Is hard work the key to success? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.


Question: Sir, everyone says that hard work is the key to success. Is this true?

Speaker: Rohit is asking that is hard work the key to success. Rohit, you have picked two entities and asked whether they can be equated.

You have said, ‘hard work’ and you have said, ‘success’. You are asking that are the two synonymous. Does one lead to the other? Is one guarantee to the other? Is the presence of one necessary for the presence of other?

How do I know whether ‘A’ equals ‘B’, when I neither understand ‘A’ nor do I understand ‘B’?  You are asking me that is ‘A’ equal to ‘B’. I am asking you that what is ‘A’ and what is ‘B’. Let us understand that. Then it will be very easy to understand whether ‘A’ equals ‘B’.

What is hard work?

Work is of two kinds. One is the work that you have read of in your Physics book which is the expenditure of energy, the kind of work that you can measure in calories, joules and electron volts. It is the physical work. We are not to bothered about it because it is anyway happening all the time in nature. That physical work is mere energy and energy keeps getting converted from one form to another.

The other kind of work which is more significant is mental effort, is mental churning, is mental happening. Getting it?

These are two kinds of work. One is the activity that takes place physically. The activity that takes place physically is not really work even though your physics text-book would have made you believe so. You know there is something called as ‘basal metabolic rate’? You know even when you are sitting here, you are ‘working’? You are working physically without any mental work happening. Even as your body is burning energy, metabolism is happening, but you are not thinking about it. It is just happening on its own. You may be very peaceful, very silent, yet work is happening.

We have chanced upon a very significant statement. You can sit very silently and yet the work is happening. The heart is beating. The system is digesting food, blood is following, lungs are operating. Yet nothing is happening in the mind. Nothing is wrong. Without your intervention, even without mental work, physical work is happening. Even without any mental work, physical work is happening. When even without mental work physical work happens, then there is no need of anything called ‘success’. Then what is happening is just happening, nicely, smoothly, beautifully.

Now, contrast this with another situation. I am all the time thinking of success. I am constantly thinking of success even without moving my hands and feet. That is what mostly happens. There is a lot of thought which may not be necessarily accompanied by physical activity. In the first situation you had physical activity without thought. No mental activity but physical work was happening. I am saying contrast this with another situation where there is no physical activity yet there is a lot of mental activity, that is planning, projection, ambitions, ‘I want success, I want success.’ And that is very-very tiring, extremely tiring. Are you getting this?

Surely physical work is needed. But let that physical work not come from a lot of mental activity. What you call as ‘success’ is nothing but a concept of the mind and it requires a lot of mental movement. You are constantly ‘thinking’ of success. So, mental work is happening. Mental work is happening and happening. All this is when you are chasing success.

Real success is when you understand something, and out of that understanding you immediately start acting. I have understood something and when I have understood something, the mental movement has stopped. Till what point does the mental movement continue? The mental movement will continue only till the point I have not understood. When I have understood, the mental work stops, it is settled, closed. The mind is peaceful and the body is acting. There is no need for the churning to keep happening here.  There is no need of mental work. Pure physical work is happening even without my intervention. I have understood and that understanding is translating into action. Are you getting it?

A lot of hard work is happening without me trying to do it. It is happening without ‘me’. Let us take a day-to-day example. Let us say that there was a particular day in the college when you did not like attending your sessions and from eight in the morning to four or five in the evening all you did was to attend the sessions. All you did was just sit and walk, but no great physical activity. At 5 p.m., you felt tired mentally even though you had expended just two hundred kilo-calories. After 5 p.m. you go to play soccer. In playing soccer you spend a thousand kilo-calories, five times the amount you spent in the entire day. In playing soccer, a lot of physical work had happened but it did not tire you down. Because the real hard work ‘just’ happened. You were not thinking every moment that I have to chase the ball, I have to pass it, I have to do this way.

The crux of the matter is: live in understanding. When you understand something, hard work happens on its own.

In fact, more physical hard work happens than you can otherwise do. Then you don’t have to ‘do’ hard work. Then you are not mentally tired. Great work happens even without your thinking and planning. It is just happening out of your understanding, and that understanding itself is success.

So, yes hard work is the key to success but not mental hard work. Thought will not lead to success. The settlement of thought, the understanding, that is success. Thought always says, ‘I will lead to success.’ In thought success is always in the future, ‘I will lead to success.’ In understanding success is right now, in that very moment, instantaneous, immediate. ‘I have understood and I have started acting’, and that is success. ‘I have understood and because I have understood, action is simply happening. Action does not wait for my permission. It even does not ask for my intervention. I have attained such clarity that I have to act.’ Action will happen. This is success irrespective of the result. It does not wait for the result in future that in future result will come and then we will decide whether it is a success or a failure.

‘I have understood and from that understanding the action is happening and that action itself is success, right now.’ The notion that you talked of that I will work hard and in that working hard a particular result will come and that particular result will be called as ‘success’, this notion is obviously not valid. Are you getting it?

Listener 2: Why do we distinguish between success and failure?

Speaker: We distinguish between successful and failure because all our activity, all our work is only for something in the future, the attainment of which we call as ‘success’ and non-attainment of which we call as ‘failure’.

See, we never do anything for its own sake. Whenever we are acting, we are acting to attain something ahead of us. So what is important, the action or the attainment? Action is right now, attainment is in the future. Whenever we act, whenever a common man acts, it is for the sake of the attainment in the future. The action has very little value.

In our mind, in the conditioned mind, the value is given to that result, that attainment in the future. So, it is obvious that when ‘that’ result is important, the attainment of it will be called as ‘success’ and the non-attainment of it will be called as ‘failure’. But if there could be a mind, there could be man who finds joy in the action itself, then ‘success’ and ‘failure’ will have no value.

If you give importance to the result, if the result is what you are chasing, then success and failure will be of great value and all that is happening right now will only bore you down. You will never be present into it fully, because your mind will be there, ahead, something is to be attained. So, that is one kind of success, to be obtained in the future.

When success is to be attained in the future then the present does not have any value, then the action in the present does not have any value. The other kind of success is, in the present that is happening which is ought to happen. ‘I am successful right now because the action right now is arising out of my understanding.’


Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Is hard work the key to success? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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2 comments

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