The age-old debate

The number of times I’ve been told (or have heard in passing or with others) about the value or smart work by countless people since the time I started working. Check these out:

“Sunil, you should know how to work smart. Not hard.” (2002)

“If you’re working that hard, you must be doing something wrong. Learn to work smart. Not hard.” (2005)

“Sunil, the team should know how to work smart. Not hard.” (2007)

“Team, it’s all about smart work. Not hard work.” (by a manager, 2010)

“Guys, we need to be more productive. Work smart, not hard.” (by a supposedly enlightened leader, 2012)

“Ladies and gentlemen… hard work can only get you so far. This is an era of smart work. That’s the only way to move ahead in your career.” (by a wannabe motivational guru, 2014)

“Sunil, the team needs to learn how to work smart. They are investing too much time in these little things.” (by a self-righteous client, 2017)

“I think we need to work smart and not hard.” (by a team member, 2019… probably the reason why I’m writing this post)

Source: Sunil Nair’s Ultimate Collection of Trash-able Quotes

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard a version of it somewhere as well. I’m sick of the smart work vs the hard work debate. It’s sage advice, I know, but I kind of realize something just this morning… (sorry, as you can tell, I’m not that enlightened, though I’m perfectly okay living with truth)

Almost 100% of the people who have shared the virtue of smart work are none but mediocre (yet arrogant) managers, senior managers, bosses members and/or consultants. Sadly, some of my team members thought that’s the right thing to do as well until I shared my observation…

We’ve never heard Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Arian Huffington, Martha Stewart or even Jeff Bezos talk about “smart work.” Isn’t that interesting? In fact, from the over thousand interviews I’ve listened to not one entrepreneur or leader have ever said they because successful because of smart work. Sure, they are smart but they work hard. More than anyone else.

Of course, you can argue that the list of people above have made it in their lives and are in their own league. And you’ll be right. Because that’s exactly my point. How did they get there? That’s all you need to remember and follow through.

Listen, being street smart and working ‘smart’ are two different things. I’m a huge advocate of the former but the latter basically means using your ‘common sense’ but is packaged in a way to make you feel like a special snowflake. (Darn, I use the ‘snowflake’ analogy a lot these days!)

Next time someone gives you the ‘smart work vs hard work’ advice, you know what to tell them. If they reason, “Well, you’re not them…” cut them short and say that, “I don’t want to be them but I want to get where they are… and working hard is the only way to get there.”

P.S. I get the feeling that I may have ranted about this before… but then, this is a new perspective.

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