I love this quote from Conan O’Brien:
If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
It’s easy to read this glibly. ‘Right, right. Be nice, work hard, and you’ll be really successful. That’s not necessarily true, man.’
Yes, being nice and working hard don’t equal success–at least success as it’s normally perceived. What O’Brien said is that if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. ‘Amazing things’ deserves some unpacking.
‘Amazing things’ doesn’t mean financial success. It doesn’t mean great esteem amidst your peers. It doesn’t mean fame or a lauded career. ‘Amazing things’ means ‘wonderful things’–for example, a life where you left more than you took. You brought value to an organization. You taught students who, even if they never come back to thank you, were positively affected by having you as their teacher. ‘Amazing’ doesn’t equal money. It doesn’t mean a red carpet. To me, ‘amazing’ means you lived a life of value–for yourself and others. The really great thing about this is that amazing things manifest themselves in much more wonderful ways than we ever could have expected.
Of course, amazing things will only appear by working hard and being kind. Hard work is difficult to define. Jobs are so different than the manual labor of the past, it’s almost impossible to quantify how hard someone works. Regardless, hard work is done every day, and for amazing things to happen, it must be coupled with being kind.
Kindness. It’s not something spoken of much, and if it is, it’s not spoken of very kindly. Oftentimes at work, ‘kind’ is trumped by ‘too bad, you have to’. In church, it’s trumped by ‘too bad, I’m right’. In relationships, it’s trumped by ‘this is the way I see things; deal with it’. Kindness overcomes these perspectives. It cuts through cynicism, anger, and doubt in order to see others with as little judgment as possible. Our acts of kindness are what stay on this earth after we depart.
I think O’Brien is right. Amazing things will happen if we’re kind and work hard; the fruit of kindness and hard work is much sweeter than perishable goods such as money and fame.
If you wake up tomorrow, and you work as hard as you can and are kind to your family and coworkers, amazing things will happen.