, I didn’t. 

I remember being a junior and then a senior in high school wanting to play for the University of Arizona. I would go play in games around my neighborhood all the time. If you had of asked me, I would have told you I was working hard. I was giving extra effort in games, not taking plays off and doing all I could to be effective in every productive statistical category. This was my idea of hard work. I would have been emotionally upset if you told me I was not working hard.

However, I was missing several huge pieces of the puzzle. I didn’t know what hard work was until I started working with my mentor/trainer. He would take me to the court and make me shoot basketball consistently for an hour and a half. We’d take a break and return to do dribbling for another hour.  Then he would make me run sprints!! Later in the same day, I would return to the basketball court to play in games against guys who were bigger and stronger than me. I did this every day for the 90 days between high school senior year and college freshman year. This is how a 5’9” senior who weighed 159 lbs walked on at the University of Arizona.

I had to do a lot of things I didn’t feel like doing at times during the day I didn’t feel like doing it. The huge piece of the puzzle was I simply didn’t know what it took. When you seek success, it is important to find not just a trainer who has been where you want to go, but someone who is willing to build a relationship with you as a mentor. This is valuable because when learning to do things you don’t feel comfortable with you need to have someone help you change your mindset as well as your habits.

As an adult in business, once you have decided which career path you are going to take you will need to start the same process as the young athlete.  Find a mentor who shares the same values as you do and then learn from them what “hard work” means in your industry.

There are different types of people in the working world.

The Lazy Worker: This is the person who doesn’t do very much of anything. They say they want to be involved, but all they really do is show up for work and take up space.

The Regular Worker: This person does all that is required of them. They do their job and are steady in their industry/sport.

The Hard Worker:  This person goes beyond what is required of them in the office or on the court. Outside of the office or mandated practice and games, they are consistently looking for opportunities to improve and evolve. Most hard workers seek a mentor.

So which one are you and why? First you must begin to answer that question with a question,  “What are your short term and long term life goals?” You must have a clear vision of what your end goal is. Once you have that you then must begin to ask yourself if you are not in the “hard working” category, “Why?”. This is a very hard question to answer. For many people the answer will be fear, for others, pride.

The answer is not always obvious. It will take days of thinking and asking yourself questions to get to the bottom line. Whatever “working category” you decide to be in will ultimately communicate to yourself and everyone around you what your values are. It will eventually be clear how important reaching certain goals are to you.

We all are sacrificing something. Understanding what your sacrifice will be is perhaps the greatest education you could attain.