Columns

Jamaica's success requires more than hard work

Chris Burns

Monday, October 01, 2012    

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Hard work is a noble endeavour and the government never misses a beat in telling people how hard it has been working on their behalf; never mind that there are hardly any significant outcomes to show for the hard work. That aside, outcomes, in this sense, mean results or successes, not just any results - but here I speak of quality results and tangible successes - the kinds that require more than hard work to attain. Success requires more than hefty quotients of hard work or good fortunes.

Even the colours (black green and gold) in our national flag confirm that the country's success requires a skilful combination of three important resources: our strong and creative people, the richness of our land and the wealth from the abundant sunshine (energy). My father used to say, "Hard work is important, but it alone will get you so far and no more." Expectedly, I grappled with this assertion for years because, in my mind, it ran counter to almost everything I learned about the value of hard work and its symbiotic relationship to success. It was not until my mid-20s that I came to appreciate the prudence of my father's advice.

This gradual epiphany caused me to ask an older co-worker if she was satisfied with her success, having worked as hard as she did. Surprisingly, she said she was not satisfied. Mark you, there could have been myriad reasons for her state of being and just as many definitions of what success meant to her. But, I inferred that she was speaking about financial success and professional advancement. Yet, it matters little how one defines success; the truth is that success requires more than hard work.

Before we delve into the essential elements of success, let us use the properties of water as illustration of the composition of success. Water is a chemical substance represented by the chemical formula H2O. In order to have water, two things, not one, are necessary; hydrogen and oxygen. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Clearly, there would be no water without hydrogen, and oxygen alone cannot produce water.

On a slightly different note, we learned in physics about Einstein's famous equation which says "Energy = mc2" (with m = mass and c = the speed of light).

Here again, although this equation tells us that energy and mass are the same thing, and how much energy is contained in a given mass, or vice versa, it also shows that more than one thing is required to produce energy.

Do not get me wrong. Hard work is not a bad thing; but working hard for the sake of working hard makes little sense, even though hard work can produce success. Success requires time for recharging and relaxation. No wonder contemporary thinkers suggest that one should work more smartly instead of hard. Some people are of the mindset that unless they work a full 16-hour day, fall asleep at the switch and are excessively tired from work that they have not really worked. That is such a pity.

Success requires an amalgam of vision, pursuable opportunities, equity, a design of destination, competence, good luck, adaptability, passion, intelligence, nimbleness, intuition, investment, fearlessness, marketability, encouragement, empowerment, patience, innate abilities, hard work, diligence, smarts, stick-to-itiveness and so on. Clearly, as an alloy, success is dependent on all those things, and not just on a single component.

Let's pivot to the requirements for national success. Like individual success, a country's success is also dependent on several elements. This holds true for businesses as well. Because, in addition to hard work, business success hinges on the prudent conversion and utilisation of what economists call the "factors of production" . These factors are land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. As any businessman would say, hard work by itself is insufficient, and that money, risks opportunity and support, etc, are vital catalysts to success.

But back to national success. Undoubtedly, government alone cannot produce national success. National success requires collaboration, active goal-oriented partnerships, trust, investments, opportunity, consensus, modern infrastructure, innovation, and commonness of objectives between the governors and the governed, owners of capital and workers and between the state, civil society and entrepreneurs. Of late, conclusion of the International Monetary Fund negotiations has taken centre stage, with key sector leaders voicing "collective concerns" over the seemingly slow pace at which these negotiations have been moving and the dire consequences that protracted negotiations could have on the economy.

It is true that an early conclusion to this negotiation could improve the country's cash flow and stabilise the dollar as loan proceeds begin to flow in from several multilateral organisations. However, as helpful as an IMF agreement could be, the agreement is just part of several other elements that are necessary to make our economy and country grow, create socio-cultural advancement and harmony, generate prosperity and opportunity for individual and collective success. National success requires more than platitudinous thinking; it requires the deliberate inclusion of all the elements to make things happen that could stimulate opportunities that could unleash creativity and enterprise.

In the context of national success, the government must be facilitative. Its role cannot be purely regulatory. To this end, government's tax, fiscal priorities, debt management strategy, industrial, energy, research and development, innovation and training, labour, education, social, environmental, macroeconomic, developmental and legal policies must work in sync, not counterintuitively, with the private and social sectors. Jamaica's success requires more than hard work. It requires an enabling governance structure and environment, social cohesion, discipline, opportunity, a fearless and innovative private sector and a socio-cultural renaissance that encourages entrepreneurship and bolsters confidence.

Burnscg@aol.com

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