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Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

Why People Brag About Long Hours

A deeper look into why people love talking about their rigorous work ethic.

In September I wrote about a story on getting up early. It was the idea that in order for us to make an impact, we need to be up at 5 am every day in order to succeed.

But often times that advice comes from those who also believe in working long hours.

Some of these individuals are reputable people like Elon Musk or Tim Cook who have helped many people. Others are still making a name for themselves.

And this raises some questions.

Why are reputable people bragging about these long hours?

And why are people so hung up about them?

Because there are a growing number of studies that have looked into these long hours and find that they don’t hold water.

Studies show that working long hours decreases productivity, with productivity completely dropping after hour 55 that week. In fact, those working 70 hours or more per week are just as productive as those who worked 55 hours.

Many Think Time=Achievement

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people brag about long hours is due to their firm belief that work ethic or time is equal to achievement. In this day and age, we all understand we have a clock on our life here on earth.

We need to make the most of it and leave the Earth with no regrets once we pass on.

People discuss the importance of making memories or making impacts on other people. They equate how many times we do that as an achievement.

It’s from these principals that we understand that we need time in order to do this. From this logic, it makes sense that the belief of working long hours makes a lot of sense.

The more time we put into something and focus on our goals the faster we’ll get there. On top of that the more hours, we work the faster we get to making an impact and giving ourselves purpose.

So it’s understandable to see the appeal. Especially when you have living examples to pull from who are doing this and are huge successes.

But all of that starts to crumble a bit when you look at exactly what they have done so far.

Take Elon Musk for example who said in order to change the world you need to work at least 80 hours a week. He practices this and exceeds that by working 120 hours every week without fail.

And yet when we look at his achievements compared to that amount of work it falls short.

Yes, I completely agree he is the one behind electric vehicles and pushing companies and the world towards this new mode of transportation. But that achievement alone isn’t that meaningful in the grand scheme of things.

Offhand, do you know who created the first automobile?

Who invented the first bus?

Who invented the first train?

You can google it but those inventors names aren’t common knowledge. We don’t talk about Karl Benz, Blaise Pascal, or Richard Trevithick. Even though they revolutionized how we get from point A to point B.

Even looking at Space X — the project of colonizing Mars — it isn’t getting that far. Yes, rockets are cheaper, and there are more opportunities.

But that’s it.

And this is from the man that again is working 120 hours a week.

When Achievements Fail We Look At Ethics

The biggest reason a lot of people are so enamoured by working long hours falls down to something that not many of us want to admit.

If we are bragging about how long we work it means that what we have achieved nothing significant.

Elon Musk has not changed the world that much. He’s made some things better and easier, but nothing significant. Nothing that’ll make people remember his name for generations to come.

At least not yet.

But Musk is a good example of what so many of us do.

When we don’t have much to talk about in terms of our achievements, we are quick to look at our ethics.

But this tactic is dangerous because if we rely on our ethics and continue to push that, it is increasing our worth. But at the same time, it’s masking what we have actually done. What we have achieved.

And for some, it’s hiding the fact that they’re on the decline.

We feel compelled to look at our hard work and hide the fact that we haven’t achieved much by boasting about something else.

It’s another excuse.

Focus On Actual Achievements

I’m not saying this stuff to discredit these people. After all, I’m someone who hasn’t achieved much at all in my life as well.

But I don’t go around telling people that they need to act a certain way. Different tactics work for different people.

But what I do know is that those who have made actual legit achievements and have made an impact and “changed the world” are people who didn’t live the #hustlelife. And they certainly didn’t boast about working 80 or 120 hours a week.

Look at Charles Darwin — the man who has a science theory named after him, and the man who made massive contributions to the world through evolution. He worked four hours a day.

That’s the same case with Charles Dickens, a man who created some of the world’s most memorable fictional characters. Not to mention several fictional books that have stood the test of time.

There is also one of the US’s founding father’s, Benjamin Franklin, who called it a day after eight hours of working.

Sure he got up at 5 am, but at least he went to bed at 10 pm. Again, whatever tactics work for you.

These men focused more on leaving behind something significant. They wanted to reach out and be memorable for a very long time. And if that’s the path that you truly want to take, you need to see these individuals as your go-to role models.

Spend your days in deep thinking and reflecting like Benjamin Franklin.

Then focus on your work for only four to five hours a day like Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.

Focus on the depth of your work and present ideas and thoughts that not many have thought before.

There’s still plenty of that out there.

You need only look and stop focusing on boasting about your work ethics.

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