Get Rich With: Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work

In a recent article, I shared my enthusiasm for some of the confidence and hacking-the-system approaches covered in the Tim Ferriss book. In the reader comments that followed, there was lots of agreement but also some Tim-bashing, suggesting that he advocates taking unethical shortcuts and shunning real work.

While it’s easy to misunderstand what Tim was getting at (he’s actually a ridiculously hard worker and I later got to know him a bit better through an appearance on his podcast), these readers still had a good point. And this has reminded me to write this article, on a topic I have long wanted to cover: Working Really Hard.

Sometimes on this blog, you’ll hear me celebrating the idea of leisure. In the very first post, I talked about hanging out at home on a sunny Thursday morning while everyone else is at work, sweeping a few leaves off of the driveway in my pajamas. Other times I’ll talk about kicking  back with a deluxe home-brewed beer or catching giant fish and snowboarding in exotic locations.

It would be easy for an impressionable youth to see these decadent displays and latch onto them as the end goal.

“How can I take a shortcut to get what Mr. Money Mustache has?”, they would say. “I want that end result, and I’m willing to do any sneaky hacks I need to, to get it.”

So today I’m going to shatter the illusion I have built up about my easy life. But don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a piece of even better news:

You too can have the lifestyle of your dreams. And to get it, you will need to do an absolute shitload of insanely intense, ball-busting work. And here’s the best part: the insane work will bring you just as much happiness as the leisure time!

So you get to achieve whatever you want, and you get to work really hard for it. Isn’t that great news?

Despite the fact that I sometimes talk about not working, I have actually grown to really love hard work. But it was only in the last few years that I realized this.

Ever since I hit first grade and was fortunate enough to be placed in the top reading group, I have been hooked into hard work. Not realizing there was any other option in school than to get all “A”s on the report card, I naturally did whatever amount of stupid busywork and coloring, repetitive addition and subtraction, and putting up with irrational rules, to get the perfect grades. Growing up through high school, I attended all the classes and did the necessary ass-busting to get the grades that would grant me university admission and eventually graduation. At the time, I thought I was enduring a wasteful hardship, but really there was something else going on in the background.

On the side of all this school work, I signed myself up for a second line of work in the pursuit of cash. With frugal parents that didn’t believe in giving their kids a free ride, I was forced to work for any money I wanted for myself. Starting at age 10, I cut the grass and washed cars. At age 12, I started working on their old Victorian house, stripping old paint from the massive front porch* and doing other projects which culminated into building my own bedroom in the attic at age fifteen.

Eventually, I advanced to a cushy minimum-wage job at the busiest gas station in town, pumping about 4,000 gallons of gas into rusty old Chevrolet Caprices every day, then moved up to a less chaotic gas station, then a hardware store, then a convenience store.  Then engineering jobs between school terms (even over the Christmas holidays once), then full-time engineering work including many weekends and evenings, then even the construction and blog-typing work I’m doing to this day.

There have been many times during this history of work, where I have thought that I had it pretty hard. When I had to spend entire days on the university campus in the dead of a freezing winter, trudging through the snow with inadequate food and non-waterproof boots from the 8:30AM calculus class, to the 9:30AM chemistry class, on and on right through to the 8:00PM physics mid-term exam, all while being surrounded by a class of Engineering students with far too many nerdy and quiet dudes who never made jokes, and far too few beautiful girls, that was pretty tough.

Whenever I’m upside down with my head and one scratched and filthy arm stuffed into a floor cavity, holding a grinder which is spinning an abrasive blade cutting off old nails and plaster so I can remove a wall or a ceiling, and the whole scene is a dark din of Vietnam-style dust, sparks, and shouted expletives, I sometimes think that work can get a little unpleasant as well.

But as I’ve gotten older and made the connection between the hard work, and the results, and the constant learning and deep base of happiness it seems to provide in ever-increasing quantities, I have come to realize something I wish I could go back and tell myself at age fifteen:

Every single second of hard work you perform in your life, will come back and benefit you many times over for the rest of your life – in often unexpected ways.

In other words, no hard work is ever wasted. It sounds ridiculous, but I find it to be ridiculous how often this proves to be true.

One time I hit a serious roadblock when building my first house. Because of the architect missing some obscure rules about fire codes and roof venting, my house was not going to pass the “framing” stage of the building inspection. There was a workaround, which involved paying an extra $5000 to have an insulation company install a special kind of spray-in insulation. My business partner Dean wanted to take the shortcut and just hire the company. The other option was for me personally to spend the entire weekend meticulously cutting and gluing up strips of rigid foam-board insulation to every square inch of a high vaulted ceiling.

“Fuck the $5000 expense”, I said, “that’s not in the budget. We can crank out the fix this weekend, and only spend $300 in foam board instead of five grand for the spray”.

Dean opted out of this task, since he always liked to take weekends off to relax. But luckily I had another hardworking friend who helped me out and we got the work done, saving over $4000 even after paying ourselves well for our labor.

The work sucked at the time. It was dark and cold working in that house shell in late November, I missed my wife and newborn baby, and I got coated in filthy powder from the insulation. I questioned my own wisdom for taking on the extra task. It was only money after all.

But it wasn’t only money. Over the subsequent years, the information I was forced to learn about roof venting, foam board insulation, fire codes, building inspections, and a dozen other things from doing that work, have enabled me to solve countless other problems in home construction and energy-efficient design. Solving these other problems has brought in even more knowledge, and opened up a whole new section in my mental toolbox that I get to use for figuring things out in many areas of life.

And the shared experience of completing the shitty work together helped to build a longer-term friendship with Mike, the rockstar friend who helped me with the work. This guy is still out there succeeding, and probably even reading this alongside you since he is a practicing Mustachian. And when I look around at other friends who survived the Great Recession while keeping their businesses alive and their base of friends intact, it  is always the ones who were willing to sacrifice a weekend to, figuratively speaking, glue up their own damned foamboard to solve life’s little emergencies. Meanwhile, Dean ended up crashing himself into bankruptcy, mostly because of his aversion to hard work.

And that brings me to my next point: Shortcutters like my old business partner were often excited by the idea of making money without doing work. I have always been more interested in the idea of doing work, and making money from it if possible. He always talked about how our business profit sharing should not be based on how many hours we contributed. I felt that it should be, since with hard work comes accomplishment. It led me to create this Mustachian Maxim:

In the long run, in the Game of Life,  we all get Paid by the Hour.

There are a few lucky exceptions, like the kid who gets a trust fund or inherits his family’s business, the early employees in a company that eventually goes public, or the guy who gets famous for doing something stupid on YouTube. But when you’re starting from scratch, you need to think of every hour of work you do as planting a seed that will bloom at some unpredictable time in your future life. Sometimes it looks like successful people never do any work. Most of the time, it is because they have respected hard work all of their lives.

Tim Ferriss often praises the idea of minimal working hours. But if you look at how he arrived at the Four Hour Workweek, it was through years of extremely hard work, research and testing, and 80-hour workweeks. During those 80 hour weeks, he thought he was just wasting his time and answering customer and supplier emails and phone calls. But really in the background he was learning very quickly about how businesses and people work, and being forced to devise a system to take himself out of the loop. Without the 80 hour workweeks, he never would have been pushed to innovate, and we never would have heard of him.

Bringing all this back to the Mustachian way of life, this is why I am always advising you to work hard in your day job, but then also come home and take care of your own kids, clean your own house, cut your own grass, and spend the remaining time reading books or websites – to research things that are of interest to you. With no passive television watching allowed.

By doing all of these things, you’re actually working and learning all the time, without realizing it. Your mind is making unexpected connections between things you did during the day, things your kids said, things you read at night, and they are forming into new ways to make yourself happy, or to start your own business and earn more money, or to save money on some aspect of living, or get life in general figured out.

Hard work can be painful, but it should always be viewed as a good kind of pain, just as you celebrate a good burn in your biceps and forearms when doing a record-breaking set of concentration curls.  When you find really enjoyable work, you can get many of the same benefits without as much pain. But both kinds are to be welcomed. It is the source of growth in your life.

So get back to work!

*which, looking back, I now realize was surely lead-based paint. Nowadays we don’t let our kids play with that stuff and we make painters wear plastic space suits and ventilators just to handle it. Ahh the naive ways of the 1980s.

  • Guitarist February 27, 2012, 7:18 am

    Great article. My parents weren’t as strict about chores. I did work my butt off in school, but I was pretty lazy after taking care of that. In college, I started working harder all around, then I graduated and got lazy again.

    Now, after reading sights like this one, I really wish I would have spent more time with my dad fixing things. Now that I’m on my own, I am having to learn things that I could have already known. There is nothing more satisfying then finishing something you set out to do. And each second I am productive is one less second of doing nothing and being lazy.

    Again, great article, especially for a Monday morning!

  • Alex February 27, 2012, 7:26 am

    Great article as always MMM. The Mustachian lifestyle choices really do all reinforce each other in a positive way. When you remember that health = wealth, you mind and body are much more prepared to take on the challenges of hard work, which builds knowledge and skills to increase your wealth.

    It’s such a timeless way to look at our lives, but yet still feels fresh today because of its contrast to other forces acting in our lives (like inertia when you find yourself on the couch after a long day at work).

  • Jimbo February 27, 2012, 7:54 am

    Wow, such a nice perspective…

    I also enjoy working hard at times. I don’t enjoy the passive television watching that seems to be the norm amongst working humans. Crazy how people constantly complain about lacking time, but are always up to date on the latest, coolest TV shows.

    Right now, I use my workday nights and weekends to run a household and optimize the way our house is set up. I am also spending a lot of time trying to permanently declutter, i.e. selling and giving away stuff. Then, I am optimizing my house so it doesn’t look like a giant Rent-a-space. This has been a month slong process, sadly, as we have juste moved into the house. I call this process the War on Stuff. I make it sound like I have a non-mustachian addiction to Stuff-accumulation, but i really don’t. I am just aiming at having as little possessions as possible.

    I have also been trying to figure out ways to have nice furintures that look good, have good storage capacity and are not super expensive. It’s hard, but the rewards are excellent. Craigslist and Kijiji have been great to me.

    I am actually looking forward to be all set up in the house so I can find a new job during weeknights and week ends. Ah, the joys of trying to get ahead…

    Now I’ll go back to work.

  • Knince February 27, 2012, 8:05 am

    As a young mustachian just beginning my career, I appreciate this article. Sometimes, it’s easy to dream about the days when I’ll be financially independent and free to live life on my own terms. It’s time to get my head out of the clouds and start busting my balls to get there instead of just dreaming about it all day.

    A Money Mustache is created from hard work and financial intelligence. Luck does not determine my fate.

  • Valerie February 27, 2012, 9:17 am

    I like the way you think Mr MM!
    Always the voice of reason in an otherwise insane world!

  • stagleton February 27, 2012, 9:25 am

    yeah, I found myself basically nodding at most things and thinking…..darn tootin!

    But anywho, I digress and I’m left with one question: How do you find people to work on projects with?

    Luckily in college I made friends with the hard workers or nerds because I became one, and I thank whoever is out there everyday for that (mom). Now I have my own projects and people want to help but they can’t get enjoyment out of the hard work if there is no direct reward. If there is no grade attached or money involved, they lose motivation quickly. How do you find Bizzaro Deans?

  • The Stoic February 27, 2012, 9:33 am

    Nice piece MMM. This reminded me of my dad. He always wanted to instill in me a strong work ethic, to not be afraid of getting my hands dirty. I started helping him in his construction work when I was still in middle school. He would later tell me that what he was really trying accomplish was to motivate me to go to school so I wouldn’t be doing manual labor all my life. It worked.

    Years later when I was working 80 hrs a week trying to buy my first home coworkers would ask why I was working so much overtime, was I crazy working all these hours? I looked at ’em and said this is not work, I’ve worked freezing mornings digging ditches with my dad. This is cake in comparison. When I told this story to my dad I think he was proud of this moment only second to when I graduated college, being the frist in our family to do so. The lesson he had tried to teach me as kid had been successful. Thanks for rekindling that memory this morning.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2012, 10:32 am

      Yeah! Hopefully the love of hard work wears off on my son too. He certainly has the opportunity to gain it, because I often reminisce fondly about recent projects when I’m not working, and talk enthusiastically about work when I am doing it.

      This bizarre work-loving condition of mine has become so extreme that I now have “inverse weekend syndrome”. I look forward to Monday, since that means five full days to explore new fields and get things done. The weekend family time is also great, but it’s just a bit less stimulating at times, because I don’t get to work as much. (As the boy gets older, however, we are able to mix in more and more advanced/strenuous activities into weekends, making them just as fun as workdays).

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 27, 2012, 12:40 pm

      Very good point! One of my summers in college, I had a full time job at the gas company, digging ditches, loading and unloading pipe from trucks, cleaning bathrooms, mowing the lawn, weed-whacking the weeks, gassing up the trucks. Then I had a 20-hr a week job bagging groceries on nights and weekends.

      Digging ditches is hard work. And running a week-whacker through 3 ft tall weeds is dirty. Talk about the dead bugs in my hair.

  • lurker February 27, 2012, 10:32 am

    Tim still works very frigging hard. Only now the job is self-promotion and he is showing himself a devoted master at that…
    and this is not hater talk. I must admire his passion for self-promotion. I am a moron, still killing myself for “the man”.
    working very hard indeed to get out from under my mortgage and pending college expenses for my kids.
    cheers to all.

  • Poor Student February 27, 2012, 10:37 am

    One of the best lessons on getting rich. Even in your example, in addition to all the knowledge you gained by doing your own insulation, even if you worked bleary eyed and sleepless all weekend that is almost $100/hr for the 48 hour weekend. Good pay if you can get it.

    People need to read this before they read another other Get Rich With: kind of articles.

  • Tim Stobbs February 27, 2012, 10:56 am

    While I agree with the general idea of your post, I’m going to poke holes at something: not all hard work is good work. There is deminishing rate of return on some tasks where is doesn’t pay to do it yourself or push the limit on.

    Case in point, back in the university days of engineering I used to calculate the portion of my final mark that every class assignment was worth to allow me to prioritize my homework. This also lead me to the fact that sometimes that butual hard question at the end of a particular assignment was even worth doing, since I could literally increase my mark in another class by four time what that question was worth. Not to mention this butual time management left me time to date my girlfriend who later became my wife (which ended up being a better investment than my degree).

    So while I agree hard work is a good thing, I caution don’t apply it mindlessly. You still need to be smart about what you work on.

    My two cents,

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2012, 2:07 pm

      Sure, prioritizing is an effective trick and I think it is smart to consider priorities in everything we do.

      But at the same time it is important to be stubborn and do things even when your natural instinct is to laze out of them.

      For example, in university, if you do ALL the assignments, even the brutally hard ones that don’t count for much, you often end up with extra skills that benefit you later. I remember spending 12 hours in one stretch to develop a mouse-based graphical user interface from scratch for one programming class assignment. Most of the other students just did text-based ones that took them an hour.

      That knowledge, where I had to become really good with arrays and fancy data structures and everything just clicked suddenly in my mind, catapulted me into much better assignment scores and software design jobs for the rest of my career. I may have earned $10,000 per hour or more for that 12-hour all night programming session.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque February 27, 2012, 2:45 pm

        Plus, the trains ran on time.

        I have a hazy recollection of doing something with an 8086 processor (ACCUMULATOR!!!). If I gained something valuable and intrinsically rewarding from labouring away on that thing in assembly language, it must have been the ability to work through something that annoyed my ass off, not the technological skill.

        My fonder memories of hard work involve that garden I built in our side yard. I dug the post holes by hand, used a chainsaw to carve the posts out of excess storm-damaged trees and spread the dirt around by shovel. Last year, I finally did the border fortifications properly, digging a channel around edge, planting three rows of bricks over gravel in it, then jamming welded fencing in between two of the rows of bricks.

        Solid, deer-proof. I don’t know how transferable those skills are, but shit, do I have a nice garden.

      • Tim Stobbs February 28, 2012, 7:14 am


        I still have to disagree with the idea that I should have done ALL the assignments. In my case, I have never used those skills since that time and they were worth nothing to me (in all fairness I am thinking about an electronics course when my major was Chemical Engineering). I think I got a much better rate of return dating my future wife.

        I still think there are several situations in life where the ‘just do the hard work and get through it’ thing doesn’t pay. Perhaps this is purely a matter of I have a different point of view than you. I also tend to think you have to look at your options of what you could have done with that time. Doing another project with a better rate of return or more interest in could be better than finishing a dead end project. In the end, I do think there are times where is pays to give up on something.

        Regardless I like the post. Thanks for writing it.


        • Christine Wilson February 28, 2012, 7:59 am

          @Tim – I think you make a lot of sense here. It’s a person’s reasoning that has to be checked and found that the project really won’t produce a “better rate of return” as you put it. Most people have a surplus of options in life, so I think it’s pretty important to choose a focus that :

          1. Is feasible, 2. Will pay off someday in the future, and 3. Optional/ideal: You have a passion/enjoy doing.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque February 28, 2012, 6:59 pm

          It’s not just about rate of return on investment.

          It’s also about being able to look at an unpleasant pile of work, put your head down and bash your way through right to the end.

          When you get done, you give yourself a pat on the back and realize that it wasn’t all that bad.

          The type of person who runs away from those tedious assignments in high school is the one who never survives a university program.

          The type of person who moans and cries about tedious university assignments is the jackass everyone else has to clean up after in the real world because he never quite does his job.

          I suppose, if you’re the type who logically figures his time out and assigns it to the most valuable university tasks, I could see your point. But, for most people, skipping the tough assignments is nothing but laziness training.

          • Mr. Money Mustache February 28, 2012, 9:14 pm

            Yeah! Mr. Toque is definitely walking the fine line correctly in this case. To much “efficiency” in choosing what tasks you do, leads to “Dean Syndrome” – he thought he was too smart and busy to install the insulation, or work alongside the framing crew, or do a whole host of other things. He failed because of it.

            Some software engineers I worked with in the past were too smart and busy to follow the group’s coding standards, or write clear documentation, or endure a grueling code review and test cycle before publishing their work. Their code failed in the field because of that gussied-up laziness.

            The people I know who really succeed are like the Badass Honey Badger, and when something needs doing they’ll climb into the bee-infested log and munch the honey right out of the hive. They don’t give a shit that they’re getting stung about a million times – they just want to get the honey eating job done without fussing about it too much.

            That’s the attitude I’m promoting here. Sure, your goal should be to “work smart”. But occasionally you’ll have to just “work hard”, and you should remind yourself during this time that it is doing you a world of good, so smile and enjoy it.

          • Momster August 22, 2013, 3:55 pm

            When I decided to take on a professional certificate program I had a baby and worked relentlessly on night shifts doing an exemplary job of my menial occupation. My homework time was my hair is on fire study time make the absolute most of it because all the other minutes of the day are needed for other essential things. I got better marks in that program than my degree. All my homework was not as perfect as I would have preferred but I got er done.

            I’m capable, organized and good to work with. That’s the cred of a hard working badger!
            I have a more general comment regarding the rich talking to the poor further along this string of comments:A few years later I was working in a high end clothing store part time as my 3rd(under paid) job. Consistently the ladies would say “I’ m buying this to wear on vacation, I’ve worked hard I deserve it.” Many times the thought crossed my mind. . .”Lady you have no idea”

        • Mark Schreiner November 21, 2016, 6:34 pm

          Another reason not to “prioritize” too carefully but rather bash through all work that falls to you is that you do not really know what skills (or habits) will end up paying off. At least that has been my experience. Hard work paid off, but not in ways I could have predicted.

          • Kevin March 16, 2017, 12:21 pm

            i very much agree with this. if there is work to be done, i do it because i can. you should know your priorities, but in almost every case nobody actually has so much work that they can’t accomplish it all (let’s say at university). anyone who tells you so is almost inevitably fibbing (probably before they tell you about the latest tv series that they binge-watched over the weekend).

            that’s not to say people should swamp themselves intentionally or employers should abuse their staff, but it’s all relative. you want to be someone who learns to attack “work” with gusto and hard-headed determination. when you build that mindset, it tends to stop feeling like work after awhile. another case of humans being able to acclimatize to new lifestyles.

      • James January 28, 2013, 12:51 pm

        As a software developer at age 25, and a programmer since 12, I just have to geek out about this phenomena. In my 13 years writing code, there have been 3 breakthrough moments after spending 10+ hours grappling with a hard technical problem. It’s only possible with a mixture of inspiration, determination, and frustration that is hard to come by.

        However, after those breakthroughs, I spent weeks, or sometimes months, just blazing through problems that used to phase me with very little difficulty — the new neural connection my brain was forced to make by solving those problems ended up generally being insanely versatile, helping me shortcut less efficient mental processes and understand whole new classes of problems with ease.

        That is one of the huge benefits of hard work — once you work through something once, it opens a door that never closes in your mind. A whole new world of things is possible. It’s pretty damned sweet.

  • Jon February 27, 2012, 11:18 am

    Hard work? Are you kidding?! This is 2012. That’s not how things work anymore.

    I read “The Secret” and I plan on making my millions by sitting at home and visualizing paychecks arriving in my mailbox.

    Hahahahah! Sorry, I must laugh at my own jokes in case no one else does.

    • jlcollinsnh February 28, 2012, 6:02 am

      wait. you were kidding? Ah, crap…..

      back to work.

  • JaneMD February 27, 2012, 11:18 am

    I’m certainly not opposed to hard work. I grew up on a farm and my father thought that shingling the barn and bailing hay were excellent summer-time activities for anyone over the age of 9. (When I moved out, he started hiring the local football team to bale the hay at a reduced rate as part of their summer weight training.)

    Hubby JD and I recently had a discussion about what career paths we expected our children to have. Despite being a doctor and lawyer, both of us agreed that jobs like carpenter, plumber, and electrician would be good options as they are things that can’t be outsourced to India or fully computerized.

  • Dmitry February 27, 2012, 11:49 am

    Nice to read such a simple, down to the earth advice! I really like and appreciate it. I began my self-improvement journey in earnest around 2006, but could never get past some new-agey bullshit like that of Steve Pavlina.
    Then I discovered ERE with Jacob – and my, oh my, this guy made a lot of sense, finally! Then – MMM, and MMM is also a very sensible guy.

    I also concur with the idea that you often find yourself (i.e., discover something about yourself you didn’t know) through work. I often find it very rewarding – again, to confirm MMM’s claims ;).

    On a different note, I used to do some WWOOFing, but eventually got it out of my system – some hosts just take advantage of you and treat you like a thing, or slave. I’m too proud to succumb to that. I’d rather work for myself, or help my friends, or even volunteer – but without signing my life away for even a week. I’m not against working for free, but I am all for personal freedoms! :)

    Good work, Mr MM. And thank you for the inspiration (and validation) you provide with your blog.

  • The Money Monk February 27, 2012, 11:57 am

    Couldn’t agree more. The kind of work that directly rewards the level of effort is the only kind I am interested in.

    A lot of the things I am working hard on right now are not paying me yet, but the ‘hourly wage’ I get from these hours could be be huge when all is said and done.

  • Christine Wilson February 27, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Glad I wasn’t the only one to notice Tim Ferris worked really really hard to get to the 4 hour work week. And somehow I missed your article on this one so I’ll have to go read it now ;) Hard work is enjoyable… and annoying all at the same time! Annoying when you feel “stuck” or it’s difficult to foresee the results of your cumulative efforts. On the later, as I get older I’m getting better at this! On the first, I don’t think there is any way to get out of feeling stuck if your constantly growing. It’s part of the process. ;)

    Finding others who enjoy hard work is really important to me these days. I don’t know about anyone else.. but hanging out with shortcut people can make me feel like all my efforts are a waste… and can make it too easy to be complacent. Blogs like these are great for my own personal/progressive growth.

  • Rolf February 27, 2012, 12:06 pm

    I dont mind hard work. I grew up partly on the old-style farm of my grandparents and learned their work ethics. Bring on any work for me!

    My problem is that my managerial challenges robs me of sleep. 4 hours of sleep, then stress comes up and I wake up and are unable to sleep for the rest of the night becouse I think of all the things to be done and how to handle all kinds of issues. I am good at what I do. It is hard work, and it is probably killing me. Hard work, bring it on! No sleep – wont last. So the real trick when working hard is not to let it stress you.

    Any tricks for that?

    • Matt February 27, 2012, 12:29 pm

      @Rolf – have you tried various self-management tools? In particular, the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen is quite popular. I don’t use his system to the letter, but I definitely got some take-aways from the book that lowered my stress level.

      Also, if you’re not doing these things already: exercise and proper diet help with every aspect of life, including stress.

      • Rolf February 27, 2012, 1:10 pm



        yes indeed I have picked up a lot from self management tools, but the stress does indeed still cling on to me at night. At day I thrive and Get Things Done :-)
        Vacations are the worst – So hard work and being dutiful is a risk.

    • Mike February 27, 2012, 12:41 pm

      I’d recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen. I recently read this and it’s chock full of good ideas on just what you are mentioning – getting everything out of your head and onto some form of written list or database. This allows you to focus on the next action steps and hopefully eliminate the needless worry we all seem to have of wondering if you’ve got everything covered. A really great book if you give the action steps a real shot at working.

    • average guy February 27, 2012, 1:04 pm

      a. dont drink coffee or other caffeine, you’ll sleep better. take several days to get off the caffeine, dont give up.

      b. as i get older my sleep patterns change, so no unusual to wake in the middle of the night. just try to take it easy after lunch, about 1pm, when the drowsiness sets in. if i make it to 2pm or so, i am fine for the afternoon.

      • Ishabaka September 1, 2015, 5:12 pm

        No screens after 8:00pm works for me – no screens at all, no TV, phone, computer, tablet. Read books. It uses a different part of your brain.

    • Marlene February 29, 2012, 3:54 pm

      Tricks on going to sleep even if there is stress: try out e.g. progressive muscle-relaxation (Jacobsen) or something the like – Autogenic training, Feldenkrais etc. come to mind.

      Also find out what in the past made a good sleep possible for you: e.g. no coffee past a certain hour, a certain routine before going to bed that signals to yourself that you are going to rest now – and possibly also a strategy to deal with upcoming toughts through the night, e.g. by having pen and paper on hand to write down things that you can/need to do the next morning.

      Sometimes I tell friends that in the nighttime nothing can be changed anyhow and that they just need to have a way to have the subconscious understand that the pressing issues are going to be dealt with.

      Anyway – because I´m writing this on an American Blog please know that you need to be responsible for yourself and that I´m not a doctor (albeit a former paramedic and now in-my-freetime-feldenkrais-teacher) so check your facts and don´t come complanypanting to me!

    • Bakari February 29, 2012, 4:36 pm

      I remember reading an article in a medical journal in college, which compared a number of different pharmaceutical, herbal, relaxation, and other techniques for falling asleep.
      The conclusion was very interesting. Of all the things they tried, sex was more effective than OTC sleep medicine, and tied for first place in effectiveness with prescription medication. It worked better than warm milk and bananas, a warm bath, meditation, camomile tea, and Valerian extract.

      (of note, in the study it was confined to committed relationships, and they mentioned that the effect could be reversed if there was worry over std, pregnancy, or performance, so YMMV)

    • James January 28, 2013, 1:05 pm

      The trick to stress isn’t to resolve it — this ultimately results in something like Tiny Detail Exaggeration Syndrome.

      Happiness/low stress is only known to be strongly correlated to two things:
      1. An internal locus of control — if you feel that your actions, not the external world, are what determine your lot in life, you are far more likely to be happy. I’m guessing you have this down.

      2. The second is a low level of neurosis — a low tendency to worry. A lot of us smart people have big problems with this. The key is to force yourself to not worry. This is hard to do in the small of the night, so it’s generally best to practice it during the day.

      I find that mentally yelling “STOP THINKING” at myself, repeatedly, until I comply, when I start down the path of worrying works about 80% of the time.

  • Matt February 27, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I think there’s something to be said for finding the right kind of work that actually doesn’t seem “hard”. I agree, overall, the rate of return on hard work is quite high. And there are times you just have to suck it up and plow through the hard work that lies ahead of you.

    But if you’re doing work you truly enjoy, then it’s twice as sweet: you get all the good stuff you talked about, but the work itself is enjoyable. You’re working hard but it doesn’t feel like drudgery.

    I recently read a blog post where a famous author (I forget which one) was quoted as saying something to the effect of: “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.” Surely everyone feels that way about something in their life at some point. I don’t like my (current, for-pay) job, but I like having worked it.

    But what if that author also enjoyed the act of writing itself? Presumably, he’d then be that much happier.

    That’s what FI is all about to me. I don’t really have any desire to “do nothing” all day. In fact, I do like to work—on my own terms. I’d like to be able to work hard at things without worrying about the pay factor. When I was young, my uncle paid me to help him work on the family farm. Now I’d enjoy doing that for free: good company, the opportunity to learn lots of useful information, and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

    I’m a programmer, and I generally enjoy writing code. But the act of software creation loses some of its luster when you have someone telling when and how to do it, and/or forcing you to work on something in which you’re not interested. But if I was FI… I could “work hard” at open source projects of my choosing: I’d be learning new things, continuing to develop a useful and practical skill, and opening up future opportunities of all kinds.

    • Christine Wilson February 27, 2012, 12:31 pm

      I like doing my own programming projects after work. It is definitely more enjoyable when you can pick and choose! I think what you say is very true and if you can balance your life with what you enjoy and where you can earn money you are happier indeed!

  • Kadi February 27, 2012, 12:20 pm

    In estonia, we have a famous(only in our country) writer who ended one of his most known novel something like that( if u translate it): do hard work and then gomes the love. It sounds better in estonian, but the meaning is same: if u have worked hard u appreciate everything more. If u work hard, u appreciate work .

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 27, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Ha! You had me until “no passive TV watching allowed”. Okay, I know I watch too much TV.

    I have to agree with you on the hard work. There are many reasons why some succeed and others don’t. I had a conversation with a Gen Y coworker years ago, and he pointed out that not everyone starts with the same advantages in life (he was an engineer like me, but his parents were wealthy, so they paid his way through school. I paid my own way.) I pointed out “yeah, and some people just aren’t that smart.” Which apparently wasn’t PC of me. But it’s true.

    Some people start off with rich parents. Some have to work their asses off to go to school.
    Some people are naturally bright and great with numbers and can do engineering. Some people will NEVER be able to do engineering. And there is a nice long line of people in-between with different skills.
    Some people are willing to work hard, and some people aren’t. Some people work hard early on, then burn out or turn to drugs. Some people start off as slackers, and learn to work hard later.

    I’ve worked my butt off most of my life. From being that annoying kid getting straight A’s through school (until college, anyway), to being the overachiever at work. And I go home and cook meals, do laundry, do dishes, help my kid with homework, do some gardening (though I fully admit to hiring out the cleaning, but I swear I was 38 before I started doing that).

    I’m sure part of that is my personality, and a lot of it was just watching my parents. Not all of my siblings work like dogs – a couple do not. But the success of my slblings does appear to be related to their hard work also. More than half of my siblings did not go to college, but still they work hard enough that they’ve been successful in their chosen careers.

    Hard work translates from work to home. I’ve been very successful at work due to hard work. I have a wonderful, lovely kindergartener because I work hard to be a good parent to him. We are a healthy family because I work hard at meal planning and cooking healthy meals and exercise.

  • Shanna February 27, 2012, 12:48 pm

    If only there was a MMM class taught in middle and high school. Those little brains are open to big ideas. Go on tour MMM!

    • Shanna February 27, 2012, 1:01 pm

      Oh, I worked with men (and some women) in the woods when I was a teenager. Most were older than me, very hard workers and did not complain a lot. Everyone brought their own food from home and we were often gone 12 or more hours a day. Although some equipment was too heavy for me I planted trees, cleared brush, cleaned fire roads, light logging, hiking and counting trees etc. It is nice to learn the difference between tired and so tired you literally cannot eat and collapse into a coma at 7 pm. This also keeps you from being one of those people that just makes a lot of noise when moving furniture instead of actually lifting.

      I can still do hours more physical labor than my husband (suburban boy) but he can do 36 hours at his computer at work which would just kill me. I guess we’re a match!

  • Ginger February 27, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Once you have the wealth or passive income, you do not need to work hard but unless you were born to it, getting the wealth is hard. And that is why most do not get it, which honestly works for me. Work hard until your money can work for you, is the bottom line in my mind.

  • James Petzke February 27, 2012, 1:25 pm

    Great thoughts MMM, I’m glad that you clarified that after the post about Tim. Hard work is definitely what makes you successful in life, I 100% agree.

  • Earn Save Live February 27, 2012, 2:00 pm

    I love this post. I’ve been really fortunate this year, and I’m on track to break six figures of income for the first time. But that’s due to hard work – plus four years of underemployment while in graduate school.

    The kind of work that I do is more intellectually and intrapersonally challenging than it is physically or interpersonally challenging. (Although it can be that too, if you could first world injuries like tendinitis from spending too much time on a computer). But I love my work, and I consciously targeted this career.

    But I think that you also get at something else: we are not our jobs. We can enjoy hard work and reap the rewards from it, but our careers shouldn’t define us as people. There’s so much more to life than that!

  • Bakari February 27, 2012, 2:02 pm

    This post reminds me of when I worked in a metal factory in New Jersey.

    3 separate people, on different days, came up to me and asked me to stop working so hard. Seriously. No exaggeration. 3. And it was always “the other guys said to tell you”…
    They thought it made them look bad, because they always left for lunch 5 minutes early, always came back 5 minutes late, spent significant amounts of time talking during work hours, and worked at a nice relaxed pace the rest of the time.
    I just didn’t see the point of deliberately working slow. I have to be there the exact same number of hours either way. What difference does it make to me if I spend 8 hours doing the work I am paid for, or 4 hours working and 4 hours wasting time? Maybe if I could spend 4 hours working, and then go home and do something fun, sure, but as long as I am at work, might as well work!

    I’m all for leisure. Even maximizing it. I think working 40 hours a week (especially with the productivity per hour that modern technology allows) is insane – even a bit unethical. But, yeah, absolutely, the time that you do spend working, you should work as hard as possible.

    If you are lucky enough to not get paid by the hour, get it done, and move on to something else.
    Which applies to personal life too: I spent all of school and many years after as a major procrastinator. Then one day I realized, by taking my time on the unpleasant stuff, that just means I have less time left over for the stuff I actually want to do! How stupid and short-sighted is that? So now I try to just get it done, and over with (which includes not taking shortcuts, because then you just have to do it over again later – also includes not paying someone to do it, because then you have to work more to make the money to pay them)

    Working out is actually an amazingly good analogy. I go to the gym, and I see all the fit people struggling and straining and grunting to do one more high-weight rep. Then I look over at the super skinny people and the overweight people, and they are calmly doing 20 or 50 reps of an isolation exercise, at 20% of their one rep max, or they are walking on treadmills, not out of breath or even breaking a sweat, while the fit people are doing intervals and wind-sprints. And occasionally people make comments to me about how they wished they looked like me or could do the type of exercises I do (like muscle ups and hand-stand push-ups) and I don’t want to offend them, but seriously, you get out of it what you put into it. It isn’t supposed to be easy.

    • stagleton February 27, 2012, 2:22 pm

      If 1 person can do 2 peoples’ jobs, someone’s out of work. That’s why my old mailman would hangout for so long during his lunch break; the union didn’t want them working too hard (at least that’s what my middle school teacher said)

      I agree with working hard but over efficiency makes me a little uncomfortable. It scares me going to Walmart and seeing people replaced with electronic checkouts, but it’s hard not to buy 5 liters of oil for only 12 bucks. I still grit my teeth and try to buy local, but it sure is difficult.

      • Bakari February 27, 2012, 4:02 pm

        In our current version of society, yes, but its not inherently true.

        In a more thoughtful and fair society, both people would be cut back to half the hours for the same pay. The company isn’t losing anything – they are getting the same work done at the same cost in labor – and each person now has 20 hours free per week to spend however they want.

        Unfortunately, we don’t do it that way. The company lays one off, and keeps 100% of the profit created by the increase in labor productivity created by new technology.
        That is the main (and almost always overlooked) reason why wealthy inequality has grown so large in this country.

        Although there is a precedent for the alternative – the standard was once an 80 hour work week, and after the industrial revolution, as unions rose the 40 hour standard was created.
        I tried to start a petition to have overtime start at 30hr, which would totally end unemployment and push up wages at the same time, all without any need for increased market capital, but I couldn’t generate much enthusiasm for it.

        • Emmers February 28, 2012, 10:43 am

          I like these ideas! I dislike the “Office Space” model that seems to encourage inefficiency…

    • stagleton February 27, 2012, 2:33 pm

      Forgot to mention I agree. When your working you should be productive and a lot of times you don’t need to spend 40 hours doing something. If I were my mailman, I would have been trying to learn Chinese or something during my long lunch breaks instead of listening to MIX 98.9 and rotting my brain.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple February 27, 2012, 7:48 pm

      Very good point about procrastination!!

      And the gym is a good analogy. My company makes people fat. (I jest, but there’s a string of people who gain weight when they start). One of my former bosses was complaining about his gaining weight and talked about his workout (45 mins on a the elliptical).

      I casually mentioned he might want to try other things, or intervals. He ignored me. But then a year later said “You know, I realized that if it’s not hard, it’s not working.” Well. Duh.

      That said, I’m a walking or elliptical girl right now, by necessity.

  • Dragline February 27, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Hard work is definitely a motivator, whether to encourage habits of diligence and skill or to motivate you to rearrange things so you don’t have to work as hard, or at least only do the hard work you want to do.

    Whenever I’m stuck with something I’d rather not do, I always think back to “the worst jobs I ever had” — which for me involved working in a slaughtering house and a flour mill (with gen-u-ine real-live convicts). Nothing seems too difficult when you have the proper perspective.

  • BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog February 27, 2012, 7:10 pm

    Everything is a means to an end! I never really worked hard until I began my profession. I then became very comfortable with the 14 hours workday. That built a work ethic that serves me well until this day! Hard work makes you appreciate what you earn.

  • dot_com_vet February 27, 2012, 7:29 pm

    Great post, financial blogs seem to never cover this topic. Financial independence is rarely achieved without a few decades of honest, hard work.

    Add in some frugal living, and one is set for life.

  • Kate February 27, 2012, 8:12 pm

    The last 2 Valentine’s days have coincidentally coincided with my annual review at work. I tell people they have been the best Valentine’s Days of my life, because both times I got a raise and a hefty bonus on top of all the positive feedback I get for working both hard and smart at my job. Personally I prefer reaping the rewards of my talent, intelligence, and perseverance over receiving a dozen roses just for being female.

    And for the record, I pushed my son into a paper route when he was 12. He still thanks me for it.

  • Chris February 27, 2012, 9:17 pm

    No doubt, it all comes back to hard work. Good reminder. I’ve always suspected that success in life lies more in work ethic and desire than most any other factor.

    To be successful in most life pursuits, only average intelligence is required, the X-factor is always desire which shows itself in the form of good ‘ol fashioned hard work.

  • Jackson February 27, 2012, 9:59 pm

    What’s interesting is the job I had that paid me much more than any other job I’d ever had required the least amount of work and was the least stressful. The job was boring as all hell, though, and not fulfilling.

  • Brian February 27, 2012, 10:30 pm

    I was originally attracted to a different way of living by my partner. I liked the thought of not having to work for money, and spent too much time thinking about the end result – relaxation.

    I struggle with this every day. MMM, what advice do you have to motivate yourself to do the hard work? I often find myself shying away from hard work, because I can’t see the benefit of it, or that I’ll be ‘doing it wrong’ and wasting my time. I really like your maxim “In the long run, in the Game of Life, we all get Paid by the Hour” (I’m considering quoting you in my email signature!) but how do I get myself to believe it.

    I talk about being different as a good thing, but sometimes wonder if I’m willing to work hard enough to succeed at it.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  • mikeBOS February 27, 2012, 11:10 pm

    I see any paid work, that’s done primarily for the sake of acquiring money, more as a necessary evil that has to be endured rather than as some kind of soul-building virtue.

    Admittedly paid work isn’t the worst thing in the world, and there is a nice feeling that comes with having reached a long-term goal from months or years of work. But I still prefer the feeling of starting a day of cycling, climbing a mountain, studying something that interests me, or heading out for a day at the beach to any kind feeling that comes from achieving a goal.

    Though paid work has to be distinguished from, say, working on an independent project. I don’t see anything good about a repetitive, difficult job other than accumulating savings and building tolerance so that you can put up with other repetitive, difficult jobs in the future. Where as working to build your own home, retrofit a car, nurture a garden, or studying something, can rightly be called ‘work’, that kind of work is done primarily because it’s enjoyable, not primarily because it adds to your bottom line.

    I mean sure, a kid without a trust fund needs to be instilled with the ability to acquire skills and put up with long-term, difficult work. But after he has achieved financial independence and is securely retired, I’m not sure those coping skills really have much value anymore since the only thing they’re good for is putting up with the difficulties that come with being an employee or full-time business owner.

    I guess I’m trying to differentiate between the “hard work”-tolerant character trait that allows someone to be a good employee and the character trait of enjoying work that allows someone to ultimately become a Renaissance man from a lifetime of curiosity and acquiring skills. I think they’re two distinct things.

    • Bakari February 28, 2012, 9:09 am

      “But I still prefer the feeling of starting a day of …climbing a mountain…”

      There are not very many jobs which are as much work than climbing a mountain!

      So the distinction you are really making has nothing to do with being “hard” work, or difficult, but rather with being boring or menial or pointless.
      Which I agree with entirely, but it is an important distinction. Whether or not you get paid has no bearing on how hard it is, nor on how menial it is.

      I had about 30 jobs before I finally started my own business, lasting anywhere from 1 day to 10 months. I would always get bored and move on, because they were all pretty simple and I would have mastered them by then. I’ve been able to stand what I do now for 5 1/2 years because it is challenging and different every day – which makes it not menial or boring – but I am still getting paid for it!

      Instead of working on my own projects, I am working on other people’s; but if I am doing the same thing I might do for myself and not call it work, why would I find it any worse if I get paid to do the same thing for someone else?

      Although, in another way, I do kind of know the feeling: in high school and college I used to cycle recreationally every other weekend. Then I got a job as a bike messenger, and somehow lost any motivation to go out on the weekends. It became a little less fun when I was getting paid to do it. That’s why I never made any serious attempt to become a porn star.

  • Ben February 28, 2012, 1:41 am

    hi MMM,

    good work cutting through Ferris – you are on the right path for sure – his approach will provide little in the way of long term value

    As Tolstoy said way back in 1856, “One can live magnificently in this world if one knows how to work and how to love…”

    You’ve got a solid handle on work, so lets have an article on love next (maybe its already lurking in your back catalogue?)

    – Ben

    • Jimbo February 28, 2012, 6:36 am

      I see this article… ‘Get Rich with… A life partner!’…


      • madge February 28, 2012, 7:23 am

        and it has to be an awesome life partner! the wrong one can make things so much worse, right?

      • Christine Wilson February 28, 2012, 11:29 am

        That would be a good one! I think having a great relationship with a great partner can take you financially and emotionally far in life!

  • jlcollinsnh February 28, 2012, 6:15 am

    growing up I loved all my jobs: busboy, dishwasher, pump jockey, bagger, stock clerk, taking down diseased elm trees; that last being the hardest and the best.

    I can’t recall anybody I worked with complaining about these “menial” jobs, Including those for whom they were their life’s work. Today somehow it seems these jobs are “beneath” a lot of folks. Too bad, I think.

    During my professional life I’ve had a tendency to put in insanely long hours and hard work. Great for results but I would tend to burn out at around year four:

    Since there were no blogs with like minded people, or internet for that matter, back in those days, this is probably what motivated me to make accumulating Fuck You Money a priority:

    Can’t say I’ve loved every minute, but there was value in most.

  • Frans February 28, 2012, 8:10 am

    Don’t really like this post.

    Maybe I’m just one of those wanting to take a shortcut….

    Well I do want to take a shortcut, but I don’t see it as bad as MMM is making it out to be.

    I’m not talking about shortcuts as in paying some dudes 5000 for something I could do myself much, much cheaper. Why would I? And even Ferris might’ve questioned that decision, unless you could earn those 5000 doing something else that weekend.

    I’m kind a fan of the Pareto principle. I’m not opposing hard work, but if my income could come from working 50% of full-time earning 80% of a full-time salary, would that a bad thing? As long as you’re spending your additional free time doing things you learn from (travel, open source programming, reading books, home improvement etc) I sincerly doubt that it’d be a bad idea, and you probably still could become rich as you’d probably go MMM-style and actually earn some money during the time “off”.

    • Mayank February 28, 2012, 8:31 pm

      I don;t think MMM is advocating to work just for work’s sake. The point is when you’re working hard, you’re learning some skills and setting yourself up for success – whatever that means to you.
      So even if you decide to take a paycut and spend your free time in other activities that interest you, it would still be good. Isn’t that what MMM himself does?

      • Frans February 29, 2012, 4:17 am

        Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it kind of sounded like that. Either way I think it’s important to remember that you actually need to learn new things and work on your skills those times when you’re working hard. Working hard at something you find menial could make the best of us go crazy.

  • My Money Talk Online February 28, 2012, 8:13 am

    Great article helping motivate me to work hard to achieve what I want and believe I can achieve. You make a good point about Tim Ferriss and the 80 hour work weeks he puts in. He may say that he was wasting his time but the truth is he was building the foundation to base his current 4 hour work week on. Without those years of 80 hour work weeks he wouldn’t have been able to transition to the 4 hour week and be as successful as he is. This is possibly one problem with his book, many people believe they can create the same wealthy great lifestyle on just 4 hours a week but to get to that point you need to put in alot of work up front.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple February 28, 2012, 8:28 am

    Planting seeds is an excellent analogy. Reminds me a lot of the same analogy applied to Karma and the laws of cause and effect.

    Every action you take has a consequence, whether you deliberately chose that action or not.

  • Kevin Meyers February 28, 2012, 9:11 am

    Another thing that occured to me as I was reading this post for the fourth time this morning: you should try to set up your life so that you and your assets are “working” 24/7, even when you’re not. I know you’ve touched on this before – but by making sure you are putting your savings to its most productive use, your money is “working” for you all the time. And by eating the right diet and lifting weights, your body is “working” towards better body composition, less fat, more muscle, etc. all the time. Every time you avoid a wasteful impulse purchase, or cancel a subscription to a stupid magazine or gym or cable TV, you are “working” by increasing your personal balance sheet. Put simply – you should strive to automate as much of your “working” as you can. Just get that snowball rolling downhill as early as possible.

  • MarkCB February 28, 2012, 9:20 am

    A good work ethic never goes out of style. I’m 28, and I just realized this last year.

    I was a ‘gifted’ kid in elementary school. I formed a habit of thinking I was smarter than others, and I got by reasonably well on minimal effort.

    By the time I started college (at 24 because of my laziness) I had loads of consumer debt, no work ethic, and I got my ass handed to me at school. Those ‘average’ kids had totally outpaced me because they learned long ago that hard work trumps innate ability nearly every time.

    My kids will learn the value of hard work like I never did. I expect I’d be more competent, and thus more confident, in many more areas if I’d learned this lesson earlier.

    Excellent article, MMM. This is always a timely message.

    • Jeff February 29, 2012, 6:07 pm

      I have to disagree. I think smarts trump hard work. You don’t go into debt because you’re lazy. You go into debt because you make poor decisions. There are times where hard work and thorough planning are worth your time, but far too often people mistake the effort as the accomplishment. It doesn’t matter how long it took you or how hard you tried. All that matters is that it got done.

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 1, 2012, 10:38 am

        I think it DOES matter how long it takes you or how hard you tried. Not in measuring success for that one individual task, but in measuring the benefits you’ll get over your lifetime.

        Sure, you should always try to work wisely and efficiently.. But in general, all hard work and struggle is good in itself. Even work which seems dumb at the time. Why? Because it builds character and leads to unexpected benefits down the road that cannot be predicted in advance. That’s the whole point of this article.

        If anyone still doesn’t agree with this concept – fine – they’re free to write about it in their competing blogs. But you’ll never see me back down from the idea of embracing hard work. I am more than satisfied with the speed at which it got me to my own early retirement, and the results it has delivered since then.

        • Bakari March 1, 2012, 11:13 am

          Its a false dichotomy anyway.
          If, for example, working harder is 2x more productive, or alternatively working smarter is also 2x more productive, than working harder at working smarter is 4x more productive!

        • Ray August 25, 2014, 5:31 pm

          How about hard work which yield no results and goes against your integrity? For example, what would you say about hard work of a retail finance salesman who is supposed to sell his customers products that he’s quite aware will harm them? Does this type of hard work also seems to yield “benefits over lifetime” to you? Or how about hard work of a not-so-talented academic researcher who realizes that he has to produce a certain number of research papers because that’s how he’s scored, not because what he actually can contribute to science? Or hard work sucking up to your superiors?

          Essentially, I think that cheating often also takes hard work – and under some circumstances it may be even expected of you. But, besides of monetary compensation, it mostly gives to you dividends in form of frustration and self-loathing in such case.

          While reading your article, I couldn’t help the impression that what you described was not really “hard work” – not in my book. You were talking about focused, challenging, but still productive and satisfying activities that yield worthwhile results for you and others if and when completed. Unfortunately, not all hard work belongs into this category.

      • Em-Dog September 21, 2020, 7:14 am

        My favorite quote relating to this idea is “give the hardest problem to the laziest person because they’ll find an easy way to solve it” obviously this is only true for people that will actually follow through.

  • Yabusame February 28, 2012, 12:56 pm

    I’ve just started on the bottom rung of a second career. Took a HUGE paycut to do it but I don’t regret it at all. Yes, it will mean FI is a little further away, but the time I spend getting there is going to be all the sweeter.

    The company I now work for has feedback cards for ‘customers’. My name just appeared today on a notice board as someone who contributed a great deal to ‘customers’ visits (the phrase on the feedback card is ‘…someone who made your visit memorable’). The funny thing is, there is another notice right next to this one, also posted today, saying welcome to new members of staff, and my name is listed there too :-)

    I loved this post, MMM, keep them coming.

  • Mr Mark February 28, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I think the secret is to get a job you’re passionate about and love to do – but that someone is willing to pay you to do on top!

    • Mayank February 28, 2012, 8:24 pm

      Yeah, but that’s much harder to do than to say :)
      I’m in the software field but only because it pays well. I just don’t know what kind of job I’d be passionate about! The mustachian way of life seems to be my calling though.

    • Bakari February 29, 2012, 4:27 pm

      Sometimes getting paid to do something makes it less enjoyable. Especially when you are forced to do it 40hour a week, for years and years.
      This is why I would never want to be a porn star.

  • FreeUrChains February 29, 2012, 2:43 pm

    This type of Work reminds me of Jacob’s ERE story about Robinson Crusoe and the island stranger. After picking 80 berries a day and having to eat 60 to maintain his strength, he would use an excise of 80 berries saved to “Work” Hard and build a Tool to pick more berries/day. After enough tools, he would lend berries to the island stranger with an Interest rate. Before long he was living off of the island stranger’s daily work habbits and wasteful non savings of berries, All the while building more luxurious things out of the collection of tools. Eventually I personally believe in sharing these tools of knowledge and savings/investment strategies like MMM and Jacob are doing with their blogs. Never give up on making self-sufficient Autonomous Systems and Tools for your Necessities and wants, you can have employees and debtors work for you only so long before you should start feeling guilty for Having so many berries.

    • Steve March 1, 2012, 2:48 am

      the same Jacob from ERE who is now a quant for an investment bank?

  • Jeff February 29, 2012, 6:03 pm

    “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

    – Tim Ferriss

  • Kimmie March 5, 2012, 7:25 am

    Loved, loved, loved this post!!! We sat down with our two sons and read this together! Such wonderful advice and words of wisdom.

  • Emmers March 6, 2012, 12:17 pm

    To balance this post, I offer this Cracked.com article, particularly item #5.


    “So, mister rich person who clearly is not reading this, when we say you’re “lucky,” we’re not saying you’re lucky in the way that a lottery winner is lucky. We’re saying that you’re lucky if you were born in a time and place where the hard work you’re good at (say, stock speculation) is valued over the hard work that other people are good at (say, landscaping).”

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 6, 2012, 2:38 pm

      I loved that cracked article! Hopefully you’re not confusing my attempted message of this article, with the usual the-poor-should-just-take-care-of-their-own-damned-selves speech that the privileged people like to give.

      I’m not suggesting that hard work automatically makes you rich. But I AM suggesting that working hard is much more likely to make you HAPPY, than not working hard. Increased wealth is another probable side effect. There are exceptions to the rule, but it is pointless to write about exceptions that you can’t control. Much better to focus on understanding the rules, since in the long run your chances of success are better with more understanding of how our system works.

      Another key difference between me and the rich preachers: I acknowledge that with annual spending at over $25,000 per year, my family is living a HUGE, RICH, EASY life. We could live on half this amount and still be rolling in pleasure. And really, we should be trying to live on less. Any problems my family runs into, with this level of wealth, will be due to our own failings or due to random chance – not due to lack of money.

      This is the opposite message of the senators and Torontonians that say life is hard on $200k-$500k per year.

      • Emmers March 20, 2012, 10:02 am

        Agreed on this comment!

        (ETA: It’s more the things other commenters say, like “I got where I got because of Hard Work, not because of Luck!” that I have a problem with. They got where they are because of *both.*)

      • ErikZ April 10, 2012, 8:37 am

        Working hard has never made me happy.

        It makes me completely miserable. After the job is done, I do not get a glow of job well done. All I see is the flaws in my work, and I rant at a world that let things deteriorate to a point where I have to step in and take heroic measures to fix.

        The only lesson I’ve ever gotten from being assigned a long hard job is that me and my time are considered worthless.

        • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2012, 9:12 am

          I dunno, ErikZ.. are you sure you’re not just doing the wrong kind of work? What do you really enjoy doing? And I don’t just mean what would you do as a break from all that hard work. What would you enjoy doing for years on end?

          When I had a stressful job, I got a certain pleasure from the odd lazy weekend. Now with no job, I get most of my pleasure from the times I’m NOT being lazy. Many people find the same thing, but it takes a certain period of unwinding from a lifetime of mandatory work to realize it.

          • Bakari April 10, 2012, 10:25 am

            “All I see is the flaws in my work”…”me and my time are considered worthless.” – that may be the key part. Its nothing to do with work, per say, as much as a self-esteem and/or perfectionist psychological issue.

  • hands2work October 3, 2012, 12:41 pm

    just sent this link to my son who is in his first semester of college. I hope he reads it and aborbs it!!!

  • Dan February 13, 2013, 2:53 pm

    I can relate to this post on so many levels. When I was younger, from 15-19, I worked at McDonald’s as many hours I could while others played sports and other recreational activities. I found the manual labor not to be very fun, but worked very hard at it to make the most money I could, which wasn’t much at the time.

    So often now I find myself relating back to that early work experience in my current job, and even other experiences I have had working at places such as call centers, etc. My wife recently asked if we should just skip a consignment sale because it would be “too hard with two kids.” I told her no, even if we didn’t consign much stuff, even if we had only enough time to tag one or two items, we needed to go through the experience for the learning curve. I figured if I could get her to agree to do one, the next time we need to sell used clothes, we will be more motivated and quicker.

    It turns out she agrees now, this won’t take much time, and this can be done relatively quickly. I see many more consignment sales in our future.

  • Jess March 2, 2013, 8:59 pm

    It’s funny – I’m in a line of work that is ALL about the mind (law) but I don’t find my work in this area all that satisfying. Rather, I get a crazy amount of satisfaction from physical labour. My first year of law school I spent 12-14 hours each day of my 9 day Christmas vacation laboriously stripping, sanding, priming and painting literally every single surface of my parents’ new home. I even spent a few hours there on Christmas Day! Nothing gives me the same glow of success as gradually transforming the proverbial sow’s ear house into a silk purse through my own hard work =)

  • Bruno October 16, 2013, 11:59 am

    Well, Mr. MM there is a name for what you describe here: The Protestant work ethic. In general your entire blog seems to be about it. Maybe it is time to write a blog entry about that.

  • Joey October 27, 2013, 7:34 pm

    I’m a young (20y) engineering technologist. I also have a good story about hard work. It’s about this summer. I’ve graduated from engineering highschool in Austria last year. Then I had to serve at the ambulance which I finished in March. I was planning to go to university in fall (that’s where I am now) but had a few free months in between. (My other option was to start working at one of many engineering companies for € 2000/m tariff gross pay like most of my friends did) I was looking for a 3-month-job in engineering to gain some valuable experience. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything because most companies would only give internships to people who are enrolled at an educational institution.
    I had also sent out a resume for shift work at a chipboard factory just in case and because a friend had recommended it. I got the only positive reply from them. I was reluctant to take the job because I was overqualified.
    In the end I decided it’s better to take the job than sit at home. I worked there for 10 weeks. The three worst things we had to do there were:
    – When one chipboard press was stopped for maintainence, we crawled into it wearing oil-resistant overalls and cleaned it. The sweat started running after a minute. That was a 1400-2200 shift.
    – Sometimes we had to work 1800-0600 12h! weekend shifts.
    – A few times I stared at white laminated chipboards all night and checked if they are okay.
    At least I worked at five different machines at that company, more than some people who had been working there for years, so I never got really bored.

    In the end my combined paychecks for the ten weeks were € 7081 gross, that’s € 5532 take-home-pay. Besides earning a lot of money I also learned a lot about the lives of industry workers which is certainly a valuable perspective for an engineer.


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