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Do the Hard Work

June 21, 2022

In 1990, H. Jackson Brown Jr. wrote Life’s Little Instruction Book as a high school graduation gift for his son, Adam.

The book contains 511 observations about how to live a “happy and rewarding life.” Not surprisingly, the book became a huge success and is still a staple gift for high school and college graduates across the country. 

Here are a few famous pieces of advice from his book:
“Compliment three people every day.”
“Never forget your anniversary.”
“Smile a lot.”
“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”
“Call your mother.”
“Overpay good babysitters.”
“When you go to borrow money, dress as if you have plenty of it.”
“Buy a used car with the same caution a naked man uses to climb a barbed-wire fence.”
“Say something positive as early as possible every day.”
“When loved ones drive away, watch until you can no longer see the car.”
“Carry a small Swiss Army knife on your keychain.” 

But this one in particular caught my eye:

“When there’s a piano to be moved, don’t reach for the stool.”

He’s telling his son that there are far too many people ready to carry the stool when there’s a piano to be moved! Son, you carry the piano. Do the hard work.

This week, I am wrapping up a three part series about pursuing an honorable ambition. Remember, an honorable ambition is a strong desire to do something good. In this blog series, I have used 1 Thessalonians 4:11 as my template for pursuing an honorable ambition, and in this verse, Paul lists three ways to do so: 1) lead a quiet life 2) mind your own business, and 3) work with your hands.

At the time Paul was writing, this challenge to work with your hands was really a challenge to do real work. Hard work. In our day and age, physical labor might be involved in hard work, but it doesn’t always have to be. The emphasis here is pursuing work that requires effort and leaves no room for laziness. Just like Brown encouraged his son, it should be our ambition to move the piano—it should be our ambition to work hard at whatever we do.

Working hard not only helps us find satisfaction in our daily tasks, but it also helps us live out the two other honorable ambitions we’ve already unpacked: leading a quiet life and minding your own business. Think about it. When you are working hard, you don’t have time to be infatuated by the noise of entertainment, news, and social media. You have to stay focused on the task at hand. And when you’re working hard, you also don’t have time to be a meddler or a gossip—you have to mind your own business to get your work done!

This is going to sound overly simplified, but I think it’s important to say: Hard work is hard. Hard work is satisfying, but it’s still hard. I talked about this in my very first post. Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In other words, the mess you are facing is evidence that you have been given a blessing—good work to do! We can be sure we will face obstacles in our work, but they are not indicators that we need to give up or get another job. This is a mistake I see so many young people make today. 

News flash: It doesn’t matter how many leadership books you read, if you aren’t willing to do the hard work, you won’t ever be a good leader.

One final note about honorable ambition: it’s easy for us to base the success of our work on the expectations or opinions of others. Though it’s good to get the feedback of people you trust, you need to remember that the measure of your success is your actual work—not another person’s opinion. 

So my challenge to you this week is to ask yourself a simple question: Am I doing the hard work?

Find space for the quiet.
Mind your own business.
Do the hard work.
Make these your ambition.


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