Why is “Hard Work” Valued Over “Efficiency?”

By: Brad Manock

       rpm     I have always hated working hard for the sake of working hard. If I work hard at achieving a task, their needs to be a logical and clear reason. Throughout my childhood I would often be told to complete tasks such as chores or school work only to get in trouble when the adults found that I had not been doing the task the “correct” way. If I did chores too quickly or efficiently, I would be told that it is: not clean enough, needs to be painted again, etc. A car that is going 25 MPH and has its engine going at 4,000 RPM is not praised for working so hard, but looked at more closely since something is clearly wrong. Efficiency should be our highest personal value in our culture, but it is not, why is this? That is what I will discuss in this article.


I’m Better Than You

            An individual’s highest value is usually, the one that they are the best at themselves. If an individual is very smart, then intelligence will be their highest personal value. If an individual is an elite athlete, then those physical traits will be their highest personal value. People seem to have a need or an instinct to make themselves seem as valuable as possible in the presence of other people, to showcase their strengths and ignore weaknesses. If an individual is a blue-collar individual who is not “book-smart” but who can work hard and consistently on manual tasks, then hard work will become their highest value. If a successful entrepreneur and a blue-collar factory worker have a conversation, they will likely look down on each other since both people have no value in each other’s minds. The entrepreneur will look down on the factory worker for having no ambition or creativity, the thought lacking control and having their life in the hands of an employer is horrible to the entrepreneur. On the other hand the factory worker will look down on the entrepreneur for his lack of ability to work hard. Even if the entrepreneur is successful right now he will inevitably go broke at some point, if only the entrepreneur had the work-ethic to work hard to get a real job that is safe and secure, then maybe he would have some value in this world.

            The first time that the value of hard work was questioned in my life was in fourth grade. I had created a project by taking a lot of time to color it with colored pencils, my class mates had created a similar project by printing out the needed colors instead of using colored pencils. My class mates got a higher grade than I did. I argued to the teacher, “but I worked really hard to color this, they just pushed a button to print it, they didn’t work hard at all.” At that point in my life I would complete every task in the most time-consuming way possible because finding more efficient ways to complete a task was frowned upon as “lazy behavior.”

            Values are what people use to measure the worth of each other. Ideally people will eventually develop the ability to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the people around them instead of just qualities they value, but not all of them do. I am an introvert, so when I am at job interviews that require extraversion, which is most of them, I am valued very lowly. The interviewer will look at me as being very inferior since they are: energetic, outgoing, magnetic, and other traits involving extraversion.


So…What Do You Even Do?!

            I have been asked this question many times throughout my life. I have been asked this while growing up since I had no knowledge about: sports, hunting, fishing, or cars. These activities were the entire world to most of the people living around where I grew up. When I responded to the question by saying; video games, or “nothing much,” I would be given a look that implied “oh ok, you are going to grow up to be one of the worthless, lazy people.”

            People are usually identified by a title: accountant, fire fighter, teacher, etc.… I don’t want to “be” any one title. I think committing yourself to one profession like that is not a good thing to do since it creates a feeling of “no escape.” Being in a stressful situation with an exit strategy in place would cause a lot more anxiety than a stressful situation that you have no hope of escaping. The fact that I would never commit to one title while being asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” would be seen as proof that I didn’t want to do anything and that I was lazy. My opinions were never truly communicated regarding choosing a single job-title as being far more risky for long-term happiness than doing whatever I want.

            I have a bachelor’s degree in “business management” this is a pretty nice and official-sounding accomplishment. However ever after receiving my degree I was asked “business management…ok so what do you ACTUALLY DO?” That moment made people seem like they were little more than tools in a toolbox. Are you an: accountant, a customer service rep, a cashier? This type of attitude almost seems like asking, do I need a: hammer, a screwdriver, a wrench? This is when I understood what the real goal is, to create systems that are efficient as possible. People are just building blocks to create the system. When people ask me what I do, what they are really asking is “how can I use you in my system?”

            Tasks do not seem real until you can understand them. To someone who is only intelligent enough to work in manual labor, and nothing else, accounting would not seem like a real job because the concept of organizing numbers would be above their intelligence levels. A person like this who is watching an accountant “work” would think that the accountant was very lazy. The thought to back this up would be “he is barely moving, he can’t possibly be doing anything real.”

            Try not to judge people too much. It would also be good to recognize when other people are looking down on you because of their values or lack of understanding. If it wasn’t for the fact that “hard work” is valued over completing tasks efficiently, we would probably be working half as long, four hour days instead of eight. People invent tasks to keep themselves busy during an eight hour work day because anything is better than nothing, even though there is no real difference.


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