Yesterday, a friend posted the following on her Facebook wall: “Which of those sounds more true to you? A: You can achieve anything if you set clear goals, believe in yourself, and work hard. B: You can achieve many things if you prepare for an opportunity, see it, and act upon it.”
I publicly rejected A as an assemblage of cliches. To my French mind, ‘work hard’ signals idiocy, palliating the lack of strategic thinking with pure effort. “Believe in yourself’ codes blindness and stupidity. “You can achieve anything” sounds like plain delusion.
All this sounds utterly obvious to me. I was surprised to see people choose “A” or, more disturbingly, “a mix of both”. Since then, I’ve been wondering what kind of mindset would lead to this preference. Goal setting may be the main hinge. Is it about perceiving the shifting patterns of the world, and identifying a way forward among the ripples? Or projecting a vision into the blank space of the future, and self-generating a pathway to this vision?
I’ve always been suspicious of self-proclaimed hard workers. If you ‘work hard’, how will you feel the subtle tremors in the fabric of the world? They tell you where to press, and where resistance will be. If you work a little softer, it’s easier to find the joint – and you won’t have to saw through the bone.