William Liao

November 10, 2021

Work hard to play hard

The first time I heard “work hard, play hard” was when a couple of friends were describing the ethos of their respective fraternities — one comprising of dedicated business students, another comprising of ambitious pre-med students looking to become the future of medicine. 

My initial reaction to this description is a feeling of excitement and motivation. I like the notion of fully committing to work when we aim to work, and fully committing to the act of play when we seek to play. 

I still feel this way. 

In the last few months though, I have made a subtle alteration to the phrase that I think is valuable: “play hard to work hard.”

Unlike “work hard, play hard,” “play hard to work hard” implies a clear dependent relationship between the two activities. If we want to work well, we must invest in playing well too. 

In Peak Performance by Brad Stuhlberg and Steve Magness, a somewhat similar sentiment is conveyed when they say “stress + rest = growth.” 

I’m an advocate for going all-in on the work that we’re passionate about.

The only difference is that I’ve been humbled in recent years by the importance of going all-in on play if we want to sustain our ability to work effectively.