Work harder, not smarter

I was asked by a junior the other day: how do I get to be like you? Leaving aside the ego-trip that anyone thinks I am successful, I get why they asked the question. In working like I do, I have a constant flurry of (generally) positive activity around me. On top of that, I have two wonderful little girls and an incredible wife, with whom I have created an exciting and rewarding multi-layered existence.

That’s the good stuff. That’s the upside.

The dark side, which people such as my inquisitor don’t see, is that building anything, a company, a relationship … a life … takes tons of constant work. It’s hard. At times, the pressure is immense.

Yet hard work can have a positive compounding effect. Lots of ongoing sales prospecting begins, over time, to yield the sorts of results that make it all look easy. But since the journey is often invisible in the end result, it’s hard sometimes for an onlooker to connect the dots.

The truth about success is actually very basic. When I was in my 20s, I worked long, long hours, often over weekends, always during the week. It wasn’t unusual for me in my late 20s, to be at the office 14 hours per day because I was learning and building and determined to get myself into a position to run my own life.

Over time, I had the knowledge to start projects of my own, and later on, to start companies. But I still work long hours and allow work to bleed into the weekends when it has to.

The junior who asked me the question likes to be done by 16h00, is irked when there might be a work requirement in the evening, and considers weekends to be recovery time from their half-assed work week.

To the question: how do I get to be like you, I only had one answer. You can’t. You won’t. It’s never going to happen. I don’t care if that sounds arrogant.

This business of working smart, not hard (which the junior thinks they do), is a weird one. I think working as hard as I did when I was young, had the curiosity, the energy, nothing whatsoever to lose and not one real sacrifice to make, was precisely working smart.

I think that’s the definition of it. The junior’s perception is that work mustn’t get in the way of life and that finding shortcuts in order to finish early, is working smart, and arguably there’s some logic in that.

But if the purpose of work is just to do some stuff as quickly as possible so that you can pick up a paycheck in order to play, you lack the ability to achieve depth. It’s that depth that is the life force of success.

It doesn’t just land in your lap. Working smart and working hard are the same thing. Anyone who tells you they coasted to success without any effort is full of it.