Grab a cup of green tea folks, it’s time to be thinkers again.
This time I’m going to talk about something that truly perplexes me.
It came up in an argument that two family members sucked me into. One side was firm, one hundred percent, “Don’t work hard. Always work smart. If you can take shortcuts, you should.” And the other side was, “You have to start from the bottom to appreciate being at the top. People need to work hard.”
And the whole time I was listening, all I could thing was…
Why do both have to be mutually exclusive? Why not just do both?
But don’t think that it’s just them. You’ve probably heard people parroting the phrase, “Work hard and you’ll be successful” or the also popular, “Work smarter, not harder.”
Personally, I don’t think the two should be separate at all.
1.) The Myth Of Working Smart
Working smarter, not harder is admittedly the one I have a bigger problem with. Don’t get me wrong, if I don’t have to work extra time on something, I won’t. If there is a simple way to do something complicated, I’m going to do that instead.
But here’s where working smart gets to be a problem.
Some people take “working smart” to mean that you should not work hard at all. That something should be obtained effortlessly or with little thinking. Cheap and fast like McDonald’s.
Working smart by itself, to me, is a survival advantage. If you use it by itself, you’ll do enough just to get by. It helps to smooth your path. It helps to make your workflow faster. The same way that a good word program can help make a better book.
But you know what?
It doesn’t write that book. You do.
With hard work.
But also on that note, there are just some things that “working smart” can’t offset very well.
I can read a thousand calculus textbooks for the best advantage (not that I want to), but I could still fail the exam if I don’t put in the practice. Our brains don’t retain every single thing that we read or hear in a class. Otherwise, you could just look up new techniques and instantly be a god in your field.
Raw practice is required, even among geniuses. Persistence too. And you can’t avoid it if you want high success in your field. What really put this is into perspective for me was this article. It mentions an experiment on non-military people going through training under the instruction of U.S. Special Operation units.
Now you might think that people who are already physically fit would do well with flying colors here.
Sure it helps. But the bottom line is…it’s a mindset thing. The willingness to work however long you need to to get the job done. And “working smart” without “working hard” to me is just an excuse to stay comfortable.
You can’t shortcut mindset. You can’t “work smart” mindset. Yes, you can shift your mindset. But we all have beliefs that we don’t even know that we’re carrying. And we tend to not learn about them until we’re pushed to our limits.
2.) The Myth Of Working Hard
Working hard gets too much praise sometimes in my opinion. Because it paints the picture that if we throw ourselves against the wall enough times, we’ll stick and make the hall of fame.
No. Just no.
For a few reasons…
One. We are human. Flesh and bone. We get tired. We get distracted. We can’t expect ourselves to perform like a machine every waking moment. We’ll get ill. We’ll stress out. We’ll break.
Two. Longer time at the work desk does not make you more productive as this article will have fun telling you. It can burn you out and actually make your work quality plummet. Breaks, in some shape or form, are a must.
Three. And this one is a biggie. Working hard with no direction gets a person nowhere. Think about it. You’re writing your WIP trying to improve. You might sit down and try to hammer out character sheet information for new characters because you’re learning how to make them. Or you save a whole bunch of time and just do a whole bunch of character sketches or whatever character exercise that you prefer and enjoy.
No need to suffer.
But more importantly…
Don’t separate the two.
Working hard and working smart are like a bow and arrow. One by itself is useless. Working smart teaches us where to direct our focus. Working hard teaches us to dig in our heels and stay in for the long haul even through our doubts so we can achieve our potential.
And they make a damn good couple. 🙂