The value of hard work

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The other day, I was discussing something with a friend.

What exactly is the value of hard work?

Let’s say, for example, that I am not a pro when it comes to working with wood. For someone’s birthday, I know that they don’t have a living room coffee table and want one, so I give them a handmade one out of wood. Considering the fact that I have never done this before, this table ends up with a couple minor problems. It doesn’t look very beautiful, and I’m pretty sure it can’t take as much weight as a store-bought one.

It was pretty hard for me to do it, and it took me 10 hours of work to make. I could have bought one for 80$, which would have taken me 4-5 hours to earn with my salary.

Keep in mind that I don’t know anything about wood working or coffee tables, so those figures might be totally unrealistic. It’s just an example.

Most people seem to agree that making the table instead of buying is much better. Since I put more efforts in the gift, it has a way higher value, and the person will appreciate it more. Statistically, you probably think this too.

I don’t.

Like in most cases where the entire world disagrees with me, I have to consider the very real chance that I am the one who is wrong in this situation. So I would love if someone could explain this to me so that I could finally understand. Until then, here’s my reasoning:

First of all, all the efforts that were put in the table are not transferred to the one who receives it. This person was not planning to spend ten hours making a coffee table, therefore the 10 hours that I have spent are simply destroyed, and not given to the receiver. Furthermore, my handmade table is, by all measurable means, worth less than a store one. It can support less weight, looks a little uglier, and is a lot more likely to break or not be completely level. The store bought table is objectively better, and the efforts are not given to the person. Therefore, the gift is a worse one.

But even more importantly, it cost me more. I have spent more of my time/money (according to my salary) to make it, risked injuring myself, and probably suffered a little bit if I’m not a manual labor type of person. Most of those things might sound like it makes the gift better, but as explained previously, it actually made it worse. I am literally willing to pay more money and risk injuring myself for the sole purpose of giving you a worse gift. I just can’t see how this can possibly ever be seen as a good thing. According to me, this is not a proof of love. I really hope I will never hate someone enough to be willing to spend ten hours and injure myself just to make sure that their birthday gift is at least a little bit less awesome.

Also, every time I mention this to someone, their answer usually doesn’t match the question. This is a good sign that one of us is in cognitive dissonance. Either I’m hallucinating a bad answer because the real one would force me to admit I’m wrong, or they hallucinated a different question because they can’t answer the real one. The answer (or at least, what I hear) is usually something about how making efforts for someone prove that you love them, even though my point literally a few seconds before was about how, in this specific case, the effort is made for the sole purpose of lowering the quality of the gift. Again, I can’t see how making a special effort to make a gift uglier and less safe is a proof of love. Sneaking into someone’s house to switch the batteries in their smoke detectors to slightly older (and more worn out) ones is not a proof of love, no matter how hard it was to do it.

Obviously, in any case where the effort actually makes the gift better, then it’s great. In those cases, the effort was indeed a proof of love, the person was willing to work to make your gift better. I am specifically talking about those situations where the effort made the gift predictably objectively worse, yet people “appreciate” it.

I will still, every now and then, do exactly that. Because I know that most people appreciate it, and therefore if I want to make the people in my life happy, I’ll have to act irrational every now and then. But every single time, it will be extremely weird, and I won’t understand at all. Except if one of you guys manages to make my stubborn brain understand this phenomenon. I am very likely to be the idiot in this situation, I’d just like to get educated about it.