Thursday, September 27, 2007

Effort, Effortless

* This breaks the flow of the recent essays. Back to habitus.

It is easy to think that self-advancement is only possible through hard work. The reality is that successful self-advancement is possible through a combination of hard work and good strategy with an emphasis on good strategy, rather than hard work.

It is a strange phenomenon, for example, that obtaining a Masters degree in the Philippines is infinitely more difficult than obtaining a Masters degree (anywhere) abroad. I have experienced firsthand and witnessed through the experiences of my friends the difficulty of obtaining a Masters degree in the Philippines. On the other hand, I have heard from my friends and former students that obtaining a Masters degree abroad is easy. I have heard stories of how masteral work abroad is comparable to undergraduate work in the Philippines, theses being the equivalent of long essays submitted in local universities. Of course, it is the getting there that is difficult, which is why those with deep pockets or good connections get further ahead compared to those who only have brilliant minds in terms of being able to enter prestigious universities even if these students who are economically or socially endowed may not possess the sharpest brains in the universe.

And yet despite the fact that local Masteral degrees put you through the wringer while courses abroad are relatively easy, it is the foreign degree that has more economic and social value. Good strategy trumps hard work in this case.

In many fields, hard work is not even to be associated with a demonstration of technical knowledge or technical skill but could take the form of giving a “good performance” (even if that performance has very little substance) or good relations (social capital is after all capital that takes effort to accumulate) or good presentation of the self (which is why people say socially processing their bodies to make themselves “presentable” takes a lot of hard work). All of these investments pay off more than a demonstration of technical knowledge or technical skill not because of the amount of effort put into them but because to begin with, they constitute good strategy.

Next Post: Friday, October 5. Nouveau Riche

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