Why I Hate the Cliche “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

One of my favorite bloggers is Seth Godin.

Why? Because he says it like it is.

I’ve heard one too many “guru’s” tell their prospective “clients” that they’re going to teach them to work “smarter rather than harder”…

Can you really EVER be successful without working HARD, at least some times? I truly don’t think so. Yes, you have to work smart; but the true difference in work is LONG Work vs. HARD work.

I’ll let Seth explain:

Long work is what the lawyer who bills 14 hours a day filling in forms does.

Hard work is what the insightful litigator does when she synthesizes four disparate ideas and comes up with an argument that wins the case–in less than five minutes.

Long work has a storied history. Farmers, hunters, factory workers… Always there was long work required to succeed. For generations, there was a huge benefit that came to those with the stamina and fortitude to do long work.

Hard work is frightening. We shy away from hard work because inherent in hard work is risk. Hard work is hard because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up. You fail at hard work when you don’t make an emotional connection, or when you don’t solve the problem or when you hesitate. (bold added for emphasis)

I think it’s worth noting that long work often sets the stage for hard work. If you show up enough and practice enough and learn enough, it’s more likely you will find yourself in a position to do hard work.

It seems, though that no matter how much long work you do, you won’t produce the benefits of hard work unless you are willing to leap.

The Take Away

Being an entrepreneur is HARD WORK! It can be long work too, but in my experience so far HARD WORK is the best definition for an entrepreneur.

Why? Because there’s a chance of failure.

Why? Because “security” in the traditional format doesn’t really exist.

Why? Because with the risk comes a higher chance of reward.

Yes, working smart is important. But if ANYONE ever uses that cliche on you, my recommendation is to RUN far, far away because without HARD WORK – Failure is probably your ONLY option!

Gary Vaynerchuk backs up everything Seth says in this interview:

Question: You talked about hustle and I’ve heard you mention that before in your keynote speeches etc but what do you really mean when you say “hustle”?

Gary: I mean that most people underestimate work and I think that’s a huge mistake. It blows me away that people don’t realize how much of the overall success is based on working extremely hard. That, to me, is a huge missed opportunity for a lot of people and I continue to try to talk about it, to open up people’s minds to: “It’s not going to happen in one day. You’re going to have to work really hard and that’s the bottom line.”


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2 Replies to “Why I Hate the Cliche “Work Smarter, Not Harder””

  1. Dear Nate,
    To be honest, I’ve never stopped to look at it that way: Long work vs Hard work. Like the distinction.
    You’re right; you can never succeed at anything if you don’t work hard for it. Guess the reason why we love to listen to ‘gurus’ and spend money on them, is because —deepdown— we fear working hard? 😉
    Greetings, Evita

    1. Evita,

      Working hard definitely is NOT part of a “guru’s” sales pitch – at least not most of them. That’s how I know they’re a true “guru” – they are honest and say it will take time and work if you want to succeed.

      I read this on Tony Robbins’ twitter account yesterday:

      the secret to success is.. is no secret. It’s called work your Ass off & find a way 2 add more value 2 peoples lives than anyone else does!

      So, there you have it. You HAVE to work if you’re going to succeed.

      Thanks for the comment!