How hard are you willing to work?


How much are you willing to sacrifice to attain your dream?

My great grandpa used to say that you could do anything you want if you put your mind to it. How many times have you heard that in your lifetime? The difference is he believed it. I recall coming up with ridiculous scenarios like, “Well what about flying without a rocket pack or another mechanism?” He would laugh and repeat himself, noting that while some things might take practicing 16 hours a day, sacrificing friends, family, etc. technically, it COULD be done.

Now that’s ludicrous for most of us to think about. And I still haven’t figured out how a human could fly by themselves, but the point is that we all have dreams we want to attain. Mine change often, but if you asked me today I’d say I wanted to teach a handful of marketing/sports marketing classes, coach a D1 baseball team to a national title, and have the flexibility (at least in the offseason) to spend time with a family, and friends who love me.

If you’re reading this, you probably work harder than most people you know. How many of your childhood friends are living their dreams? How many of your college peers are pursuing their passions? I suspect that number is a lot smaller than the number of people who found some middle ground where they were comfortable and settled. (And there’s nothing wrong with that. People change, dreams change.)

What about you? Are you going to put up a valiant fight and then resign to settling when the deck gets stacked against you?
How hard are you willing to work? How much are you willing to sacrifice?

Are you willing to break all the rules? Challenge every boundary? Ignore those that stand in your way? Test the limits of what you think you’re capable of? Steve Prefontaine was.

Are you willing to work tirelessly, waiting patiently on your turn? Will you be ready to capitalize on your chance when the moment finally comes? Jason McElwain was.

Are you willing to train countless hours to change the life of someone you love? To inspire others people all over the world? Rick Hoyt was.

Are you willing to teach yourself things others will never have to know? Are you willing to get creative to squash every limitation you’ve ever encountered? Clay Dyer was.

If you’re willing to do what it takes, good for you. You’re joining a very small percentage of people. If you aren’t, that’s okay too. It certainly isn’t for everyone.

I chose some of my favorites, but there’s plenty of other examples we can turn to when we’re trying to decide if it’s worth it, we need inspiration, we’re ready to settle. Who do you turn to? What keeps you pushing forward? Take a second and share in the comments. I might add a few more to the actual post for good measure.

Photo Credit: Taylor Dundee


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How Hard Are You Willing to Work —

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  • The problem that I see everywhere when people talk about “dreams”, is that they relate to the professional aspect.

    I’ll say it: Professional success is overrated.

    One should work hard for it, sure, but your “dreams” need to cover a wider range of aspects of your life.

    Two more things:

    1- You should really really watch the latest TED talk if you haven’t already, by Alain de Botton. Very related to this post of yours.

    2- My first post in OwlSparks:
    As you can see, I relate to your thoughts a lot.

    Good post my man.
    .-= Carlos Miceli´s last blog ..Silly Rules =-.


    admin Reply:

    I agree that professional success is overrated for MANY people. And there’s lots of people that realize that along their journey. I’d contend that for some it is everything though, at the expense of other things that the average person would never sacrifice.

    But I like the fact that you mention dreams need to cover a wide range of aspects of your life. My own certainly do.

    I’ll definitely check out the TED talk, and I think your 1st OwlSparks post is very appropriate for this conversation – thanks for adding.


    Valerie M Reply:

    Very true that people link “dreams” with “professional success.” I get a lot of pressure to worry about professional success now and then worry about everything else later. The same people who say this are frequently unhappy with their lives. They rarely have time to acheive personal success because they are too busy trying to keep up with professional success 20, 30, 40 years later. So when do they have time to worry about “everything else?” When they’re on their deathbed?
    .-= Valerie M´s last blog ..Coming face to face with denial =-.


  • I typed out a huge response here but then decided to save it for a future post of my own. So thank you for inspiring that. You raise interesting points – mental obstacles that most of us deal with. What sacrifices am I willing to make? What’s most important to me? Right now all I can say is ‘I don’t know’ – it’s something I struggle with right now, but I know that, before it’s all said and done, I will achieve total fulfillment, in both my personal and professional life – and that’s what keeps me going.

    More soon Ryan. Great article to read over coffee at 5am!
    .-= Matt Cheuvront´s last blog ..What Does Your ‘About’ Page Say About You? =-.


    admin Reply:

    I also have no doubt you’ll become fulfilled Matt. And hopefully we’ll put some architecture in place that will help facilitate that soon enough. Still got some more reading/research to do, but the gears are still turning.

    And please let me know when your future post goes live!


  • The willingness to work hard ‘all the way’ is the only difference between good and great! And applies to dreams – professional and personal.

    @paulocoelho quote for the day – says it best! The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times

    Particularly liked the examples that didn’t include the usual suspects.

    Good post Ryan.


    Anita Lobo
    .-= Anita Lobo´s last blog ..Sportivia =-.


    admin Reply:

    Oh, I suspect there’s some other subtle differences between good and great. To see what some of your peers including a couple who’ve already responded to this post thought about going from good to great check out Jackie Adkins’ series Dare to be Great.”

    But I agree with your sentiment, and I really like the the QotD you shared. There’s a lot to be said for people that have failed and keep trying until they accomplish their goals. Thomas Edison anyone?

    Glad you liked the examples. I could write a whole series of posts about Steve Prefontaine!


  • Ryan

    Great post ryan, I enjoy the way you think.

    For me I define success or how far I’m willing to go to succeed in a broader sense.

    To me, I will never sacrifice my soon to be wife and future kids for my job. I just won’t do it. (Sacrifice be on a long term basis, not one night of working late).

    For me, I need to be close to my family to have a complete life and enjoy my success. Having a book or a successful blog does not define me, but it is a part of my life.

    People in general seem to be less willing to work hard and expect things to be handed to them, as if they are entitled.

    If you work hard and smart, you will go farther than the next guy.


    admin Reply:

    I’m with you Ryan. My family (and some friends) will always come before any profession, but having people I love surrounding me is part of my ‘dream.’

    I like the fact that you bring up working smart as well, because lets face some people just might not have the capacity to achieve their ultimate dream if it’s really far-fetched. I know this goes against what my great grandpa believed, but it’s probably reality.


  • Whenever I hear “It can’t be done”, I bring up Stephen Hawkings. If a guy with no movement and no speech can change the world, so can you.

    (Sorry for the link, Ryan, but it ties into you and your great grandpa’s story perfectly).
    .-= Danny Brown´s last blog ..Lessons in Social Media from Super Mario =-.


    admin Reply:

    It’s funny. I love when people tell me I can’t do something. That usually ensures it gets done. I like overcoming adversity and proving people wrong. I think a lot of competitive people thrive on it.

    And you don’t ever have to apologize for a link here. This comments section is for my readers to add to the discussion and share their work. As much about you guys and the experience you get via reading/discussing as it is my own experience. I’ll definitely check it out!


  • I think being completely crazy is also useful. You can delude yourself into anything. I try and tow that line a lot and thus do two things most days: Run and Work.

    I come up with ideas when I run and then try to implement them during the day. Thus far? Some damn good stuff has come out of those experiences.

    I’ve already made the mental sacrifices. I’ve already failed. Now all I have to do is keep climbing up. After all, the bodies of dumb Stu from the past have formed a solid foundation.
    .-= Stuart Foster´s last blog ..DartBoston is Growing Up =-.


  • I agree with Carlos’ thought – why is it that we always equate achieving our “dreams” with achieving professional success? I’ve been guilty of that, more often than not. More than likely it’s because it’s a) what gets us the recognition outside of ourselves and boosts our egos, and b) what also brings us full circle inside of ourselves and boosts our self esteem. I struggle with the next steps in my life everyday. I achieved my “professional success” when I was hired a few years ago by a media company, after many years of slaving at an ad agency for peanuts and my own self-imposed “I DO IT BECAUSE I LOVE IT” mantras. But, all that hard work and hair pulling made me a stronger person and helped my achieve my professional dream, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through that. But, what I struggle with daily is where do I go next with my life if I feel like all my “dreams” have already come to fruition? I’m sort of at a standstill: I’m married, I own a house, I have a good job, great friends and family, and I even take time out to hone to my passion (writing). Yet I always end up feeling like something is missing in my life. I suppose if there’s still a void that I’m feeling, maybe it’s just because somewhere inside me is a dream that has yet to take shape or be define. I recently read Jenny Blake’s post on embracing uncertainty (link below), and it really made me step back and look at my life a little differently, and realize that sometimes, you just have to focus on and celebrate small moments of contentedness in order to truly be “happy”. So, I figured I’d share it here with you all! Hoe you don’t mind.
    .-= Kerri´s last blog ..To quote the Princess Bride: "Mawwwiage" (Happy almost 4 year wedding anniversary to me) =-.


  • Wonderful post Ryan, and absolutely true!

    I believe it’s extremely accurate that for the most part, you can achieve your dreams with enough work and sacrifice. Obviously there are some exceptions…flying being a good one…at least for now.

    This post definitely hit home with me as I have definitely had to make sacrifices to get where I am including time, money, friends, relationships etc. Whether “right” or “wrong” it’s the path I’ve chosen. Another great point you made was in regard to professional success. Often professional success is too closely tied to monetary drive. However, I think for many entrepreneurs it is much more than that. Professional success ties to not having to work the 9-5 until I’m 65, being able to “take off” when I want if I have children with baseball games, taking random vacations with my wife or gf, all of those types of things. It is ironic though how often we are required to give up what we are trying to achieve.

    People often see the constant travel, business dinners and socializing with clients but rarely do they recognize the constant streams of 70-100 hour workweeks it often takes to make it all come together. Heck, even we are blind to it at times when we get immersed in our work. But, it does make it a lot easier to do those things when it’s something you’re absolutely passionate about.

    Again, great post as usual Ryan!
    (BTW it looks like I’ll be headed back to TX)


  • Ah the ever present drive and push for passion. Sometimes I wonder what really drives me…but I do know that I am driven and complacency isn’t for me.

    There must be something innate like “greatness is born,” that is inside of me. I think I am greatly inspired by those before me who have done amazing things. Whether it’s in sports, business or personal life by growing a beautiful family all of the above inspire me and keep me running for success.

    I talked to a friend from college last night who is a really talented web and graphic designer. He is 25 and working at Uno’s and The Gap, living in Boston. Nothing wrong with working retail and being a waiter. But he isn’t even looking for a job in the meantime that he knows would challenge and inspire him. He has the talent and he is just working there to make the bills. He doesn’t like his jobs. When you hate your job and haven’t begun to look elsewhere in a city with a lot of talent, intelligence and opportunity it’s hard for me to see.

    Maybe that’s where the difference lies…how hard are you willing to work? He might not want to put the effort in, so he simple is just being and living. All I know, that isn’t my life and I couldn’t wait around like that…
    .-= Grace Boyle´s last blog ..What If Your Company Had an In-house Smile Detector? =-.


  • Typically, when you hear that someone isn’t willing to sacrifice to achieve something, you think of it as a negative, or a fault towards that person, but as you pointed out, that’s simply not the case. Sure, some people are willing to put their professional lives at the top of their priority list and make all sorts of other sacrifices in order to achieve those goals. Some are even willing to sacrifice their ethical values in order to make it to the next level.

    Personally, my professional goals are *A* priority, but I intend on them never becoming my *top* priority.
    .-= Jackie Adkins´s last blog ..Dare to Be Great Series (Part 2) =-.


  • I love this post and all of the Youtube examples that you have given as those people who were willing to work hard for their dreams. Working toward your own dreams might be harder, but the payoff will be so much better in the end.

    There is another inspiring YouTube video that I absolutely love, called No Excuses, found here:
    .-= Benjamin´s last blog ..Developing a bias toward action =-.


  • This post is fabulous. This week has been particularly interesting as I start to come into my own at this internship, and really figure out what I want to do when it’s all said and done. Is 9-5 for me? Looks like probably not. I’m in the process of starting to brainstorm what I want my life to look like professionally. I want to start my own business, but I’m not entirely sure what I have to offer.

    I do know that I will sacrifice, and have sacrificed, whatever it takes to make me happy. Right now, what makes me happy, is exploring this path I’m on, and wondering where it will take me next.

    I’m thankful for our community as I start to sort this all out in my head. Thanks for being here!
    .-= Sydney´s last blog ..“With” vs. “For” =-.


  • Ryan,
    Great post and thanks for the thoughts. I couldn’t agree with you more. To answer your question, I deeply admire entrepreneurs of any kind. Contrary to the media coverage around ‘greedy, selfish CEOs’, these small business owners are typically the ones sacrificing time with people they love in order to keep a business afloat, even in tough times.

    I am going against the bulk of comments here, but what is wrong with a profit-based motive? Isn’t that how we create jobs and grow companies? I have a lot of admiration for the go-getters who sacrifice time with their family and friends so that the rest of us can benefit by either using products they create or working at their companies and taking home a paycheck.

    .-= @mcolacurcio´s last blog ..Crowdsourcing Sounds Useful But How? =-.


  • This makes me sad…I typed an entire response and sent it while in VT. I KNEW that internet connection was bunk!


    I think there’s a big difference between how hard are you willing to work and how much are you willing to sacrifice. Being willing to work hard is a trait that separates successful people from those willing to just get by. Want an example that isn’t professional? Have you ever met a person who when asked about the success of their marriage replies “I don’t know, marriage is just super easy.”

    Hard work does not have to involve sacrifice, we have just conditioned ourselves to believe it does. To be successful in college sports we “have” to miss out on time with friends, to be successful in work we “have” to skip family games and activities, to be successful in health we “have” to get up at 4-5 AM to fit it in.

    Someone else mentioned it but for a TRULY happy and successful life you have to learn not only how to work harder but also to work smarter.
    .-= Elisa´s last blog ..BlogCrush – Jamie Varon =-.


  • Brian Wallace

    Well Ryan,I am overwhelmingly impressed, yet again, by your saavy and ability to hit the nail on the head, as you so often do. Yet, I am not surprised in the least with your ability to call out the obvious to people that are working so tirelessly that they fail to see what they already know. I too I have many dreams, some of which seem so outlandish to me that I think they are unattainable, but I just might be ambitious enough to chase them. I consider polictician, because I am naive enough to think I can make a difference, best selling author, because I am naive enough to think someone might want to read what I have to say, and head baseball coach at a successful program are just a few. The last would seem to be the most possible. I called you a romantic, listen to me. But, it will be interesting to see how those dreams and ambitions change over the years in the face of adversity. I am enjoying your website very much.


  • Joakim

    These truisms really aren’t deep insight, and your analysis is naive. Have you ever lived on less than a dollar a day? Millions of people do that. Almost half the world lives on less than 2.50 a day.

    I’d like to see you try to explain your first world chauvinism to a starving orphan child in a Mumbai slumtown.

    “You can do -ANYTHING- you want! Trust me, I write a blog.”

    You and your yes-men (and women) should read Death of a Salesman to get some perspective. Hell, read anything other than your overwrought self-help books for once.


  • This post reminds me of Homeless to Harvard Liz Murray who once said that perseverance is when you’re willing to work past the point where you feel you have absolutely nothing left inside of you.

    Grandparents, most of them don’t have traditional professional education, but they sure pack a lot of wisdom and insights.


  • Interesting set of videos you posted, I really enjoyed watching each one.

    It’s ironic that many of us who focus on things that are away from the professional realm become more successful and in fact, don’t have to sacrifice much since we’re already doing what we enjoy. For example the Hoyt team probably loves running and training each day where others would see training for the ironman as work.
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..The Part Time Job Search =-.


  • The problem isn’t with equating “dreams” and “professional success.” When it comes down to it, our unique mark on the world must come from something that counts for work, whether we get paid for it or not. I pity the child who gets burdened with being a parent’s “greatest accomplishment.”

    The real problem is with equating professional/work success with climbing the corporate ladder, getting particular awards, or making a certain amount of money for one’s efforts. All of those things are part of the measure of success, but often we’re asked to compromise our professional integrity for these kinds of strokes.


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  • I really enjoyed this blog post — puts things into perspective. For me, it makes me really look at everything I “say” I want to achieve and measure it against the questions, How badly do I want it? How crucial is this to my overall happiness? If I don’t have this in my life, will I regret it at the end of my life?

    I don’t see this as a question pertaining only to either professional or personal, although we can certainly seperate the two … I’m personally working toward a life in which I’m achieving great satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness from BOTH areas of my life. I’m envisioning a professional life in which my personal passions play key roles(hiking/Yoga.) And the question, which I, too, heard many times from my elders growing up, “How hard are you willing to work?” becomes a very good barometer. 🙂
    .-= Deb Goeschel´s last blog ..Yoga of Self Care aka “Ahimsa” =-.


  • Rob

    Hey man, great post. Though I’m a wee bit skeptical of this philosophy. I agree with it 80%, but I do think that you have to be very careful about what dreams you choose, and whether the journey TO the dream will be worth the end result.

    I recently wrote a post about this on my blog which assesses this whole idea with reference to the Great Gatsby here;


  • Great perspective. Though I found this post late, it still applies in 2011. Many times what I hear people say is that they don’t have enough time to do all they want. Thing is, even Bill Gates has the same amount of time anyone else has. Its about how effectively we use our time. It’s important to prepare a schedule and stick to it. That way we can achieve our dreams rather than letting them be just dreams.
    .-= Raj Gohil´s last blog ..IT Recruitment Market To Improve In 2011 =-.