“Don’t work hard, work smart.”
“You have to work hard to get ahead.”
“Lazy people are more likely to become successful.”
“Multiple Streams of Income.”
“Make Money with No Money.”
Do those statements sound familiar? Do you swear by any of them? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you believe in the quality of Diligence and have had impressions of ants and bees on your consciousness since childhood. Perhaps you believe that, in order to work smart, you have to work hard first. Perhaps you don’t believe in any of the statements above.
Well, take heart! Being hardworking is displaying a subset of the quality of Diligence. In the CharacterFirst! definition, Diligence is contrasted with Slothfulness. Now, Slothfulness brings to mind that much-maligned creature of the same name, but it’s important to remember that the Sloth is extremely well designed for its life. What’s being pointed out are the external, cursorily observable characteristics of the Sloth. In a slave economy, which is what the world’s economy really is, those who run the economy do not want the manifest characteristics of the Sloth being expressed in the workplace behaviour of their slaves.
Wait a minute, aren’t being hardworking and being diligent the same thing? No. As I pointed out above, being hardworking is a part of the quality of diligence. The operational CharacterFirst! definition of diligence is “Investing my time and energy to complete each task assigned to me.” We can be mindlessly hardworking when working as a cleaner, a factory hand, a hotel housekeeping staff member, or when otherwise engaged in apparently odious, unpleasant, no-brainer kinds of work, but we don’t have to be! The “energy” in the operational definition not only refers to physical energy but the energy invested in thinking constantly about how to complete each assigned task, both specified and implied tasks, both efficiently and effectively. However, that might not be what workplace managers desire in their staff! A hotel General Manager once told me that he didn’t want or need his Housekeeping staff to be constantly thinking about how to turn over guest rooms more quickly, he just wanted them to do their jobs magnificently well and go home at the end of their shift! Perhaps he didn’t want them to save enough money so that they could move on to better-paying jobs!
Diligence is basically a mindset. It seeks to optimize the fulfillment of assigned tasks, whether assigned by your Boss or by Yourself. It simultaneously seeks to expand the goals currently fleshed out by the optimal completion of those same tasks by outsight, experimentation and invention. That could very well cause some of those tasks to become obsolete! That could explain why many frontline staff are encouraged to be hardworking but not diligent. It also explains why there is an illogical fear that automation, AI and the like could take some jobs away. They actually don’t, they support the execution of those jobs better and free people to expand their talents upwards.
So, don’t work yourself to death; that’s not diligence. Use your head to make things better for yourself and for others around you. Life becomes more interesting and you’ll stop having the Monday Blues and similar myths. Determine to be Diligent. Now.
Footnote: A great video about the Sloth below: