Emotional Work

Day 338 and Effort

The real world rewards talent. It largely doesn’t give a fuck about effort. Sure, we like it when someone with talent works hard at honing their gifts. But if you just work hard it is largely ignored. The end result still matters most. Talent more easily gets the desired outcome.

This is a sort of hard truth that isn’t particularly hard to grasp. Every bit of evidence you have from a young age indicates that we reward outcome. Even if you are in a school system without grades, like I was, we still know what a quality outcome looks like. But we spend all this time and effort lying to kids with this separate system of effort that suggests that working hard and putting in a lot of effort are the thing “good” kids do.

I’m not wild about praising effort and hard work on its own. Sure it matters, hard work honing your skills, even when you suck, has its own value. But not when it comes to what the world expects of us. We inculcate habits and emotional expectations that are basically cargo cults. No wonder kids, after being praised and rewarded for effort for a decade or two, are confused when they get their first job. I’d be fucking pissed if I were that kid. I’d slowly shaped my behavior around one set of expectations only to find it had no bearing on reality.

Why do we spend so much time cultivating the myth that effort matters as much as talent? Why do we praise effort so consistently among our youth when we know that at a job being told “well you work hard but…” is probably a prelude to being let go. You have to work hard and achieve the desire outcome. It’s enough to drive people nuts. It is literally crazy making to contradict reality with all these lessons on effort. We are gaslighting our youth.