For as long as I can recall, I’ve heard teachers and leaders tell me that if I want to succeed, I have to work hard.
As a student, that meant I would have to spend long hours sweating over my homework assignments.
And as an adult, it meant I would have to work 60-80 hours each week to get ahead.
We are told to “put our nose to the grindstone” and “bust our hump”. We quickly embrace Mondays as something to be avoided, Wednesdays as something to get over so we can begin the downhill slide towards Friday, where even the non-religious become praying people, giving thanks to God for the last day of the work week.
Well, I managed to do just fine in High School without too much effort, and I made it through college in a haze of partying and skipping class. (I think that’s what happened. I don’t remember.)
As an adult I’ve been able to reverse-engineer my success and discover something profound.
As it turns out, while working hard is an admirable virtue, it isn’t always the best way to success, however you measure it.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear about something.
I’m not saying hard work can’t bring reward. And I’m not saying there aren’t seasons of life that don’t require long hours to accomplish great things. There are. Without the hard work and sacrifice of others, there are many things that would not be experienced.
However, I’ve discovered that much of what is done in the name of work is little more than busyness. I’m all for sacrifice, but just being busy is sacrifice without real purpose.
One well-known author has suggested that you don’t need to work more than four hours each week in order to accomplish what you need in order to get what you want.
That is likely a bit extreme. But even assuming his premise has truth to it, I would like to suggest that there are ways of accomplishing the goal that doesn’t encourage cheating (or life hacking as it is sometimes cleverly disguised as)
People often ask me how I get so much done. I guess I give the appearance of being an incredibly hard worker. Yet, I continue to show up at events and have a great time being with others. One peer recently commented (with slight sarcasm) that he has never seen me work.
The answer is in snowflakes, snowballs and mountains. It’s an analogy I really like since I live in Colorado, home of fifty-two mountains with an altitude of at least 14,000 feet.
Someone with a hard work mindset has a dream of where they want to go. They are told they can accomplish anything if they just set their mind to the objective and are willing to do the hard work.
They see the mountain before them and are prepared to do whatever is needed to get to the top. They begin by collecting snowflakes at the bottom and are encouraged to roll them uphill. As they roll, the snowflake becomes a small snowball, growing in size as it accumulates more and more flakes.
With much effort (re: long hours), those snowflakes have become a massive snowball that now sits on the precipice of the mountaintop. The hard work has been done and it should now be easy to get momentum just by giving that massive snowball a gentle push. With little effort, the snowball can turn into an avalanche!
The smart worker sees things differently. Rather than starting at the bottom of the mountain and fighting an extremely arduous and long uphill battle, their focus is on the massive snowballs already sitting on mountaintops.
Sometimes we’ll discover the hard work of others who have gone before us was left unfinished. We may also discover previous innovations that require only a minor tweak in order to become something truly big. And most importantly, the relationships we forge on our journey have the potential to provide the greatest opportunities of all.
Ultimately, the work you do is NOT about your product or service. It is about the people who will benefit from your product or service. Therefore, it makes sense that more doors for opportunity open based on who you engage with.
How do I get so much done? By consistently showing up at events and engaging with others. I do it by finding snowballs already positioned on top of a mountain. They are just waiting for someone to come along and give them a gentle nudge to get things moving.
Some might say this is the lazy person’s way of finding success. I call it smart. And it allows me to explore more opportunities, find more ways to NOT succeed, and by virtue of the sheer quantity of things I am willing to try, discover more success on my journey.
How do you have greater impact with less effort? Look outside. It’s snowing somewhere.
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