Rewards of working hard


It is only through hard work that one is able to deal with challenges and attain success.

FROM the time I was a child, I’ve worked hard. My siblings and I were not the only ones required to study hard, but we had to complete all chores, big and small, by the end of each day.

This trait was so ingrained in me that even in university, friends were amazed at how I could go dating every night and yet do extremely well in all my exams!

My then boyfriend, who is now my husband, used to joke with girls who queried him, “If you want to know the secret of her success, date me.”

Working hard was second nature to me. In fact, on my first posting, I was made the school’s Science Panel head. And while I was still wet behind the ears, I was assigned Form Five examination classes to teach.

I remember that I did not baulk. Despite some internal trepidation, I just got cracking and soon mastered the art of juggling my heavy responsibilities at school with the demands of my young marriage.

Many of my colleagues in similar positions then worked as hard as I did. We shared stories of how we could go home from a hectic day at school to cook, clean and raise our children.

Hard work underlined my teaching life. Woon*, a teacher friend of mine told me of how it took her 26 long years of working in a primary school, obtaining her degree part-time, moving on to a secondary school, suffering at the hands of several unfair practices and bearing up with a myriad of responsibilities, before she was finally recognised as a Guru Cemerlang (excellent teacher) last year!

I take my hat off to teachers like her who were brought up, not only to work hard, but to continue doing so despite the adverse and challenging times.

Interestingly enough, Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers – The Story of Success, agrees completely with what I’ve just said about the virtue of working hard.

Gladwell talks about the culture of hard work among Asians and ascribes this quality to the success enjoyed by many of them in America.

“In any Western College campus,” he writes, “Asian students have the reputation of being in the library long after everyone else has left”.

In the case of Chinese students, he traces this legacy to the peasant farmers in Southern China who didn’t sleep through the winter like their Western counterparts, but kept on working instead – repairing dikes, selling baskets, making tofu, doing many side tasks and then, when the winter was over – were “back in the fields at dawn!”

According to Gladwell, being willing to work hard on tasks that others would have long given up, is one of the traits of a successful person.

Thanks to Yale University Law Professor, Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, “putting children through a gruelling schedule tailor-made for success” has now become a hot issue for worldwide debate.

Yet, how many of us teachers and parents can deny the fact that we ourselves often exhort our young to not only study hard, but study really hard?

The Asian perspective is clear – there is no short cut to success, only hard work.

I personally advocate balance. The work-reward cycle is what I believe in – and I tell my students so. I urge them to intersperse stints of hard work with doing activities they enjoy – like dancing, playing basketball or listening to music. But, I do motivate them to work hard.

I know that not all of them do so. Some just don’t or won’t put in the required work. I have accepted the fact that, after all has been said and done by a dedicated teacher, the choice a student makes ‘to be or not to be’ hardworking is sometimes out of the teacher’s hands.

To the administrative team in any school, it is more irksome to deal with teachers who don’t pull their weight. There is now an undeniable and growing divide between teachers who work hard as a matter of course (due to their cultural/familial upbringing, personal beliefs or attitude) and those who don’t.

Khatijah*, who has been an academic senior assistant for the past eight years laments the fact that when deadlines loom at school, it is the teachers who don’t meet targets and deadlines, that aggravate her the most.

To her and many in her position, this culture of desultory work and laziness among some teachers is what seriously affects the performance levels of the school.

She confides to me, “Some say it is the young teachers of today and their attitude towards work that are mostly to blame but seriously, I beg to differ. I’ve seen many a young teacher doing an admirable job while an older one remains tardy.”

Mohd Azmi*, who has been a school principal for 15 years, puts it very bluntly, “If we want to get school programmes up and running, let’s get some things straight. Work is work and it must be done. The sooner everyone understands this, the faster we achieve success.”

By the way, have you read about the dabbawalas of Mumbai – that fleet of mostly illiterate men donning white caps, who use bicycles and trains in the most efficient way possible to deliver hot lunches from homes to offices all over the Indian city?

Their work culture is so impressive that Harvard Business School has studied it as part of its MBA curriculum. The name of the case study? The Dabbawala System: On-Time Delivery, Every Time!

Gladwell says, “Working really hard is what successful people do.”

He’s right. The dabbawalas in Mumbai are successful because they work really hard. Not only that – they respect their work and are grateful for it; work is worship and a means to serve God, and finally, they work not because their boss is watching them do it, but because it is the right thing to do.

Listen. If you’re a laggard at work, pull up your socks my friend, pull them up!

source : the star online


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