“I will succeed by working harder.”
Have you heard this? Have you heard this in your own head?
I have heard this many times this week, from marketing professionals, hedge fund managers, and (most notably) from three teenagers. I asked each of these teen boys individually, “What advice would you offer your younger self?” Each boy had the same answer: “I would tell him to work harder.” I was surprised by this. I thought there might be more one would want to say to one’s younger self?
- “I would tell him he is safe, and he will get out okay.”
- “I would tell him to be okay with his weirdness… he will make friends and actually be cool.”
- “I would tell him, relax, he will have a lot of sex one day.”
Nope. They all said “work harder.”
But I would like to point out that this is not a viable solution for success.
For starters, this is 2017, not 1917. We live in a time of fast-moving innovation and technology. This is a culture of free information, high technology, and shifting ground that is moving at the speed of light. These are the days of smart moves, life hacks, and global social networking. We’ve never been able to work so constantly, to hustle so much. Its easy to trip into the “he who works hardest wins.” But it’s not the time of gladiators or Braveheart—and frankly, ‘hard work’ wasn’t the secret to their successes either.
But it’s a real thing for you guys. A large percentage of you believe that this is how you get ahead, or how you have succeeded or survived bad times in the past.
Let’s see if we can expose the delusion in this story line.
For instance, if you were sitting at ground zero in Silicon Valley looking for funding from the big players—Chris Sacca, Peter Theil, Ron Conway, and so on—and you said, “I have this great idea and I’m going to work harder than anyone to get it off the ground.” You would be hard-pressed to keep their attention past that point.
Let’s illustrate it another way: what are you going to pay money for? The company that will work the hardest for you? Or the company that will work the smartest and most efficient for you? Because if it’s smart and efficient, who cares how hard they are working? And if it’s really smart and efficient, then it’s assumed they won’t be working hard—they won’t need to. Right?
Hard work is just a mego (an ego yelling “ME!”) trying to control the unknown. But the world of 2017 is full of complexity, ambiguity, and volatility, and that cannot be controlled by hard work. That’s why this “work harder!’ chant feels so good. It’s like cocaine: high, disconnected, and delusional, but it feels soooo good… “Work harder! Dig in and go harder! Yes! Yes! Because that is something that we can control! We can get up earlier, we can work longer, we can haul harder!”
But hard work doesn’t control shit. Hard work is not a viable solution, my friends. And I have money on the table that it hasn’t been since World War II. And the quicker we all realize this, the better!
The problem is that the root fear behind it all is, “I am not good enough!” That crippling belief is there under the skin of nearly every person you’re going to meet.
Darn. Because that belief steals the story that you are smart enough, capable enough, and clear enough to figure out the most efficient and aligned solutions to move ahead.
And in all honestly, although we are all affected by the ol’ “not good enough” chant, the boys are particularly crippled by it.
Side note: In the British Medical Journal, researchers say it is puzzling that men are willing to take unnecessary risks, simply as a rite of passage, in pursuit of male social esteem or solely in exchange for “bragging rights”. Although sex differences in risk-seeking behavior are well documented, little is known about the gender gap in idiotic risk-taking behavior, or Male Idiot Theory (MIT). [Yes, fact check if you like. Male Idiot Theory is actually a thing.] Dr Dennis Lendrem, of the University of Newcastle, said: “Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or nonexistent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.”
And well, to be honest, it seems like all the dudes are toting this same, stupid, mantra because this is the default call of the male who deeply fears failure.
So, what’s the actual secret to winning? Reid Hoffman, host of the Masters of Scale podcast and extremely successful venture capitalist, says that success is not sheer persistence, digging in and throwing yourself harder at it. Brute force is not part of the success equation. Rather, the equation looks like part determination, part ingenuity, and part laziness. Laziness because you need to conserve your energy, you need to minimize the friction and find the most effective and efficient route forward.
Ricardo Semler, revolutionary CEO of Semco Partners, insists his employees have idle time in their work schedule. This is time set aside not to do errands, or carting family to the beach, or doing chores, Rather, idle time is time set aside doing nothing.
Google had a work culture that gave employees 20% of their time (one full day in a five-day work week) to do whatever they want. Explore, be idle, move at their own pace. And many Google products you use today—Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, and others—came from 20% time.
Basically, if you work for the best, you are going to have to get quiet every day and let clarity come for you. But if you’re working every hour of the day, how is that going to happen?
Big money and big success happen because of smart, efficient, determined laziness.
How do you get lazy in the world of “busy”?
Well, it’s summer in the Northern hemisphere, and so lazy is in the wind. Laying in a hammock all day doing nothing, or sitting by the dock with your feet in the water. Putting a blanket out and a bottle of wine and some cheese and watch the clouds pass while you cuddle your sweetie, or your friend, or your kid, or your cat.
Stop and be silent. That is what will get you success.
That will create success because in idleness, in laziness, you find silence.
Silence is where clarity lives.
And if you want to be the most efficiency, smart and effective, then you will need to be very, very intimate with clarity.
The place clarity will be lost? Busy.
Busy will eat all the spaciousness and silence in the place.
So, how about “Laziness is the solution, fellas!” Ha!
Happy lazy days of summer everyone. Work smarter. Work more efficiently. It’s worth repeating, because it’s painful to watch yourself disconnect from reality and try to just effort your way through something you couldn’t control.