Hard work guarantees you nothing

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I work soooo hard, and look what I have. Nothing to show. No one has picked me. My ship has not come in. All that time and effort. Wasted. All that toiling and I’ve come up empty-handed. What a shame.

Sound like a conversation you’ve ever had with yourself? No? Consider yourself fortunate (or incredibly self-aware). But if you have, keep reading.

Get this.

Hard work guarantees you nothing. Ever. So now what?

If you’ve made your word count every day, coded every night, nailed that performance, or reached whatever creative goals you’ve set for yourself — kudos to you.

But you’re still not satisfied. You’re not published, no one shows up to your shows, or buys your apps.

I wish I could pass you some profound answer to your troubles. But all I can say is this…

Way it goes.

It’s the nature of the creative life we signed up for. If you want a guaranteed paycheck, Macy’s is hiring for the holiday season right about now.

I’m a fan of hard work, but the hard work should be done because it feeds your soul in and of itself.

I know, when someone picks us, pays us, or even pats us on the back for creative work we’ve done, it makes us realize that someone else hears us. That they get it. And that we’re not just talking to an empty room.

But if you can’t talk to that empty room — and enjoy it — for, quite possibly, a long time… Maybe you should pick a different room.

Try achieving the mental shift of having the ends become the means. Do work that fulfills you just by the mere act of doing it. It’s weird how this happens, but when you adopt that mindset, and become okay with talking to nobody, that’s when everybody shows up.

Realize how much of a privilege we creatives have in that we get to dabble in the upper echelons of Maslow’s pyramid — if even a little. We’ve created a space for ourselves where we can do work that doesn’t involve menial labor or mental stagnation.

We have the luxury of retreating into this world where we’re in control. Where we carry full creative license to make something that matters. Or something that doesn’t.

In my opinion, anything else is a cherry on top.

Now, count your lucky stars. And get back to work.


[Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people transform their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.]