The Value of Hard Work

LinkedIn had a post trending recently about how China’s policy for the 12-hour workday is essential for their economy.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘Outliers’, he explains why the Chinese have a famous saying: “一年到头都在天还没亮的时候起床的人肯定能让家人过上好日子” or , in Malcolm’s english translation of the proverb: “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”. Hard work is highly valued, especially in a culture where for many centuries your hard work was directly correlated to the success your family experienced.

In the US, we have seen lower returns on hard work. Hard work does not always make your family successful – it makes you as an individual wealthier or it makes the corporation you’re working for successful. Often when we describe “hard work” we’re referring to the activities we do for a business or company – primarily at our job. 

It seems to me that many people, in both the US and China, are forgetting that “hard work” has often included the work we do for our families and ourselves: cleaning the home, shopping for groceries, making meals, caring for children. Hard work includes things like reading a book, learning new things, creating and inventing. 

Hard work is a good thing to value, but the freedom to balance that hard work between life and an income-generating job is essential in order to keep everyone healthy. The more people spend their lives working for a corporation instead of themselves, the less people there will actually be to work as populations decrease.

If you are spending 6 days a week at work, when are you making babies? When are you caring for your family? I am sure there are answers to these questions, for now – but how about in 10 years, when corporations have the power to demand more work out of employees? When monopolies will tie an employees livelihood to their ability to work constantly? As long as people continue to work for companies whose primary objective is to make more money, things will get increasingly unsustainable.

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