On putting in the work.

You’ve gotta put in the work. We’ve all heard that phrase one time or another. You want nice things? Put in the work. You want a good life? Put in the work. You want things to change? Well, you guessed it – put in the work. Rarely have I seen a phrase so deeply misunderstood.

Show up to your thankless job every day, it seems to say. Work yourself to the bone, never complain, always do what you’re told. Sorry, but if this is what it means to put in the work, then I will choose oblivion every time.

Luckily, this is not what it means. At least I profoundly do not believe it to. Instead of thinking about putting in the work as something you just have to suffer through despite yourself, despite what you love, and despite what you think is right, I would say that putting in the work means the exact opposite.

Show up for yourself and for what you love every day. Don’t tire of standing up for your values or, if you are not sure what they are, for figuring them out. Once you find them, there will not be any doubt left in your mind. Also, do as you say. In other words, put your money where your mouth is.

Then you are putting in the work. Because none of these things are easy. In fact, they may be some of the hardest things in the world. They will challenge everything about you and about your life. But if you are not doing this, then what are you doing?

18 thoughts on “On putting in the work.

  1. Fantastic post, Markus! I compltely agree with you, but I also think that “putting in the work” can also be applied to what you say is the opposite: stand up for what you believe in, believe in yourself, your dreams and values, and if you think it is right and good, then do it. The problem is usually that the expression is misunderstood as “do whatever you are told to do without thinking”, which, in a way, is also easier than actually “putting in the work”, in my opinion 😊 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Yes, I agree 100%! Because really putting in the work consciously in the way you describe also means taking responsibility for what we direct our work at and the consequences of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It actually took me a long time to figure out what this means, or more to the point, how to go about certain things, Markus. My values and putting my money where my mouth is got in the way early on, job wise. Then as I transcended and moved towards the glorious heights, my principles made a huge difference. However, I complicated things, then had an epiphany and began to simplify. A classic example are KPIs. Everyone (me included) became hung up on what they mean, what are the right ones to use and how they should be tracked. It has all led to some very sophisticated software out there which is all fully integrated, which is fantastic stuff, but not really needed. Someone shouldn’t feel inadequate because they use a spreadsheet that can produce a simple dashboard that can be used effectively for quarterly reporting as opposed to using a product that reminds you every second of the day that still you haven’t achieved XYZ 😊

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    1. It is a lifelong process, isn’t it. It also took me ages to even find something where I felt good about putting in the work. But now it’s still a constant game of adjusting and re-adjusting. KPIs are probably tough, because, by definition, they impose what putting in the work means for other people, no? Which is probably inevitable in a business context, but it’s a real limitation nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard that saying but never thought about it before. As I recall it was used to attempt to motivate me to exercise more. There was no concern about whether I was being true to myself while doing the exercise, just that I must appear to be trying. I like your take on it better. It’s kind of like the idea of ‘right effort’ that yoga teachers sometimes reference.

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  4. What a fantastic post! love the tongue-in-cheek. Well guess what, if you do not put in the work, then you might just find yourself in oblivion, no kidding! Never seen a merciless world before!

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  5. Thanks for this inspiring post Markus. I have always felt that if you do work you love and are passionate about, that success will follow. Knowing what you value and what excites you is an important foundation for success and happiness.

    P.S. I’m having trouble commenting on WordPress blogs outside the readers so if this is a duplicate comments, please delete it. 🙂

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