Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Celebrating Hard Work, Part 1


"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."
Source unknown, but attributed to Thomas Jefferson and to Coleman Cox
If you follow foreign soccer, you know that two of the greatest soccer players of all time currently play in Spain, competing face to face in one of the fiercest club rivalries anywhere. Lionel Messi from Argentina suits up in the "blaugrana" of FC Barcelona, while Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo wears the royal whites of arch-rival Real Madrid. When these two superstars and their respective teams go head to head in "El Clásico," it's a clash of titans, an event the whole world stops to watch.  

Messi and Ronaldo have towered over Spanish and European soccer for an entire decade. Each year since 2008, one of these two men has won the most coveted individual prize in soccer, FIFA's Ballon d'Or award for the best soccer player on the planet. The other man was the runner-up during that stretch in every year but one. Their two-man domination has been overwhelming.

But this article is about Labor Day, not soccer. I'm using the examples of Messi and Ronaldo to highlight a character trait they have in common: a completely uncommon work ethic, a "world-class" work ethic. No one works harder, trains harder, practices harder and longer, than these two. Both have an amazing amount of natural talent that by itself would have made them exceptional athletes. But what has taken them to the very pinnacle of their profession is sheer determination and hard work. Both are well known for their intensity in training and conditioning, and their obsession for game preparation. In their own words:

"Talent without working hard is nothing." Cristiano Ronaldo

"You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it." Lionel Messi

* * * * *

In a few days we celebrate Labor Day. I find it ironic that this holiday seems nowadays to honor non-work rather than work. It seems to be all about barbecues and picnics and not much else. There's not even a whiff of patriotism or honoring fallen heroes, as with our other summer holidays. No, this day is all about doing nothing.

Hard work used to be as American as apple pie, but things seem to be changing. The lack of a serious work ethic among so many in our country does not bode well for the future. When work is seen as punishment rather than opportunity, or as something only for suckers or losers, our culture and economy teeter on the brink of stagnation.  

Years ago, Pope John Paul II warned of societal forces that "stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire." This attitude of dishonoring hard work may be the logical by-product of today's fame-driven American culture, where "Everyone wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work." (Kevin Hart).  

Successful people - as opposed to famous people - have a different mindset about hard work. They relish it and see it as the way to reach their goals and achieve success. As Lou Holtz said, "Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they're making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that's the difference."

Messi and Ronaldo are the best in the world because of a combination of natural talent and relentless, back-breaking work. But you don't have to be a superstar athlete or a superstar anything to pay the price and earn the rewards of hard work. As Gordon B. Hinckley noted, "The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner. Because without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." Hard work by ordinary people is the key to individual success and American greatness.

That's what we should be celebrating this Labor Day.

Next week's Wednesday Wisdom:

Celebrating Hard Work, Part 2 -Which is more important, to work harder or to work smarter?

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