Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

Remember the rules?

It was lovely to hear the pope last week talk about one that was even golden. Yes, just like the most expensive Apple Watch.

But as the Web has brought us under its spell, we've learned more about the world and we've begun to express that we like it a little less every day.

(The usual medium for this is Twitter.)

When you were growing up, how many times did you hear that what mattered most in life was hard work? Well, that and taking the trash out. Which was hard work too.

But how many people actually believe in hard work anymore? They look at pimply youths making fortunes in Silicon Valley before their faces have even made a case for shaving.

They watch as Wall Street types amass more and more money, sometimes openly stealing it without any meaningful sanctions being brought upon them.

Then they ask themselves: Is hard work really worth it when these types rule the world?

Is it worth grinding hard when someone can make an app that lets you rate other human beings and the company is already (allegedly) worth $7.6 million? And no, this so-called Peeple app hasn't even launched yet.

Is it worth attempting to climb ladders that are made not of wood, nor of any other stable material, but instead are slippery and even disappear before your very eyes like the five of diamonds in a magician's hands?

Why play by these supposed rules when the ones who win the most are disruptors, ignoring not merely rules, but actual laws in order to make an uber-buck?

By coincidence, I happened upon a workmanlike article in the Economist.

It talked about how the Asian-American population is unusually happy. Asian-Americans are better educated, wealthier and -- perhaps most startling of all -- married-ier than the average American.

69 percent of them still believe that hard work works wonders. You'd think, then, that the general population would see this as proof that hard work pays.

Yet a mere 58 percent of Americans believe working hard is worth it. Some might be surprised it's that high.

Yes, almost half the American population has decided that even if you work hard, you're not going to prosper. Better to sit back, relax and enjoy (or not) the flight through life.

Even Asian-Americans are beginning to wonder whether their hard work achieves a just reward. Evidence suggests that they do very well in middle management, but are somehow passed over when the most senior positions become available.

What will a future in which almost half of a nation thinks hard work is pointless look like?

Will it be a place where employers, for all the technology at their disposal, can't find workers who are motivated enough to do the work?

Will it mean that more and more people are willing to make less money, as long as they don't have to work even vaguely long hours or try too hard at anything?

And how often, even now, do employers know that their workers aren't really that interested, which makes the bosses feel very free to change out those workers on a regular basis?

It may be that I'm sounding marginally pessimistic. Please, then, let me offer you this cheery headline from October 1, 2015: "Young Americans Are Giving Up On Getting Rich."

Mark Zuckerberg loved telling people that his philosophy was to "move fast and break things."

In the process, perhaps one of the rules that was swiftly broken was the one that goes: "Son, work hard and you'll succeed at anything you want to."

Published on: Oct 2, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.