It takes hard work. Do the hard work.

January 28, 2012productivity

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is the idea of simply trying harder with everything I choose to spend my time on. It seems like an elusive thing, the idea of optimal focus and maximum effort. However, I think there is something to be gained from stopping for a moment and considering how focused we are when we do our daily activities.

I think two things apply here: single-mindedness and massive effort. To truly excel at something, we need to be very focused. We can have different things we are striving to succeed with, but when we are working on one thing, we should be completely focused on it.

This idea of “single-tasking” is something which Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta amongst many others believe is a key habit of top performers.

The other key aspect seems to be to put in the hard work when you are single-tasking. To describe this, I want to share three videos by top performers which I’ve been hooked on recently:

Will Smith: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill

I love Will Smith’s take on this topic, because he brings things very much down to earth. He has said many times that he doesn’t see himself as particularly talented, rather that it has been his “ridiculous, sickening work ethic” which has got him to where he is. I think this is something which everyone can take and use to their advantage:

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: you’re getting off first, or I’m gonna die. It’s really that simple."

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Go through the pain barrier

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first success was in the world of body building, but he has gone on to reach the highest levels in Hollywood and politics too. There’s clearly a lot we can learn from him, and this clip from “Pumping Iron”, a film about his success in body building is one of my favorite clips to watch to get me motivated:

"The body, it is not used to the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th rep with a certain weight, so that makes the body grow, going through this pain barrier. And that’s what divides one from a champion and one from not being a champion. If you can go through this pain barrier, you make it to be a champion, if you can’t go through, forget it."

Eric Thomas: You don’t want it bad

Eric Thomas is not as well known as Will Smith or Arnold Schwarzenegger, but what I admire about him is how he can go into a school and get students fired up whilst talking on a level they can relate to. This video of one of his speeches is sure to get you motivated to try harder with everything you do:

"I’m here to tell you that most of you say you want to be successful, but you don’t want it bad, you just kind of want it. You don’t want it badder than you wanna party, you don’t want it as much as you want to be cool."

What this means for me

This doesn’t mean we have to jump in all at once and head towards inevitable burn-out and failure. We can start small in terms of time commitment, and that’s likely the best way to create habits, but let’s commit to going that extra step when we are doing a specific activity. It takes no more time to put extra effort in during the time we’re spending on a task. It might not be comfortable, but it’s surely the way to grow.

I also strongly believe that in order to easily put in this extra effort, it is important for us to feel purpose for the activities we are doing, and to love what we do.

Photo credit: Jon Tunnell

Thanks for reading

If you have any comments or feedback on this article, I’d love to hear from you. The best way to reach me is on Twitter.

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