Work Smarter and Harder

We’ve all heard the advice, “Work Smart not Hard.” At its core, the saying focuses on the topic of effective effort. Effective effort can be summed up as making sure that you are working towards your actual goal and not just working to get stuff done.

Photo via  Flickr

Photo via Flickr

My favorite visual example of this is someone trying to move a boulder up a hill. In this example they could spend all of their effort moving this boulder around the base of the hill, pushing it into the hill, or even pushing it off the hill in the opposite direction. In each case, that person is expending tons of effort, but they are getting no closer to getting that boulder to the top of the hill and reaching their goal.

What’s your boulder? What’s your hill? Are you being effective?

I could stop there and dive into a discussion about what constitutes effective effort, but that’s not what I want to focus on. I’ve discussed it before, and honestly, there are thousands of books, articles, and videos that do a much better job than I ever could. Instead I want to focus on what that statement of "working smart" does not point out.

Working smart is not enough to achieve your goal.

Working smart looks like an entrepreneur making connections that can get them an introduction to that client that could put their business into overdrive. Working smart looks like an inventor utilizing a crowdsourcing platform to assist their development process so that more experienced inventors can save him weeks on his next design. Working smart looks like a concerned citizen bringing together numerous community organizations to help in reducing local crime, instead of trying to do it alone.

All of these examples sound good on the surface, but they all have something in common. They are the start. That entrepreneur isn’t going to get the growth they need for their business by just meeting a client. The inventor can’t rely on others to actually build that design. That community activist isn’t going to eradicate crime just by getting a few organizations to talk.

These people also need to put in blood, sweat, and tears on top of working smart if they want to see their vision turn to reality. There will be countless hours spent just making those smart steps happen, and then countless more taking the result of those smart steps and expanding on them.

Research points to successful entrepreneurs relying on this concept of “grit” to get them through tough times. It’s persistence, and the will to keep working through what would otherwise derail most. Ask anyone who has ever succeeded at reaching seemingly unachievable goals, and not a single one will say they did it solely by working smart. They didn’t find some shortcut that got them from start to finish in just a few steps. They worked hard to get themselves into the position to grab hold of great opportunities when they presented themselves. Then they worked even harder to use those opportunities to their benefit. And they did that over and over.

If you’re finding yourself floundering in life, maybe it’s time to take another stab at working hard. I know it sucks, and I’d love to be able to tell you that all you had to do was find a way to work a little bit smarter and you’ll be fine. Truth is, you’ll have to do both. Without working smart, you'll need so much effort to get you up your hill. However, figuring out the fastest way to get up that hill won’t actually get that ball rolling. Only hard work can do that.

- Ryan


Ryan BonaparteWork, Effort, Goals