I was asked a question in comments:
What are three things you have absolutely worked the hardest on in your lives? I mean long and hard, nothing gonna stop you.
and I decided to respond here rather than in the comment thread.
I suppose (as was suggested in comments) that the question hinges on the operative definitions of long, hard, and worked. I’ve worked extremely hard on some things over the years so I probably won’t stop at just three.
When I was in college I put more than 100 hours of research each into two papers, different fields, neither my major. One paper weighed in at 80 pages, the other at 150. The professors for whose classes I had written the papers each called me into his office and told me that with a few revisions he could get the paper published. I demurred.
Indeed, I worked pretty hard all the way through college and grad school. In addition to being a full-time student carrying a course load with extra credits I worked 30 hours a week.
Under rather odd circumstances I was hired as a consultant by a department other than the one I managed to manage a major product roll-out. It was a 24 hour a day job that took several weeks to complete. I worked one twelve hour shift, the department’s manager the other. In the process I redesigned some basic components of the product.
For another employer I worked for six weeks, sixteen hours a day, designing and managing the development of a new product on behalf of a prospective customer. The effort resulted in closing the largest sale in the history of the (Fortune 500) company.
On another occasion we had three weeks to complete a project for the Federal Reserve—scanning, indexing, and processing a half million pages worth of documents. Another round-the-clock project. I managed the project in addition to working a solid shift manning the scanner, a grueling, physical job.
I spent one summer in Huntsville, Alabama producing a product for my Fortune 500 client on behalf of their Fortune 500 customer. I’d fly down on the earliest flight on Monday morning, work twelve hours a day Monday through Friday, and then fly out on the last flight to leave Huntsville on Friday. I did that for three months. I think the product is still in use in some form or other and any number of you may actually have used it.
There were other intensive efforts for shorter periods. For example, I once worked 36 hours running. I had uncovered a major problem in an order being prepared for an important customer of the steel mill for which I worked at the time. Top management came out to hear me explain what I had found and why it was important. Standing on the skids in the pouring rain at 3:00am in the morning. I was later told my efforts had saved the account.
Back in my liturgical music director days every Holy Week (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter) I put in something like 40 hours in planning, preparation, practice, and the liturgies themselves. On Saturday and Sunday I worked straight through from 9:00pm in the evening on Saturday through about noon on Sunday. That’s on top of holding down a full-time real job. I did that for about 15 years.
Most recently, after my mom died I worked two days a week, twelve hours a day for about four months after my mom died sorting, cataloguing, and boxing my mom’s possessions for distribution among my siblings and me. It was hard, miserable work, much of it alone, in grief, and in an empty house. Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Marriage? It’s been a joy. My wife is the one who’s had the hard work.