I spent the first month of 2022 working from a remote fishing village in the middle of the Baja peninsula. A couple sand covered streets over from our beach house was a baseball diamond for the high school kids. It was backed by a concrete wall with a slogan painted on it, “hard work equals success.”

It was a belief that I was familiar with as a high school student. That effort oriented thinking served me well when I was in the Marines and as an aspiring martial artist.

But it’s not true.

Growing up on my parents’ farm, we irrigated using handlines: sections of hollow metal pipe topped with a sprinkler. These sections were connected into lines with around 30 pipes that stretched from one end of the field to the other. Every morning and evening, they had to be moved fifty feet over to the next position to ensure the whole field got water.

Moving handlines sucks. It’s boring, repetitive, and taxing. The water filled pipes are heavy and awkward.

My siblings and I worked the farm and we moved some of the handlines. But most of the lines were moved by Mexican laborers.

My dad had a hired man named Juvenal who moved sixteen lines every morning and evening. Pops marveled at Juvenal’s prodigious work output. When talking about Juvenal, he often told me that Mexicans are harder workers than Americans by far.

Eventually, my dad needed a foreman and he hired another guy, Francisco. He liked Francisco because he was reliable, smart, and could communicate well. Juvenal didn’t like taking orders from another Mexican and quit.

After a few years, Francisco was replaced by Eno and Eno did well enough that he became an American citizen and built a nice house in a nearby community. To this day, Juvenal lives in a little trailer in that same community.

Hard work clearly doesn’t equal success. You can probably think of plenty of examples that contradict this idea.

But that’s not what I want you to take away.

The reason I write this story about hard work is to illustrate that there is a difference between what is commonly believed and how things actually are.

If you are to grow your business, you have to deal with the reality of how things are. That means that you have to be able to assess it for yourself. Common wisdom has inbuilt risk.

Featured image is a Qanat, an ancient underground irrigation system that funnels underground water from high ground to the surface of low ground. First used first millenium BCE by Persian ancestors. By NAEINSUN – Own work, used under CC BY-SA 33.0