It would seem that success is only possible through intentional hard work. Intentional because the hard laborer out in the field using a hoe and a rake, hand planting seeds year after year, is not going to be successful. Hard because it takes discipline and dedication to push through those days when you don’t want to get up and when you really wonder if your work will pay off. And finally its work. It’s not wishful thinking, talking with friends, and dreaming. Its actual work.
That’s the difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t. Those who aren’t get off from a long day at work and crash on the couch exhausted and desirous of sleep. They may mention how taxing their job is or the strain of pursing a certain field of study. These are your average people. Like me or you most of the time. We do our work. But that’s it. Whatever is required of us to meet certain the standards of are particular social status and circles, and then nothing more.
Successful people don’t think like this. They embrace work not as a necessary evil but as a challenge to be overcome. They relish the idea of developing new ways to learn faster and thus be able to absorb far more in a shorter time. And not so that they can work less but so that in the same twelve hours of work they can accomplish more and reach greater knowledge and create more innovations. And when they have finished their allotted time they are loathed to fall asleep for they might miss an opportunity to learn more or pursue their goals further.
Borrowing from Gladwell’s writings again, we see this so portrayed in Asian cultures. Ancient Chinese grew rice as their primary sustenance and medium of exchange. Rice is a complicated, labor intensive crop which must be raised quite specifically to be successful. Chinese farmers would often labor 60 hours a week perfecting their methods, tending to their crops, and seeking to better themselves and improve on what they had. Meanwhile their European Peasant counterparts were working the bare minimum to get by. They would be known to hibernate during winter rather than work all year round to thus decrease their preparatory labor in the summer and conserve energy in the cold months. European success and development only came after the fall of this feudal system which is unsatisfying and minimally productive. In contrast, the communities of ancient China were strong, built on family cooperation, close relationships, and the satisfaction of knowing that the harder one worked the more successful they would be.
Maybe this is why Christians are by a large degree less successful than many other people groups in developed countries. They are sitting around waiting for God to do something He never promised to do for them. Namely, work hard to accomplish a goal, to master a subject, to perfect an art, to obtain perfection. Maybe God never intended prayer to be a handicap for Christians to fall back on and His Will to be an excuse for things not happening after one halfhearted try.
In the so called secular world if someone wants something, say a gold medal or an office in parliament, she will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal sacrificing sleep, entertainment, and pleasure for the sake of what she wants. On a broader scale if someone desires power or influence over people, in the same way they will research what avenues of media, employment, social spheres, and locations and work to gain that power whether for good (an influential doctor wishing to demonstrate the power of holistic medicine) or for evil (an angry power hungry man wishing to dominate people out of childhood insecurities). What does a Christian want to do if he wishes to “win his city over for Christ”? He holds a safe, quiet, comfortable prayer meeting with his closest likeminded friends…and waits.