Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr and Hunch, talks about why working hard isn't as important as working on the right things. Or as I once heard on a cartoon as a kid... "you have to work smarter not harder."
Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that's what you like to do.
I loved that paragraph. I also loved the anecdote about Watson and Crick, the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA, and how their discoveries didn't come from hard work, as much as from being in the world thinking, experiencing, allowing ideas to happen. I think there's a valuable nugget in there to product developers about that space that's sometimes needed for creativity that isn't valued enough and understood.
Creating features to compete, building, and accretion without the relentlessness to say no and focus on the right things isn't the path to quality and excellence. The right path in product development is kind of like finding the right path in life. Asking the hard questions about the things that matter and prioritizing effort around those things is hard work. But it's not working hard on the wrong problems, for the sake of working or existing. It's defining what is meaningful and pursuing those thing with fervor.