On Hard Work

Standard

It is said of Euclid, formulator of the earliest of the sciences, geometry, that on one occasion he was called in to teach a certain king of Egypt his new science. He began as we begin, with definition, axiom and proposition — we have not improved appreciably upon his text-book; and the king grew restless and indignant: “Must a Pharaoh learn like a common slave?” Euclid, with that pride in knowing one thing well, that everyone ought to have who knows one science thoroughly to the end, responded: “There is no royal road to geometry!” We can universalize the statement: there is no royal road to anything on earth — perhaps in heaven either — worth having, except the one broad, open highway, with no toll-gates upon it, of dead, hard, consistent work through the days and years. Spinoza said — it is the last word in his Ethic: “All noble things are as difficult as they are rare; ” and we may add, they are rare because they are difficult.

Self-Culture Through the Vocation by Edward Howard Griggs (1914).

I offer that quotation, because it inspired me to think a bit more about Work and the necessity of toil. We live in an age that suffers from an obsession with cheap reality t.v. designed fame. We ignore the necessity of hard work when it comes to any sort of mastery. Perhaps Gladwell deserves some credit for his over quoted meme of the ‘10000 hour rule’ but its very empowering to know that we can actually create and craft mastery in ourselves, by practice.
Whilst we like to pontificate things such as ‘learning should be fun’ we also should realize that in any sort of craft, things will be hard. It makes the hours I put in mastering things such as complex analysis to seem worth it.
It is fun to use the products of your toil, not necessarily to do the toil in the first place.

Advertisements