Is Your “Hard Work” Fun?

Here’s the big secret:

People who do “hard work” often don’t think of the work as hard. They are having fun doing it.

But when they tell you their experience, they tell you “it was hard work.” And then, you think to yourself…

“I probably shouldn’t do that.”

But the trick is to understand that in the moment, they might have been having fun doing the activity. When they are relaying the experience, they are making it seem more difficult.

Let’s have fun with our hard work.

The Optimum Mental Level

Lanny Bassham is an Olympic Gold medalist and a teacher of mental performance. Bassham knows “hard work” is necessary. But he also mentions a mental model for how to complete hard work:

“The optimum mental level and ‘let’s just have fun today’ are closely related.”

I mean how true is that?

When you’re having fun, you’re not thinking about the outcome. You’re thinking about enjoying the activity.

If you were to fix the broken sink with an attitude of having fun, the process would fly by – even if it was your first time.

You get lost in the process.

Here are a couple of examples from real life:

70 Books.

Could you imagine if one human produced 70 books?

That’s what Niklas Luhmann did.

Luhmann came up with a simple system that made his work incredibly easy. He realized each highlight was only relevant in the context, so he created a method to connect them.

When he spoke about his work, he said:

I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else.

Here is a guy who wrote 70 books and produced more than 400 academic papers. And he said he only does work when it is “easy” for him?


Pretty crazy.

This relates closely to Derek Sivers experience on his bike ride.

The Bike Ride

Derek Sivers loved to ride his bike in Santa Monica. Every time he completed his bike ride, he would time himself.

Sivers always gave his best effort. Really struggled through the process. Because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”

It always turned out to be exactly 43 minutes.

Then one afternoon, he didn’t want to ride his bike.

It was “hard work,” after all.

So instead of doing the difficult work, he decided he would do the same bike route and take it easy. 

For the first time, he noticed the dolphins. He looked up and saw a pelican, which eventually pooped in his mouth. He couldn’t help but laugh. His experience was totally different. He was enjoying the process, after all.

In Sivers’ estimation, he expended 50% less effort on his bike ride.

But the bike ride took him 45 minutes. Instead of the usual 43.

Derek was shocked.

In his own words:

So apparently all of that exhausting, red-faced, full-on push-push-push I had been doing had given me only a 4 percent boost. I could just take it easy and get 96 percent of the results.

How can you apply this to your own life? Are you stressing yourself out about achieving a certain result in a certain time? Can you just do what you need to do, take it easy, and get almost the exact same result?

It’s a question worth asking.

What You Can Do Now

Is it possible we captured the same effort, the same energy, but instead of thinking about putting in “hard work,” we instead attempt to enjoy the process?

Can we have fun with our “hard work”?

Figure out where in your life you are doing the most “hard work.” Then ask yourself, can I make it easier to get the same result?

For years, hard work has represented the epitome of success.

What we’ve failed to realize is that those doing it were enjoying the process.

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