When “Work Harder” Is Not The Best Answer

In Personal Growth
Check It Out

When things aren’t quite going right, most of us (eventually) respond by redoubling our efforts.

After we get over the emotions of frustration, sadness or anger (or some combination), we give ourselves tough love and decide that the solution is, “we just need to work harder.”

Why do we always default to more work?

Well, we know all the cliches.

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

The best performers and most successful people are often the hardest workers.

We see all the publicly successful people espousing hard work and telling you that there’s no difference between them and you — it’s just that they work harder than you, that’s all. Otherwise, we’re all exactly the same.

We see the NBA’s leading scorer having a great game, then Instagramming himself getting in a post-game workout in the weight room. How inspiring. That’s why he’s so good!

In nearly every country outside of the USA, people work to live. Work is something we they do to allow for more and better living. Work is merely a means to an end. The end goal, is LIFE. Living.

In the USA, we live to work.

We define ourselves by our job titles, bank accounts, and career prospects. Life is secondary to career; some people would trade all the life they have left for better results at work. Famous celebrities make a show of telling you how they did just that, and look at all this success!

Social media has exacerbated the phenomenon: some people don’t even want money anymore, as much as they crave attention and relevance (whatever that means) and having people believe that they’re successful — all so they can tell you how hard they’ve worked to get there.

It’s no wonder that we often think our problem is that we’re just lazy and not trying hard enough.

The solution, some say, is not to work harder, but to work smarter. Still put in the effort, yes, but change up what you’re working on and how you do it. Get the right information and process, they say, and all that hard work will pay off.


Work Harder: Go to the gym and practice more.

Work Smarter: Practice more, but follow this program when you practice.

Work Harder: Make twice as many sales calls per day.

Work Smarter: Make twice as many sales calls, but use a proven script that converts.

Work Harder: Write 2,000 words per day instead of 500.

Work Smarter: Plan your articles ahead of time — then write those 2,000 words.

There’s a better solution, one that’s more efficient than working harder, even better than working smarter.

Working with insight.

Smart: mentally alert

Insight: the power or act of seeing into a situation

To get smarter means to pay more attention, gather more knowledge, have a stronger grasp of information. All of these are good things. But they also share a fatal flaw: your attention, knowledge-gathering and grasp all have a finite, human limit.

Hard work and smart work are linear: add more of either, you get an equal amount of results. But you’re human, a mere mortal — you simply cannot keep adding forever.

Insight is your ability to see through a wall of information. Your innate understanding of the inner workings of a seemingly uncrackable code. Insight asks the questions that hard work never asks, and that smart work doesn’t create a process or program for.

Insight achieves in one day what would take smart work 100 days, and what hard work never considers before it resolves to try harder and harder.

Insight is not better at the job than hard work or smart work. Insight is playing a totally different game — a game that has no competitors.

Hard Work: Go to the gym and practice more.

Smart Work: Practice more, but follow this program when you practice.

Insight: Find out what role the coach sees you fulfilling for the team, and center your training around that particular skill.

Hard Work: Make twice as many sales calls per day.

Smart Work: Make twice as many sales calls, but use a proven script that converts.

Insight: Stop calling between 9 AM-5 PM, since that’s when everybody makes calls, and call from 7-9 AM or 5-7 PM — the gatekeepers aren’t there to block you, and the decision makers are always arriving early or staying late.

Hard Work: Write 2,000 words per day instead of 500.

Smart Work: Plan your articles ahead of time — then write those 2,000 words.

Insight: Get on the phone with your most loyal followers and customers and ask them specifically what their challenges are — then write to directly address those challenges.

There’s a limit to how hard, hard work can work. Even smart work has an endpoint, as there’s always a new piece of information replacing the old information, and at some point you have to stop learning and start working.

Insight exists on a different plane because it asks the questions that come not from being smart, but from being dumb enough to wonder if there’s another way that no one has tried.

There’s always another way.


PS: In the Game Group, the focus is on this very insight that I’m talking about — and the strategy to make it work.