Want to be happy? Work on your work ethic.

When I was a kid I worked. My parents were both Minnesota farm kids with annoyingly untiring work ethics. My Grandparents were active farmers throughout my youth. So were my Uncles Allan, Jerry, Randy, Rod, Kendall, Jim, Gerald, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim. Which meant I had a lot of opportunity to work. (It also means my grandparents liked to get busy.)

At an early age I began breaking child labor laws. I baled hay, picked rock, mowed lawns, painted houses and barns, and hauled firewood. I worked in construction during high school for my neighbor Tom Kearney, whose daughter Hannah Kearney would go on to win the Olympic Gold Medal in mogul skiing in Vancouver, and the Bronze medal in Sochi. My college summers were spent swinging a sledge hammer driving tent spikes into the granite of Northern New England. If you’ve never seen someone ring the bell in the strongman game at the fair, I’ll show you how it’s done.

I know the hard, physical labor I performed at an early age has benefited me ever since. The work ethic my parents, Robert and Jill Albrecht, natured and nurtured into me has been an important driver throughout my career. It mentally prepared me to step fearlessly into the entrepreneurship arena when I launched  The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. But apparently I am not the only one who understood how important a strong work ethic is to your success.

silver macbook on brown wooden table
Working late one night, this guy invented the white computer screen, then shared it on Instagram.

George Vaillant

Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant spent his career studying predictors of success. He found that childhood work ethic was perhaps the best and most accurate predictor of adult success and mental health.

The Work Ethic Study

Vaillant conducted a longitudinal study of 456 men from the inner city of Boston. The study began when the men were just 14 years old. As barely-teenagers they were rated for their ability to work. Their lives were then tracked regularly into middle age. The results showed that the men who had the highest work ethic rating at 14 years old earned 5 times more than their lower ranked counterparts. They were also happier and had far more successful marriages and other social relationships. I assume they liked the 80s band Men At Work more too. #WhoCanItBeNow

Vaillant’s finding means that your willingness to work relates not only to your financial success, but to your ability to work on your relationships. Even more importantly, it indicates your ability to pursuit your own happiness. Which means that your capacity for work is actually the greatest predictor of how much you will enjoy your life.

Key Takeaway

Your work ethic drives your actions. Which drive your financial success. The ability to put work into your relationships means you get more out of your relationships. So develop your work ethic. Lean in. Build your endurance, your grit, and your tolerance for pain and discomfort. Grow your ability to delay gratification. Don’t just eat the first marshmallow you are given. Teach your kids to work too. And to enjoy the rewards of their labor, like my parents did for me. It is a lesson that will last a very happy lifetime.

*If you have kids, consider sharing this with them.

Sometimes the most important thing to work hard at is patience.

Hard work is important to almost every variety of success. Unless you aspire to be an outstanding subject in a sleep clinic, you have to put in a lot of effort to achieve your goals. That’s why it is so important to pursuit the things you are most passionate about. It is much easier to put in long days of work when you are genuinely excited about the work and the mission.

However…

While hard work is important, it is not the only contributor to business and personal success. Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that the most surprisingly important ingredient to our success has been patience.

Patience

There have been dozens of times over the past 2.5 years when putting in more hard work would have worked against us. That’s because our clients and customers, (and potential clients and customers) have their own timing that has nothing to do with us.

I have had exciting conversations about great opportunities that then took a long time to materialize. I am talking about gestational periods of a year or even 2 years. There are other opportunities that I still expect will materialize 3 years or more after our initial conversations.

That’s a long time to wait for a cake to bake. But there is nothing I, or any of my teammates can do to speed the process along. In fact, calling and asking and pressing the client, or potential client, would only hurt the opportunity.

Key Takeaway

Recognizing when you have done all the hard work you can to generate a new opportunity is an important skill that pays huge dividends over time. Because once you have reached a critical point, less is more. Let the timing that is out of your control take its course. But don’t give up. This is a hard perspective to master. Master it anyway.

*If you have a story to corroborate this need for patience instead of more work, please share.

**Also, this post had nothing to do with people in need of medical care. Thanks anyway spellcheck.