It is a cornerstone of the American Way that if an individual works hard he or she will be successful. It’s true, yet it is far from the total truth. Reality is much more complex.

Yes, hard work is definitely a requirement for success. Very few “luck” into success. As the saying goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

However, living smart and working wise are equally important. What do I mean?

Living Smart: First, avoid dumb. I see so many people work hard and then stupidly sabotage their lives. Take years to get themselves two steps forward, then take 10 steps back overnight. Alcohol, drugs, temper, indiscriminate sex, carelessness at a key career or relationship juncture, burnout, stress. You name it, people do it to themselves. And then they lack the will or the knowledge or the skills to do proper recovery, the courage to walk back in and admit their errors and work their way out of the hole they have dug. After a while, you can no longer talk your way out of what you have behaved your self into. We all fall down, we all plateau at some point. That is fine, that is normal. Develop self-awareness and when you feel it coming on, find a way to take a break. Just like the weary mountain climber who locks himself into his harness and takes a rest instead of a fall, you too must prepare in advance plans, routines, and fallbacks so that you have a cushion, reserves to carry you though tough times.

Working Wise: Working wise means adding deep value by becoming a continuous learner, by learning how your work impacts those around you, by understanding your boss’s job and needs as well as her boss’s boss goals, by thinking at an ever higher level. Hard skills are just the table stakes these days. Increase your EQ—your Emotional Intelligence—your soft skills. And, no, I’m not talking about flattery or even mere networking. The ability to anticipate the needs of others, empathize, listen, establish true rapport, create consensus, connect, influence, and persuade are rare and highly-valued sets of talents that will take you far.

Closing quotes:

“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” — Alfred A. Montapert

“Luck? I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work, and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.” — Lucille Ball

“Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success.” — Diana Rankin