“Working harder” is not a viable solution

Posted by Kiran in , ,

“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 they might want to say more to their younger selves?

  • “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.


Hard Work is the secret reason for Failure

For starters, this is not 1900. Today we have a culture of free information, high tech, and pivots, 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 and to hustle so much. It is easy to fall into the “he who works hardest wins”trap. But it’s not the time of gladiators or Braveheart—and frankly, ‘hard work’ wasn’t the secret to their successes either.

But a large percentage of you believe that this is how you get ahead, or how you have succeeded or mistakenly think you survived bad times in the past.

Let’s see if we can expose the delusion in this “work harder” chant.

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? And if it’s really smart and efficient, then it’s assumed they won’t be working hard—smart and efficient knock hard work out of the equation. Right?

Hard work is just a mego (an ego yelling “ME!”) trying to control the unknown. But the world 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 the root fear behind it all .”I am not good enough!” “I’m a failure” “I’m a fraud” is crippling us. Those beliefs under the skin of nearly every person you’re going to meet, are the real issue.

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.

And in all honestly, although we are all affected by the ole’ “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 many of us are toting this same, silly, mantra because this is the default call of the one who deeply fears failure. Imposture syndrome, depression, overwhelm, doubt, anxiety all seem to recede under the call of “WORK HARDER!”  Except they don’t.

So, what’s the actual secret to winning?

Reid Hoffman, the 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 one part determination, one part ingenuity, and one 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, a revolutionary CEO of Semco Partners, insists that each of his employees is given idle time in their work schedule. This is time set aside not to do catch up, or carting tasks for other staff, or scheduling and organizing projects, Rather, idle time is time set aside to do nothing.

Google had a work culture that gave employees 20% of their time (one full day in a five-day workweek) 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 want to do your very best, you are going to have to get idle and quiet and this is how clarity comes for you. But if you’re working every hour of the day, and forever checking that TODO list, 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,  lazy is in the wind. Laying in a hammock all day doing nothing, or sitting by the dock with your feet in the water. Laying in pool of sunlight on your living room floor and simply staring at nothing. 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.
And this is very important because silence is where clarity lives.
And if you want to be the most efficient, smart, and effective, then you will need to be very, very intimate with silence, the unknown, and 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 everyone. Work smarter. Work more efficiently. It’s worth repeating because it’s painful to just effort your way through something you can’t control.

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