The essence of the American Protestant work ethic is the simple idea that if you work hard, you'll get ahead. When we aren't working hard, we're thinking about the fact that we should be working hard. But how true is it that hard work is the primary ingredient to wealth and success?
It is becoming clearer to me that the notions of "hard work" and "success" are actually quite disconnected. While hard work is oftentimes necessary to achieve a successful outcome, the necessary precursor is solid business decision-making. Most of us have heard the phrase work smarter, not harder, and it is quite true indeed. Working hard for the sake of working hard is like driving fast without a map: in some cases you just take yourself off-course more quickly and burn gasoline for no reason!
I'll even go as far as to say that it is only when we disconnect the notion of success from our socially-imposed feelings of work-ethic-related guilt can we truly achieve success. Success results from working hard because of a specific, calculated, desirable outcome...and has nothing to do with working hard just because we believe it is right to do so.