Hard yards?

中国日报网 2015-08-14 09:41



Reader question:

Hard yards?

When they say so-and-so's “hard yards go unrewarded”, what does it mean?

My comments:

We're talking about an unlucky so-and-so here, aren't we? Unlucky because this someone works hard, putting in the hours, making every necessary effort, giving their all etc and so forth, but comes up empty handed.

They have made the effort and yet have nothing to show for it.

They simply failed, unable to get due recognition and/or monetary reward.

That happens.

I mean, if everyone's good honest effort is duly rewarded, as it should be, then we'd all be singing, as Louis Armstrong does: “What a wonderful world!”

We'd all be singing, as does Satchmo, “I'm a lucky so-and-so.”

Indeed, we'd be talking about a lucky so-and-so instead of an unfortunate one.

Seriously, though, if we were less narrow-minded than we are, we'd probably be able to see perhaps our unlucky so-and-so is not so unlucky after all.

I mean, what goes round comes round, one's effort will never go entirely unrewarded.

If we're narrow minded and short sighted, we perhaps see with quite a degree of certainty that our efforts are not rewarded in terms of money and fame, not as much as we want at any rate, but we must be or must have been rewarded in some other ways, less noticeable ways.

Take a marathon runner, for example. They do their training and run competitions year in and year out, but some of them never get anywhere in terms winning. They never win trophies and large checks. In this sense, they're failures. Their hard yards really do seem to go unrewarded.

But are we so sure?

For one thing, one study I read somewhere claims that as a group, marathon runners seldom develop cancer due to the great amount of sweat they produce on a daily basis. That has to be a benefit, right? That has to be a reward for their colossal physical effort, right?

Right, there are other benefits resulting from running a marathon, of course, but let's talk about “hard yards” a bit.

Yard, you see, is a unit of measurement of length. A yard is three feet equal to, approximately, 91.4 centimetres.

“Hard yards” refer to the distance a runner has to actually run in a particular race, “hard” signifying that sometimes a race, such as the marathon which is 42.195 kilometers (42.195 kilometres (or 26 miles and 385 yards), can be physically exhausting and mentally taxing.

It's all hard work, in other words.

Hence, when people metaphorically talk about running, making or putting in the hard yards, they mean simply that you have to make the necessary effort, no matter how exhausting or taxing the task is.

In terms of the marathon runner, the least they do is to cover the distance, all 26 miles and 385 yards of it. Without doing that, i.e. running the hard yards, they won't be even considered a marathon runner.


All right, here are media examples of people doing the hard yards (whether they are directly rewarded or not is another matter):

1. How much does it cost to buy a McDonald's franchise? Less than you might think.

Twenty people a day contact McDonald's head office in Green Lane about buying a franchise. When the company announced its intention of opening 30 new restaurants by 2011, that figure rose to over one hundred a day. It shows the huge level of interest the company attracts - but how do you actually get chosen?

There are two things people don't understand about McDonald's: first, most of our franchisees have worked their way up from crew and second, you don't have to be a multi-millionaire before you can become a franchisee,' explains Mark Hawthorne, the managing director of McDonald's Restaurants in New Zealand. ‘We ask for a minimal fee - currently $75,000 - which in the context of a 20-year franchise agreement and the financials involved is quite minor. The company owns the land and the building, so the franchisee only has to be able to fund the equipment package. The cost of fitting out a new restaurant now is about $1.4 million, which means that ideally we are looking for people with equity from $500,000 to $2 million.

‘The reason we franchise is not because we need our franchisees' money. It's because we think franchising offers us a competitive advantage in the way the restaurants are operated, especially in the regions. A local couple will push the brand in their market at levels we'd get nowhere near, but only if they're on the front line themselves, working the business hard. So basically we're looking for people who have their entire skin in the game, not people with millions using McDonald's as an investment vehicle.'

But money is not the only investment – McDonald's also require potential franchisees to spend a year training with the company. Not only do they not get paid during this time - unless they prove themselves suitable, they are not guaranteed that they will be granted a franchise at the end of it.

‘We have the luxury of being choosy - and we are,' says Mark. ‘The year's training is like a final interview screen in a way. It ensures that our franchisees are hands-on, front-line people who are willing to do the hard yards. There are a lot of high quality people who don't even approach us because they think they need to be multi-millionaires but, as you can see, it's not true.'

- McDonald's ‘not looking for multi-millionaires', Franchise.co.nz, April 22, 2010.

2. Pre-season is a laugh isn't it.

Well, actually, not really.

It's when teams run the hard yards in training, work-off any summer excess and make sure they are in peak physical condition for the start of the new season.

Pre-season is no time for mucking about. It's gruelling. It's serious business.

Everton have been doing all that and more and as they come to the end of their second week back, Roberto Martinez will be more than satisfied by the progress his squad have made.

Two games, two wins and plenty of those hard yards in some particularly demanding conditions.

- Phil Kirkbride's Singapore Diary Blues laughing through hard pre-season yards, LiverpoolEcho.co.uk, July 17, 2015.

3. David Owen, co-founder of the SDP in the 80s, was one of the first to open my eyes. He suggested a “progressive alliance” built initially around the defence of the National Health Service. “It's mad [for the parties of the centre-left] to be competing against each other,” he said. “Get agreement on something like the NHS and then take it to a constitutional convention.” There, a common programme on the health service and constitutional reform could be agreed, with trickier issues such as nuclear disarmament parked for future consideration.

He was very exercised by the case of Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. It was crazy for Labour to oppose her when her values fitted so well with theirs. Lucas felt the same way. In an email, she told me she rejected the idea of a new party, but backed the idea of pacts. “The first-past-the-post system is designed to keep power in the hands of the few,” she wrote, “and we need to hack that system before we can change it. Until we have the electoral reform we so desperately need, we should be considering the potential of locally agreed progressive pacts for the next general election.”

Another conversation that influenced me was with Paul Arnott, one of the founders of the East Devon Alliance. The EDA was formed only two years ago to take on the Conservative-dominated council, but it already has 10 councillors and the independent candidate it backed in the general election came second to Tory Hugo Swire, polling an astonishing 13,000 votes, well ahead of Ukip, Labour and the Lib Dems. “I just wanted to take young Russell Brand and flush his head down the khazi,” Arnott told me. “It was so frustrating because we were doing precisely what he was advocating, though we were rather more middle-aged and unattractive. We really wanted to provide an alternative, but because unlike him we're grown-ups we knew the only way to do it is to put yourself up at local elections – do the hard yards first, Russell.”

- Could you build a new party of the left? I spent a month trying and here's what happened... By Stephen Moss, TheGuardian.com, August 12, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.




















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