The Hardest Working People on the Planet

Posted by Pierre de la Fortune on October 17, 2015 @ 12:01 a.m.

Written by Anonymous

As entrepreneurs working hard is a given (if you want to be successful that is). Of course, there’s always a question of just what truly is working hard. I’ve found that most entrepreneurs, if compared to the average office worker at a big company, work extremely hard. However, just because you’re working harder than your buddy at some Dundler Mifflin clone doesn’t mean that you’re actually working hard. Instead, you need to be comparing yourself to some of the hardest working people on the planet.

To help with that, I’ve assembled some inspirational stories of hard-working entrepreneurs with some non-business folks mixed in for good measure. Two caveats. First, hard work is completely irrelevant is you’re not working smart and being productive. Second, hard work is also counter-productive if you’re sacrificing your health to an extreme degree and if the increase in quantity of hours worked is leading to a decrease in your creativity (often the case!). With that being said, here’s some stories of people who’ve worked about as hard as a human being can.

Jeff Immelt – A few years back I read a story about Jeff entitled The Bionic Manager which reset my thinking about what hard work is. Here are a couple of passages from it: Immelt, 49, says he’s been working 100 hours a week for 24 years. That does not take him back to his 1978 graduation from Dartmouth, where he was football team captain (as offensive tackle) and a fraternity president who liked to party….Most hard-charging types have put in a 100-hour week or two. But month after month, year after year—is that even possible? Let’s do the math. If you worked from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, you’d still be two hours short of 100 hours. If Immelt has been working that hard for 24 years, then he has already done 60 years’ worth of 40-hour weeks.

Here he is on a recent swing through San Francisco: The first meeting is with institutional investors at 7 a.m. Then he addresses some 200 retail investors at 8:30, standing comfortably for 25 minutes with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand holding his PowerPoint remote; after his talk, he answers questions for an hour. Then it’s more institutional investors, followed by GE salespeople in Burlingame, a presentation to customers, and finally a big reception for customers and top salespeople. He seems as energetic at the end of the day as at the beginning. He had run virtually the same routine in Los Angeles the day before.

Mark Cuban – Cuban has written some posts on his most excellent blog on the subject of hard work and loving what you do. Here is one of my favorite excerpts:

The edge is getting so jazzed about what you do, you just spent 24 hours straight working on a project and you thought it was a couple hours. The edge is knowing that you have to be the smartest guy in the room when you have your meeting and you are going to put in the effort to learn whatever you need to learn to get there. The edge is knowing is knowing that when the 4 girlfriends you have had in the last couple years asked you which was more important, them or your business, you gave the right answer…The edge is knowing how to blow off steam a couple times a week, just so you can refocus on business…The edge is recognizing when you are wrong, and working harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again. (from The Sport of Business)

Steve Pavlina and Seth Godin – These guys have written millions of words in their relatively young careers, authored books, spoken at conferences and started companies largely as one-man shows. They do more in a year than most people do in a lifetime and are well worth learning from! Steve sums up his philosophy towards hard work pretty well in the aptly titled post “Hard Work“:

Hard work pays off. When someone tells you otherwise, beware the sales pitch for something “fast and easy” that’s about to come next. The greater your capacity for hard work, the more rewards fall within your grasp. The deeper you can dig, the more treasure you can potentially find…Your life will reach a whole new level when you stop avoiding and fearing hard work and simply surrender to it. Make it your ally instead of your enemy. It’s a potent tool to have on your side.

Seth has a similar post entitled “Labor Day“:

Your great-grandfather knew what it meant to work hard. He hauled hay all day long, making sure that the cows got fed. In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser writes about a worker who ruptured his vertebrae, wrecked his hands, burned his lungs, and was eventually hit by a train as part of his 15-year career at a slaughterhouse. Now that’s hard work…Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you’d rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you’ve done that, to do it again the next day.

Eminem and Kanye West – These guys have legendary work ethics. Witness: It is a little-known fact that the only book Eminem read as a child was the dictionary. He pored over it, searching for words that rhymed with each other that could later be pulled out of the bag during the freestyle rap “battles” that provided his education in hip-hop. The years spent studying the English language lie at the core of his technical brilliance. They turned him into the greatest rapper of his time. But they did so at a personal cost: for Eminem could be uncharitably described as an anorak. His life starts and ends with music. He writes constantly, scrawling lines on sheets of notepaper in a crabby handwriting. When he’s not composing new verse, or messing around in a studio, he’ll be listening to hip-hop. “The guy’s a studio rat,” says producer Terry Simaan, the owner of Oh Trey 9, one of the Detroit’s most influential hip-hop labels. “If he feels like it,

he’ll spend 12, 15 hours a day in a studio.” (From Eminem: The fall and rise of a superstar) But West initially had trouble convincing Roc-A-Fella execs to let him make his own album as a rapper. He was able to change their minds only after the accident that inspired his breakthrough single, Through the Wire. Exhausted from working around the clock, West fell asleep behind the wheel of his Lexus and got into a crash that nearly killed him. He was back in the studio three weeks later, recording that hit song with his broken jaw wired shut. (From Genius Is As Genius Does)

(Note to self…take a cab or have someone else drive you if you’re working your tail off!!) Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods – While these guys haven’t exactly been choir boys the last few years they’ve definitely worked their tail off to get to where they are. Here are some of my favorite articles about them:

Commuting to Staples Center with Kobe Bryant

Kobe’s well-honed killer instinct

It’s 1995, and Bryant is the senior leader of the Lower Merion team, obsessed with winning a state championship. He comes to the gym at 5 a.m. to work out before school, stays until 7 p.m. afterward. It’s all part of the plan. When the Aces lost in the playoffs the previous spring, Bryant stood in the locker room, interrupting the seniors as they hugged each other, and all but guaranteed a title, adding, “The work starts now.”

(Don’t miss Spike Lee’s documentary about Kobe either!)

Tiger vs Phil Part Two: Work ethic.

I refuse to let anyone outwork me. That’s the reason I log so much time on the practice range. Besides, hard work is the only way to maintain a competitive edge, and I enjoy the process. The key, though, is to practice with a purpose. Tiger’s Daily Routine and Workout Regimen

The Beatles – Gladwell made their Hamburg-era work ethic famous in Outliers. Here’s the passage in case you missed it: “All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. … Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is one of the things that set the Beatles apart.” (From this blog post about the band)

Yolanda and Rogelio Garcia Sr. – You’ve never heard of these two and I hadn’t either until I stumbled across this article talking about how they put their kids through college: For 21 years, the Garcias have supported their family by picking through garbage, often cutting their fingers on broken glass while searching for cans and bottles. Late at night they make their living on the darkened streets and back alleys of Los Angeles, recycling other people’s trash for cash. They’ve collected more than 8 million cans and bottles to help put two children through college. Their youngest is still hitting the books, so Yolanda and Rogelio still hit the streets every night.

OK, perhaps this doesn’t fit the definition of working as smart as possible but nevertheless, reading stories like this reminds us that our “hard work” probably isn’t as hard as we think.

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