A few weeks ago, I stayed up late to watch Alistair Cook open the batting for England in the first Ashes test of 2017.
Alistair Cook is one of those sporting figures, for me at least, that your trust as a fan to get the job done. Of course I don’t know what he’s feeling inside and I should imagine that nerves are definitely happening, but Cook exudes a class and a confidence that can inspire that confidence in others.
On the back of Cook’s 244 not out overnight in Melbourne after a disappointing series thus far, Michael Atherton wrote in The Times of Cook’s recipe for success – hard work = success. Cook’s own quote was, “The solution, as I see it, is to work harder.”
Hard work alone, though, probably doesn’t do the job. That implies that you are the only influence on matters, and that’s seldom the case. For most salaried employees, working hard and achieving targets but unless that work is valued by the right people, all you’re doing is putting the hours in, “working hard”.
It also pays to sometimes work smarter rather than harder. Why spend an hour a day do something when you can spend 10 minutes designing a way to do it that will save you half an hour every time? It makes sense. That also uses imagination and vision.
Liz Ryan writing for Forbes, I think, puts it perfectly. The key is not just hard work but self-determination. Whereas the reward for hard work relies on outside influence too, self-determination doesn’t. It allows you to set your own targets, be your own boss (in effect) and do what you deem necessary to be successful how you want to do it.
I’m not saying that Alistair Cook or Michael Atherton are wrong. Indeed, I’m sure Cook knows better than I what he’s feeling! But I wonder if simply claiming hard work as the key to his success does Cook a disservice. Going in to the nets and batting and practicing is the hard work, but that’s motivated by a determination to get better and to do the best possible job.
I think it’s the self-determination to work hard which is the biggest influence on success.