“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Winston Churchill (British Politician)
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
Ayn Rand (American Author, The Fountainhead)
“All ballplayers should quit when it starts to feel as if all the baselines run uphill.”
Babe Ruth (American Baseball Player)
Hard work solves everything.
This is what I used to think.
Then I went to graduate school and was confronted with a seemingly impossible situation.
My supervisor wanted me to produce more, but every time I did, I was criticized for my work.
At the same time, the harder I worked, the more my supervisor competed with me.
It was weird.
I’d get yelled at to put in more hours, and then when I put in more hours, he would stay and put in more hours, and then he’d get angry about putting in more hours.
He’d tell me I’d have to work harder to graduate, but then when I worked harder, he told me it would be even longer before I could graduate.
That’s when I realized…
Working hard was hurting me.
Now, try to understand something — working hard makes me feel good.
I love the feeling of being busy.
The problem was, I never understood the difference between being busy and actually getting something important done.
I never understood the difference between working hard and working hard towards an end goal that mattered.
This is how I got stuck in graduate school.
Every time there was a problem, I would just work harder.
Eventually, I realized I was working for my own destruction, and decided to stop.
It felt like cutting an arm off at the time, but I stopped working hard.
Instead, I did only what was crucially important and let everything else slide.
I started leaving at 5PM sharp (or even 4:45PM) instead of midnight or 1AM.
I stopped scheduling more and more meetings with my supervisor, and instead went above his head to meet with deans and the department head.
I took every last vacation and sick day that I could.
Guess what happened? My supervisor emailed me one morning and said I wouldn’t be needed in the lab any more and I could graduate.
(The email was super snarky, but whatever — I was free!)
It was the first time in my life that I got what I wanted by working smarter and less, instead of harder.
Why Change Is The Secret To Success
Success requires more than hard work.
Very often, success requires you to attack the same problem with more than force; it requires you to attack it with creativity, diversity, and wit.
It requires you to change your approach.
Sometimes, this change means doing nothing at all.
Sometimes, it means to stop trying and seeing what new opportunities open up during the pause.
This can be very hard to do.
It’s a myth that sheer perseverance alone will yield success.
For example, Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not having enough creative story ideas and went bankrupt more than once.
Babe Ruth had records for not just home runs, but for strike-outs as well.
Albert Einstein was a terrible student, got kicked out of school, was slow to learn how to speak and read, and was thought to be “mentally slow”.
What made them successful was not just continuing to do the same thing over and over again.
These people had to stop working hard and had to start making real changes.
Walt Disney tried multiple businesses before finding the ones where his ideas came to life and actually made a satisfying profit and life.
Babe Ruth came out of reform school, got into baseball, and struck out until he modified his swing — thus becoming a massive success and celebrity, and setting records in his sport.
Einstein barely passed the classes he did attend and jumped from job to job until he found his love for mathematics in a job as a patent clerk, which led to his award-winning work on the Theory of Relativity.
Each of the above success stories started with monumental setbacks and failures.
Yet, in the face of failure, each person took a step back to adjust their strategy.
They did NOT keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that “working hard” would solve their problems.
Working longer and harder was not the answer.
In fact, refusing to change your approach and continuing to work longer and harder hours can turn you into a workaholic and negatively affect your health.
A study in the Journal of Occupational Psychology found that true workaholics were motivated by controlled and largely external and materialistic rewards, and had higher burnout rates than “engaged employees”.
Engaged employees worked hard but were driven in their work ethic by internal rewards of satisfaction, achievement, and a belief in the purpose of their work.
Likewise, a report in Career Development International showed that workaholics have lower job satisfaction than engaged workers who, despite long hours, still maintain higher levels of satisfaction and self-worth in their work.
The solution is to engage in your work but be willing to adjust your approach and keep your work aligned with your purpose and passion.
3 Ways To Get More Done By Doing Less
Doing the same task over and over again will not make you successful in life.
You can’t get to the top of a mountain by running headfirst into a tree 300 times.
You have to be smarter than that.
Too many hardworking people execute the exact same strategy over and over again because they think that brute force is all they need to succeed.
These people are fools.
Repetition, by itself, does not make you a hard worker.
Any ignorant laborer can do the same thing again and again.
Staying in the office until 10PM just to be seen by your boss or going to every meeting you’re invited to does NOT make you a hero.
It makes you a pawn.
It makes you useless.
Studies show that many hardworking people developed their strong work ethic because they have trouble changing.
That’s right, they became hardworking because they failed to change, or failed to succeed in life, over and over again.
In other words, having to work hard is often a result of failure.
Hard Work = Failure to Change + Failure to Succeed
These studies went on to show that these hardworking people tended to get overwhelmed by novelty — their senses would spike uncontrollably when they were confronted with a new opportunity and, as a result, they would melt down and reject the opportunity.
Instead, they would just keep doing what they were used to doing.
They’d stay planted in their comfort zone, spinning their wheels, and staying “crazy busy.”
This is a mistake.
The solution is to do less while still being productive.
Here’s how a good work ethic often means doing less…
1. Set limits for the length of time you work.
Cut back on your hours.
Stop working overtime.
As counterintuitive as it seems, working harder isn’t going to help you work less down the road.
You may have been pushing with valiant persistence, hoping and thinking that you’re moving toward your goals, but if you’re not actually moving forward, STOP.
You might have tried working harder or longer, thinking this is the key to your breakthrough, but if you’re not having any breakthroughs, STOP.
Stop and take a step back to get feedback from your environment, and to recalibrate.
Workaholics don’t get more done; they burn out.
Check this out…
Companies that experiment with reducing work hours for their employees actually see boosts in productivity and increases in job satisfaction.
That’s right — these employees work less hours, but get more done.
Is it time for you to take a step back?
Have you strayed from your plan?
Have you allowed events or people to steal your focus?
Are you missing important resources, ignoring expert advice, or going entirely in the wrong direction?
Remember, distance provides clarity.
It could be impossible to get a clear picture of where you are right now without taking a step back first.
Take some time to identify where you’re overextended.
Take some more time to identify what distracting people and habits need to go.
Then make a new plan to refocus and adjust your goals.
2. Use the “smart & smash” technique.
Successful people know how to maximize their productivity.
They know themselves and are strategic about when they work best.
They track their energy levels and allocate time and required energy for the task.
They take breaks.
Most importantly, they separate the brute force, or “smash”, part of their work from the strategic, or “smart”, part of their work.
This is called the “smart & smash” technique.
“Smart” mode comes first — creating an organized list of must-do items, mapping out a plan of how you will batch and execute these items, recruiting the right people to help you, preparing a clear, distraction-free work environment, etc.
“Smash” mode comes second — entering a flow state and executing pre-designated tasks with 100% presence and effort.
Look — you need to separate your work into phases.
You also need to take breaks.
Successful people maximize their efficiency by understanding when they are at peak performance and scheduling their tasks accordingly.
If you think you’re too busy to take breaks, that’s precisely why you need to start.
If your ego is trying to convince you that hours on end of busyness and late nights at the office is going to get you a trophy or a prize at the finish line… your ego is wrong.
There’s no trophy.
No one cares.
In your short life, your late hours won’t count for anything but loss of enjoyment in your life.
Instead, you’ll be tired, miserable, and unsatisfied.
People that take breaks are more efficient workers than those who try to push through fatigue and distraction to finish.
If you’ve had a failure or setback, or multiple failures and setbacks, you need more than a 15-minute break.
You need a time-out.
You need to take a day, week, or even a month off.
During this time off, organize your emotions, regain your perspective, regain your energy, and reevaluate your options… then, start again.
3. Reconnect with the greater purpose behind your work.
It’s not enough to have goals.
You have to know what you’re working for.
You have to believe in it and find purpose in it — and you have to enjoy it.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, not only will you not be believable to anyone that you might rely on for your success (like a customer), but you’ll also not be as good at it.
Most often, not loving what you do means that eventually the quality of your work will suffer and everything you’ve done to get this far will be in vain.
Life is far too short to be doing something that doesn’t make you insanely happy.
If you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of a conventional life of herd mentality, you need to squeeze your booty back out of it.
You need to stop what you’re doing and take a step back and get clear on what you want in life and figure out if the plan you’re on now is able to get you there.
Without a sense of purpose, all work is hard work.
Start regaining your sense of purpose.
Start asking the right questions…
Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Is it what everyone else told you to do, is it what everyone else is doing?
Or, is it something you’re insanely passionate about?
If not, STOP.
Or, at least change your approach.
Be flexible and be willing to adjust course to reconnect to a purpose that inspires you.
Get new information, get new coaching, get a new vision… either way, get serious about the importance of lacing all the work you do with a strong sense of purpose.
Hard work is important to success, but it has to be efficient and in the right direction. If you consider yourself to be a hardworking person and have stopped making progress toward your goals, consider taking a step back, doing nothing for a while, and seeing what new opportunities open up. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing if you’re not making progress. Don’t keep repeating the same, tired strategies when you’ve lost focus on why you’re following them in the first place. Accept that change is a part of success and be open to new opportunities.
To learn more about how to do less, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.