How to Work Hard - Paul Graham

I have this habit of periodically reading PG's blog whenever I'm confused about my life or career. I've done this as far back as 2018 and it's soo effective.

How to Work Hard is his newest essay as of today and damn, I've learned a lot from this single piece of writing. My goal is to document a few points that resonated with me here, I hope to come back to them in a few days, months, or years...

  • There are three ingredients in great work: natural ability, practice, and effort. You can do pretty well with just two, but to do the best work, you need all three: you need great natural ability, have practiced a lot, and try very hard.

This is a no-brainer. Exceptional people have very healthy combinations of talent, drive & hard work. Think Elon, Serena, Ronaldo, etc. What really marvels me about this fact is how hard it is to find just one of these in the average person. The truth is, most people aren't top talent and don't even care... It feels like a wonder when people are extremely talented and really obsessed.

  • ... The most basic level of which is simply to feel you should be working without anyone telling you to.

This was something that marveled me while at my previous company. Most people in my team fell into one of these categories - doing the right thing without being told vs. not doing anything except when told to. Some people are just wired to improve things without any instructions. They just do it. Not considering if they get paid, get credits, or get noticed. I vividly remember getting upset with one of my teammates who'll just sit idle almost all day, waiting for 5 pm so they can leave the office.

Another example of this is in leaders... Most leaders will use their initiatives. This is expected behavior because they simply wouldn't want their team to fail. I experienced this first hand while I was project lead at my previous company. It was a small team and a lot of people simply expected our project to fail. We found ourselves working to prove people wrong. Thinking about it now, one reason our project succeeded was that everyone had one goal - to make the project a success. It's funny how I've learned to bring that same mindset into my personal projects over time.

I think this is a great way to know genuinely motivated and interested people. They don't wait for people to tell them what to do.

It'll be great to note that these ideas don't generally apply to everyone. There can be exceptions and no one has all the variables in this super-complicated system.