work smarter not harderOne of the most irritating cliches in business is the old mantra of mediocrity: “Work smarter not harder.”  I have done copious amounts of research and I am ready to unveil my findings.  Ready?

1.  People say “Work smarter not harder” when:

a. They think they are WAY smarter than you and everyone else.

b. They are trying to make an excuse for the minimal amount of work they have done or plan to do.

2.  People that say “Work smarter not harder” will never be the most successful person or business in any organization or market.  Partners or teammates that try to convince you to “work smarter NOT harder” are equivalent to the slackers in high school that try to drag you down so they have someone to hang out with on skid row. 

I have had the good fortune to meet a lot of really successful people.  I always try to figure out why they are more successful than their peers.  Every once in a while there is some extenuating factor like an inheritance or a seemingly lucky event that led to a person having more success than they should have under ordinary circumstances.  It happens.  But, more often than not, the critical factor in their success is that they:

Work smarter AND harder.

Look around at your peers.  Look at the best.  Look at the most admirable.  Do they twiddle their thumbs while everyone else works?  Do they have a special super power?  Are they really that much smarter than your other peers?  Or do they focus on the right priorities and outwork everyone around them with highly strategic methods?  This is working smarter AND harder.  It’s not enough to do one or the other.  You must do both!

Get rich quick schemes are highly unlikely to succeed – we all know that…right?  Yet many people still think there is a way to beat the system.  They seem to believe that the quest for reducing input to achieve the minimal output is the name of the game.  This little nugget of mediocrity is dropped with great pride, as though it was the most remarkable statement ever uttered by a human ever.  You know what has become remarkable?  Outworking everyone else.

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Before dropping this phrase, please consider that some of us are incredibly turned off and might hear you differently.  Here’s what some of us really think when you say “work smarter not harder”:

From a rival: “Sweet!  I’ll own you.”

From a job candidate: “By the time you get through training, I’ll likely need to start interviewing your replacement.”

From a boss:  “Did you just call me stupid?  Surely you would not tell me to work smarter not harder if I was doing a good job.  You would be happy with hard work if I was smart.  I’m pretty sure you said I was stupid.”

From a subordinate: “Wow.  Is this person stupid?”

From a coworker: “I’m firing you when I’m in charge.”

Maybe it’s a pet peeve.  Maybe it’s taking an unfair stance.  But, I challenge you to find more than a small handful of top people in your field that aren’t hard workers AND smart workers.  Their is no choice.

Your personal brand should not take this very avoidable hit.

As I often do, I generally look to the world of gangster rap for real life examples.  One of my colleagues 50 Cent summed it up best when he named his first album “Get Rich or Die Trying”.  Whoa!  “Die Trying”.  That’s pretty straightforward.  Update: he did it.  For a fairly lengthy period of time, he outworked virtually everyone in the music industry (possibly the entertainment industry).  The result?  $140 million dollar net worth according to Forbes in 2014.  Could you imagine if he named the album “Get Rich The Easiest Way Possible”?  It would have sucked.  (Sidenote: 50 Cent would likely not consider me a colleague).

In addition to 50 Cent, refer to nearly every other successful entrepreneur in the history of the world.