"Industry is a better horse to ride than genius" (Walter Lippmann).
WOULD THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST SAY YOU'RE A HARD WORKER? If not, then at least two valuable things are being lost: (1) Your friends are losing the value of the contribution you could make to their lives, and (2) you're losing the unique satisfaction that comes from being active and assiduous in your work.
Our English word "industrious" comes from the Latin industria which simply meant "diligent." To be industrious is to be dynamic and productive. It is not only to work but to be hardworking. And all too often, it's a quality that characterizes the few rather than the many.
In all fairness, it is true that some people go overboard when it comes to work. As Clarence Day wryly remarked, "The ant is knowing and wise; but he doesn't know enough to take a vacation."
But that's not the tendency in most of our lives. Most of us could add a little more industriousness to our characters and not be hurt by it at all. And that's what we will want to do when we see our work as it relates to our fellow human beings. When we realize that with our work we honor not only the work itself but also those for whom we do it, we'll naturally want to give it more effort.
That's why it's important for each of us to find two things. First, we need to find work we can truly see as being our own work: work that taps into our individual endowments and calls forth our greatest passion. And second, we need to identify the people who can most greatly profit from this work. We need to know for whom we're working and dedicate our work to them in all conscientiousness.
Some people, frankly, give work a bad name. They put it off and run from it as if it were a dreaded disease. From their dislike of it, you'd think that hard work is undesirable, that it's something to be done only if there is no other choice, and not a minute longer than it takes to get it over with. But this is a serious, and most unfortunate, misconception. Honorable work and the industriousness that goes with it are two ingredients in any reasonable recipe for the good life. If your friends call you a hard worker, please don't be embarrassed.
"Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor" (Ulysses S. Grant).