In my 20’s, people would regularly say to ‘work smarter, not harder.’ My brain was not able to process the concept, the very thought that working ‘smarter’ was more valuable than hard work seemed illogical. Now, in my 30’s, I still disagree with the concept. There is merit to working smarter, but it should be in tandem with working harder. Working does not have to be either smarter or harder, it can be both. Here’s how I have worked to apply both.
Hard work has been the easier part for us. As a married couple, we excel at working hard. Our focus is on simple tasks we can complete and string together. A little secret for you, ordinary, small daily tasks strung together will produce impressive results. Doing these tasks correctly and with consistent effort is difficult. Life’s little victories build confidence and momentum toward the bigger obstacles everyone faces at some point.
Most people underestimate how productive small simple tasks are, since they are mundane. Executing the mundane will do more for you than the one outlying event where you can showcase talent. Consider that Aaron Rodgers is possibly the most talented QB to have played football the last 20 years. He has one Super Bowl win. Tom Brady was not a premiere prospect, and wasn’t supposed to be a meaningful player, yet he has seven Super Bowls in the same time span. I am not a Patriots fan, but I truly admire Tom’s commitment to the little things. He focuses on the small things leading to his big goals. Unfortunately for anyone born outside of the New England, this means he wins.
Hard work takes effort, which is free, and motivation. (Also, free) If you have the correct goal, it becomes an incentive to keep pushing. If you struggle with working hard, identify your ‘why.’ A strong why will overcome your laziness, lack of discipline, and any self-sabotage. My why is my family, and in my quitter moments, I look toward pictures of my children to push past the momentary doubt. The key is to persevere through the doubt, and work harder than the day before.
Working smarter can be a bit more subjective. Everyone knows hard work when they see it, but smart work? Smart work won’t be as noticeable. The results can take weeks, months, even years for you to see the outputs. Degrees and apprenticeships take years to complete. During the pursuit of them, you make very little money and work additional hours just to stay on track. The outcome after a degree or completed apprenticeship though, is greater earning power for decades. Financially speaking, a degree or journeyman’s license will far outweigh the initial cost of lower wages and extra work.
It takes vision to work smarter without results. A person’s mind has to see the end goal to take a route where the present requires extra effort for future success. Working smarter is not just about using power tools rather than hand tools, or creating an automated process rather than a manual one. It’s about putting in effort today to make tomorrow better. It’s about building success by thinking through actions and creating a vision for who you will become.
Do Both, and What’s Next in Grind, Grow, and Go?
Working harder is important. Working smarter is also very important. Do not sacrifice one for the other. Do both. When you combine the two, you will see results that choosing one or the other won’t produce.
Next up in Grind, Grow, Go will be about pushing past your limiting beliefs. The series is meant to pass on the mindset our family has learned from military experience, an accounting degree, four kids, and over a decade of marriage. Our philosophy of Grind, Grow, and Go is the byproduct of our success in managing life and moving forward every year.