Friday, January 06, 2012

Ostracise hard-working people

Any successful person- whether a business leader, actor or sportsperson- likes to attribute his or her success to hard work. Nobody likes to admit or create an impression that success happened by chance or a lucky break or due to being around at the right time and in the midst of right circumstances. Mr Narayanamurthy of Infosys was once quoted as saying, “I am the hardest working person I know’. Better to invite sympathy than jealousy, I suppose.

Hard work is a virtue that is over-hyped. If there is a direct correlation between hard work and success, a completely different set of people would have succeeded instead of being stuck where they are.

Yes, hard work may be essential for an enterprise to succeed, but to hold that as responsible for the success is ridiculous. And for us to have hard-workers as role-models is completely wrong. A truly successful person is one who achieves more with less effort, and such a person should be our role model.

All these thoughts occurred to me after I read this 1932 piece by Bertrand Russel, in which he demolishes the myth that work is virtuous:

Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: 'Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.' Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached…

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.

A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.

I think I have finally found the philosophy that suits my temperament.

1 comment:

Balajisblog said...

Brilliant piece by Bertrand...since my views are identical to his - this makes it 3 of us..1 dead and 2 batting in the field of life.