Okay, first and foremost, I’d like to let you know that I want to rant a bit. Once and a while. Perhaps this is one in a hundred posts I wrote that contain rants. But no worries, I’ll make this short, sweet and actually useful – pinky promise :)

So, here it goes.

To get started, when you heard of ‘hard work’, what are the first things that come to mind? If I were asked the question, I’d answer, “Hard work is when you use your time efficiently and effectively, in such a way that you and your business return more than the time, money and effort you’ve invested in.”

Graphic designer working hard

But it seems that, in our society – at least in the society in my home country – hard work means work long hour, travel long and far, jumping from one meeting to another meeting, go to work at 5 AM and got back home at 11 PM, work on the weekends and everything else in between. ‘rings some bells?

I mean, that’s fine with the definition. That’s fine if that’s how you roll. What bother me is that some people think that their definition of hard work should be my definition of it.

You see, I work at home. Well, in fact, I can work anywhere, anytime I want. I run an online business that comprises an inbound marketing company, business online magazines, and blogs. I have a couple of freelancers working for me, and I can hire 10 more if I needed to – thanks to the available online forums and marketplaces.

All is done online. And yes, I support my family with 100% online income. And yes, there are days I work until 3 AM and need to wake up at 6.15 AM to take the kids to school. And yes, unlike many people think, I work hard, too.

Now, some people might say that those are cool, but unfortunately, some of the closest people I know (not my spouse and kids, fortunately) think that what I do at the other spectrum of ‘cool’. Who’s cool is he/she who is traveling hundreds of mile a day running a business. Who’s cool is he/she who meet with potential partners until midnight. Who’s cool is he/she who doesn’t go home for weeks – even months.

Staying at home like an unemployed? To some, uncool.

Again, I think that working long hours, etc. is great. But just don’t judge me with your definition of hard work. You see, I’m not even sure that you work harder than me ;)

But enough about the rant. You might say who am I to rant about hard work. Fair enough: Let these three mentors who I respect explains what hard work is. You’ll see that hard work shouldn’t have only one definition.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Master hustler and epic grinder

If I should mention one name, one of the people who deserve accolades for working hard is my man Gary Vaynerchuk, the Mr. Hustle/entrepreneur/social media guru/investor/author:

I suspect that it might be not his typical day, because he can attend his kid’s recitals, take vacations and so on. But you get my point: He work hard, smart and fast, and I doubt that there are anyone else who out-hustle him.

Tim Ferriss: Master of efficiency and lord of learning

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s one who deserve accolades for his hustle and hard work – Tim Ferriss, the 4-hour workweek guru/entrepreneur/investor/author:

His endeavor is to reduce meaningless work by maximizing your output per hour, and allocate that free time on any other things to you heart’s content.

Sir Richard Branson: That man who runs 500(-ish) companies

On a different category of his own, Sir Richard Branson is the billionaire who owns Virgin Group that consists of approximately 500 companies.  He owns an island and is realizing a dream of getting people to travel to space for leisure.  Here’s how he rolls:

Fun stuff, but to get there, it’s hard work. Richard Branson has his fair share of ups and downs in the past, and his shortcomings (he’s open about his dyslexia) has led him to master the game of delegation, having his trusted people to run 500 companies for him.

These three public figures see things differently, but all three work hard

As you can see, the three seem to have different definitions of ‘work hard’, but they are, indeed, working hard.

Did you think that Gary Vaynerchuk is all work and doesn’t care about his family? Think again. Gary is a very “into it” guy: If he’s working, he’s a beast, putting in 110% into it. If he’s with his family, he’s 110% on the quality time.

Did you think that Tim Ferriss was a lazy punk for working just a several hours a week? Think again. Tim worked ridiculous hours to engineer the way he works and runs his business. Tim learns much more than many Ph.D.’s on vast array of subjects, from business management to cooking, and do so faster.

Did you think that Richard Branson aced schools and has greatness in his hands early on? Think again. He struggled at school and needed to hustle his way to success – because schools couldn’t help him achieve that.  He had to face business difficulties, near-death experience, and so on. His limitations have led him trust others to make it work. So far, so good.

The three entrepreneurs are hard workers, and they WANT to do it and are PASSIONATE about doing it.

Now over to you…

If you say, “I work hard, you know…” out of self-pity and hoping for someone else to recognize your hard work, then you are working hard at the wrong thing/job/business/etc. You may be working hard, but you are not working smart. Learn from the guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and Richard Branson. Read their books. Watch their videos. And take action – you’ll soon learn that if you work hard on the right things, then you’ll get the right results – good or bad – regardless of what people say.

If you say, “You should work like her… she works very hard” then you might be very well a jerk. Sorry. Don’t judge me and don’t compare me with anyone else. You should ask yourself: Are you working hard? If so, how’s your output per hour? How’s your family time? Are you attending your kids’ recital? Are you there when your loved ones need you?

So, here’s the question of the day: How do you define ‘work hard’?