“Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed – there’s so little competition.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) was an American writer, publisher, artist and philosopher. He was the initiator of the Roycroft artisan community in East Aurora, New York, and died tragically in 1915 aboard the British passenger liner, RMS Lusitania, torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland.
Hubbard saw himself as an anarchist and a socialist. He believed in social, economic, domestic, mental and spiritual freedom. No doubt these beliefs caused him to be seen as a radical in his day, yet he’d fit right in with contemporary thought in the 21st Century!
This brief passage is about success and what attracts me to his words are that they are inclusive. In other words, his formula for success doesn’t just apply to the intellectually gifted or to the wealthy, educated class. In his day, a university education was rare and unattainable by the majority in society. Although Hubbard’s father was a doctor, he and his siblings did not grow up with privilege.
America, and most other societies of his day were not inclusive societies. The privileged wealthy ruled in the board rooms, on Wall Street and in Congress, and generally were not terribly concerned for the plight of the lower classes, which included the poor, the persons of color, immigrants and all women. But he believed in freedom for all. He could never support the binding of a person to a specific social class, or deny anyone the freedom to pursue a better economic reality.
One of the things that caught my eye when I read his biography was his belief in religious freedom. When I was a boy in the 1950s, the law in Canada protected a person’s right to worship as he chose, but what about society? I remember the social pressures on people to attend church every Sunday – and those pressures were very real. Divorces were quite rare then, not because couples were more virtuous or committed, but because they faced the very real risk of being socially shunned. Social pressures were a very real curb on people’s individual freedoms.
Let’s consider Hubbard’s recipe for success. He tells us to work with our whole hearts. This one sentence speaks volumes! If I want to succeed, I must work. There is no success in laziness, nor any reward for shoddy work or half-hearted efforts. I’m being told that the only way that I’m going to succeed in life is if I work hard at whatever I choose to do. Since Hubbard believes in economic freedom, he’s telling me that it is my choice about what type of work I will do. His recipe doesn’t differentiate between fields of endeavor – as long as it is honest work of our own choosing.
The second part of his recipe is the qualifier that we work with our whole heart. What does that look like? It is a fair question. The answer goes back to our choice of work. We must choose wisely and well. We must find that field of work that we will enjoy and, from which, derive satisfaction. The other side of that coin is to find a career for which we are well suited – especially by temperament. In my chosen field of education, I saw many brilliant men and women who simply could not teach. They had no aptitude for it. Learning came so easily to them that they could not fathom why any child would have trouble learning. Those teachers earned the resentment of their very frustrated students.
I never considered myself a master teacher, and it took me three decades to chase down and tackle what I call the heart of teaching. It took me that long to figure out that I had already discovered it to some degree. For me, it is only possible to work with your whole heart when you love what you do. Because you love it, you don’t count the hours until quitting time; instead, you constantly look for ways to improve what you do. Who’s going to go that extra mile if they don’t care about the work?
Today, I’m working hard at my second career. I’m now a writer and I volunteer as a member of the governing board of Rave Reviews Book Club – an international literary community. I love both of these roles, because they both inspire my passion for life and for people. I work very hard – too many hours each day, but it doesn’t feel like work! I don’t long for weekends and holidays to escape the work. The bottom line is that I’m having fun!
I smiled when I read the last few words quoted above, “…there’s so little competition.” I think it’s fair to say that he didn’t have a lot of confidence in his contemporaries. In his view, very few people worked with their whole heart. Hubbard died one hundred years ago. Would he write the same words today? I think so! This is why I feel so lucky, so blessed! I managed to find two careers that I have no trouble working at with my whole heart. Dumb luck? Perhaps, to some extent, but I am grateful to have the freedom to make my choices, accept the challenges, and continue to grow as I give back to a society that has been so good to me.