Rocky Balboa at the top of the steps

I was chatting with fellow freelance writer Dylan Duarte last night about the concept of work ethic and how someone can go about building a strong work ethic. It’s really easy to get lazy and let things slide, so how can someone develop a work ethic that will keep them going? To spur them on?

The only person that is really going to get you to do anything at all is yourself.

When you work at home as a freelancer or a dot com entrepreneur, there is no one breathing down your neck. You need to not only stay motivated, but you also need to be a self starter. Do something because it needs to be done, not because someone told you to do it.

This is probably just going to perpetuate the stereotype, but I have always had a rather strong work ethic. Growing up, I had a very strong sense of responsibility and it seems that others noticed this. When I asked for a reference letter from my high school English teacher several years back, she illustrated my work ethic by describing a time when I had to leave a class field trip early so that I could go work at my parents’ restaurant. My parents needed my help that afternoon and I was willing to shorten my field trip to fulfill this responsibility.

As you can probably imagine, having a strong work ethic is conducive to a career in freelance writing. I’m known to work evenings and weekends. I’m known to go beyond the call of duty. It’s also because of this work ethic, however, that it is very easy for me to fall into the pit of burnout. For those who struggle with motivation, however, building a strong work ethic can drastically improve both income level and a sense of self-satisfaction.

No one wants to be known as mediocre. You want to fulfill your life’s potential.

Believe it or not, if you just sit around twiddling your thumbs, the only thing that is getting accomplished is someone sitting around twiddling his/her thumbs. You don’t want to be on your deathbed, wondering what could have been. There isn’t anything wrong with having lofty goals — impossible is nothing — because even if you fail to achieve them, you can at least say that you tried. Without trying, success is impossible.

Working hard is one thing. Employees work hard to avoid the wrath of their managers. Children work hard in school to please their parents. Professional athletes work hard to revel in the adoration of their fans. The trouble with all of these scenarios is that they may only work hard when others are looking, because a big part of the benefit is going to others. That’s not what work ethic is all about.

Work ethic is working hard when no one is looking, when no one else could care.

It’s about dedication. It’s about sticking through the tough times and pushing yourself that much further. Get to the top of those steps. Finish that project that’s been burning a hole in the back of your mind. The single greatest motivator and reward is not money, power, or respect. It’s a sense of achievement or accomplishment for your own sake.

What gets you going each morning? Better still, what keeps you going?