Why We Work Harder

The “Work Harder,” mantra has seen a resurgence of late.

It never truly “left,” but my constant reminder to anyone who was whining about their lot in life has not worked its’ way into as many on-air rants lately as it once did. Recently, a lot of people have been writing in to the show recounting how that simple two-word phrase, coupled with some sort of “no excuses,” tirade on my part over the years, helped to motivate them to find ways to do better, be better, and achieve whatever was their vision of life success.

The premise of “work harder,” is simple; no matter what your circumstances, your hardships, your unforeseen and/or unpredictable hurdles, heartaches, or setbacks, you ultimately have only two choices and only one that is acceptable. You can either blame anyone, everyone, and/or everything else in life, or you can work harder. Choose the latter, and you will see results. Choose the former, and you will see red in the form of fury and green in the form of envy; and you will wilt as a human being.

Working harder applies to all facets of life, not merely traditional “jobs,” or “careers.” If your relationships are failing (and you care about them) work harder at them. If you’re failing at school, work harder at succeeding. If you can’t control or give up your vice and/or compulsion, work harder. If you’re a crappy parent or dog owner, work harder. Whether that means asking for help, refocusing, re-prioritizing, re-committing, or all of the above, you just (forgive me Nike), do it. If you don’t, then you don’t truly want to succeed. Period.

Over the years I have recounted an extension of the “work harder,” creed. At numerous times throughout my life I have found myself discussing a purchase, experience, or adventure I have made, had, or done, and found someone in my circle asking me “how,” or “why?”

For example; most commonly, whenever I would travel somewhere with a new person in my life, and they would see that I insist on flying first class, staying in large hotel suites, taking limos instead of taxis from an airport, and so on, some sort of comment would be made similar to “why take a limo when it costs 10 times as much?” Without debating the merits of a limo being so much more comfortable the answer is simple, and always the same: “why do I work so hard?” In other words, why not? Why deprive ourselves what we define as the finer things, if we can afford them? What exactly am I going to do with my money when I am dead?

I have never shied away from hard work as a baseline and working harder when needed, and I have always demanded and expected the same from anyone in my sphere (lest they be removed from said sphere). But I have also always insisted that everyone plays as hard as they work, and therefore, you work as hard as you have to in order to achieve what truly matters in life; hard play.

Success in a traditional, business sense, is wonderful and exhilarating. Whether that means making more money, having more followers, saving more lives, molding more minds, or making better products, there is a sense of achievement, value, merit, and worth that comes with such successes. But if that’s all there is, then there is nothing. If those successes are not directly leading to the truly rewarding, memorable, wonderful moments in life then you are living to work, not working to live. I insist on the latter, which is why I never say “no,” for financial reasons. If there’s an opportunity to do something, have something, or experience something that I genuinely want and it stretches my financial comfort level, I merely commit to work harder moving forward to pay for it. If, on the other hand, it’s an opportunity to do something, have something, or experience something I genuinely want which is simply “lavish,” but affordable, I remind myself, and anyone who asks, this is why I work so hard. And yes, you usually get what you pay for, and a $250 pair of sweat pants feels every dollar better than a $40 pair. These are the facts and they are indisputable.

My wife and I recently joined a cigar bar; she has quickly honed her palette to recognize what she likes in a cigar, and as she has done so, she has realized that the cigars she likes are, relatively speaking, expensive. Cigars are like sex; we’d rather have no cigar than a bad cigar and no sex when compared to bad sex. Thus, we work as hard as we have to in order to stock our humidors with cigars that cost more than most people spend on a night out together. And as such, some of our greatest moments and memories of the last year have come with one of those beautiful cigars in our hands (and mouths).

During our recent holiday vacation, we went to Maui for a couple weeks. Yes, of course we flew first class, and stayed in a 1,500 square foot ocean front room, and had $1000 dinners. This is why we work so hard; but it’s also merely the baseline. I had a work harder reminder epiphany while soaring above the islands a week into our trip.

Whenever we travel to Hawaii, my wife and I always take a helicopter tour; it’s beautiful, exhilarating, and a reminder of how small and insignificant we are as humans. On this trip, a friend who relocated to Maui years ago suggested we do a “doors off,” tour, which is exactly what it sounds like; no doors on the helicopter while flying 140 MPH over the islands and up to heights of 4,000 feet. My wife, after 12 years in the Army, and a year in Afghanistan including plenty of harrowing fights in and around country was all-in, and so I began setting it up. Our friend suggested, knowing me, that I might want to consider buying the entire helicopter so that it would be just Christina and me with the pilot.

Now, this is where things take on an air of excessiveness to most people, but take a moment to think it through; when you are with your person (and this question assumes and implies you genuinely like each other), what is it that almost always challenges your ability to truly enjoy yourselves? Other people. Nice restaurants, fun movies, concerts, sporting events, and almost everything else which invites, requires, or allows other people to be a part of the event are things constantly interrupted by the rudeness or mere presence of others. So, if I have the chance to remove that variable, I’m all in.

When we arrived, Christina was not aware I had booked the entire helicopter and she was taken aback by the $2500 price tag for an hour-long flight. (For those who must know, my wife and I split up vacation planning and spending, and this was on my to-do list). She asked why I did it and I said “because this is why I work so hard,” and she thanked me with a hint of “aren’t you a baller,” in her voice; a playful homage at the time to my “larger than life,” pursuits. That was before the flight.

Ninety minutes later we had landed and the very first thing she said was “that would have been awful with other people.” And that is why we work harder.

When we boarded, we quickly realized the gravity (no pun intended) of what we had decided to do. There are no handles for your hands, and you are literally on the edge of a helicopter that spends most of its’ time thousands of feet over the Pacific Ocean and lush rain forests. The only thing holding you in is a harness you pray has been recently safety tested. For the first 10 minutes we were both borderline white-knuckled, yet overwhelmed with what we were experiencing. Our guide Richie, a former Army pilot who has been flying for 40 years, was so accustomed to this it was impossible to not be calmed by him; and as it all set in, and I looked around the helicopter imagining what it would be like with 4 other humans in the same space, I said to myself, “this is why I work so hard.” When we hovered over the highest sea cliffs in the world off of Molokai and Christina and I looked at each other with wonderment and amazement, it instantly became an unforgettable memory that we will both carry forever; and one that was made possible only by working harder. Always. Constantly.

I have found that the greatest moments in life are those that are unplanned and unrestricted. That’s not to say that you can’t plan a wonderful trip to Las Vegas to see Mariah Carey and have it turn out wonderful. You can, and we recently did.

However, scripted events almost never stick to the script. Weddings are the most obvious example, but the truth is that as people, and particularly, as Americans, we are prone to building up plans to the point of the unachievable; the anticipation becomes far more rewarding than the actual event. In this case, as we arrived, we were simply doing something we always do; taking a helicopter ride in Hawaii. Oh, sure the doors would be off, but big deal. And since Christina didn’t know we’d have the chopper to ourselves, and I merely thought I was eliminating potential problems (as opposed to making this the event of a lifetime), we just thought it was another fun thing during our stay. But thanks to working harder, and demanding that we play as hard as we work, it was indescribable. And for however long I live and no matter what happens between now and then, I will never forget the look on her face over those sea cliffs, knowing that mine mirrored hers, and knowing that it solidified every single second of hard work.

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