Achieving a desired goal is one of the innate pleasures in life that somehow gives meaning to struggle.  However, following society's advice on how to achieve a goal can be a treacherous path to the destination.  Only the outcome matters, not how you got there.

So much effort is wasted in the corporate world.  It is estimated that in an 8 hour day, the average worker is only productive for around 3 hours.  Of those 3 hours, one can only assume that some large part of that is actually wasted towards non-value generating work.  How many times does a potential client waste days of a company's effort before going with a competitor?  How many hours are wasted in building products or features that no one uses?  The worst part is that you could be working like a maniac but all that "hard work" is just a waste.

It's very interesting to think about how society values hard work.  Whether you succeed or fail is only one axis on the chart of how you will be judged.

Society's Judgement

Even if you are successful in achieving your goal, you will still be judged on whether it is justified or not that you were successful.  If a startup founder barely puts in 20 hours a week and doesn't hide that fact, but then sells their company for $50 million, you can be assured there will be some resentment and envy.  Contrast that with a founder who struggled countless sleepless nights, putting the Chinese 9-9-6 to shame, and pulls off a $50 million acquisition against all odds.  That second founder will be hailed as a role model and admired.

Failure is never good, but society will still judge you differently depending on their assessment of whether you worked hard or not.  Put yourself into the shoes of a Venture Capitalist who invested in 2 failed founders.  Even though the VC knows that 90% of the time a new company will fail, they will have different feelings between the founder who seemed to barely put in any effort vs the one "hustling". Disgust for the lazy founder will most likely prevent the VC from investing in their next company, while they would be more likely to put another bet on the hard working one.

Society's value in hard work comes down to respect.  If you want society to respect you, you must put in hard work, but is that in your own interest?

Society's Respect

As an individual, it makes no sense to target an outcome of something you want to achieve and then climb the mountain over the next year, when an elevator was there that could get up to the top today.  If you can see a shortcut, why wouldn't you take it?  The outcomes are what is important, not how hard you worked to get there.

Since outcomes are the most important part, they should really be the focus of thought and effort before undertaking any new venture.  The problem is that most of us are targeting outcomes that society tells us we should value.  For example, if the outcome you are targeting is getting rich but there is no other motivation, then you will start chasing money.  Money is a shared illusion, a figment of our collective imagination, and something fake and made up.  You would literally be spending effort chasing a figment of your imagination.

On a side note, chasing money is actually backwards.  Henry Ford criticized the business people he originally worked with for focusing on selling cars for money as the highest priority instead of focusing on the business of making the best cars with the best process.  He eventually left his original partners and started his own company with this mindset.  Money is just a byproduct of producing something valuable, not the valuable thing itself.

Overall though, it doesn't really matter what you are striving for or what outcomes you are targeting.  The only thing that does matter is that you have your eyes open and you realize what is going on, and not letting society determine your path. Achieve your goals on your terms.