Working Smarter and Not Harder. Why?
Most people work too hard, not because they have to but rather because they confuse hard work with effective work. If you watch great athletes, they perform with a precision and efﬁciency in their actions that preserves their strength, whether hurdling, cross-country ski- ing, or swimming. All effort is directed to the most productive use of their bod- ies. If you don’t believe that, try swimming across a pool with your ﬁngers spread like fans, rather than cupped, or try hitting a tennis ball with a backpack strapped on.
A Case Study
A client told me that it was imperative to better educate independent distributors about the quality of their products, since those distributors inﬂu- enced the end-customers. When I asked what evidence they had for that belief, they told me, honestly, “It makes sense.”
When we went to distributors and asked them what inﬂuenced them to order from which manufacturer, they told us uniformly: “Our customers are builders. They tell us by brand what they want, and we deliver. We only suggest alternatives when their preference is out of stock or otherwise unavailable.”
The builders told us that they ordered those brands that were of equal quality but also readily available, so that they never had to stop a project to await materials. So the key to the entire sequence was ensuring that the products were either kept in distributor inventory or available for shipment within three business days.
The dealers were simply classic “middle men” who had no preferences about brands!
Yet, curiously, most people go through life with a ﬁgurative pack ﬁlled with bricks strapped on their backs. I call this wasted effort “going around the block to get next door.”
There is a another wonderful story of a man seeing a friend searching in the street at night. “What happened?” he asked. “I lost my keys,” was the reply. “Did you lose them right here?” said the man, starting to help in the search. “No, I dropped them down the block when I left the restaurant.” “Then why are you searching here?” asked the man incredulously. “Because the light is better here.”
There are several reasons for working hard and not smart, but the most critical is the search for perfection. We are tentative and hesitant to proceed unless we feel we’ve done everything possible to ensure success. However, most success is actually accomplished en route to the goal, meaning that the adjustments and modiﬁcations made along the way are the keys, since they are in reaction to real-time events and not hypothesized events.
Life and work are about success, not perfection. This fact demands that you be willing to live with moderate degrees of ambiguity. Once you are comfortable doing that, you will be working far smarter and with less effort.