Be Smart About Working Hard

There are a variety of ways to get ahead in life. While nothing beats getting lucky, most of us have to work for it. We can work hard, or we can work smart. Both paths are viable, but doing both is the surest route to success.

There’s no success without putting in the hard work and diligence to get things right. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and be relentlessly thorough. Developing skills can save us from having to work as hard, but they take a long time to acquire, so working smart is often about finding the right tools for the job. Like the old saying goes, a craftsman is only as good as his tools. In today’s high tech and rapidly changing economy, staying abreast of new software, services, etc., is increasingly a critical part of working smart. Finding the right team members to share the burden is also important.

The most successful people are the ones who effectively combine hard work with smart work. One approach is to focus on investing free time well, so that we can be more productive when we’re back on the job. For me, that means taking the time to exercise, get enough rest, eat well, and of course, invest in strong relationships with friends and family. These things are about having a healthy life, not about work, but avoiding burnout is essential for creating long-term value and for getting ahead. A career takes a long time to build, so really working smart requires that we have the stamina to keep grinding for years.

Much of what we see as working smart comes from managing relationships well. When other people want to help us, things just come together with less effort. We all know a lot of business is conducted on golf courses, tennis courts, hunting trips, etc., and these are great opportunities for smart work. Social hobbies like these let us cultivate specific relationships. But even more importantly, they help us get better at managing all relationships. Time off should send us back to work energized, motivated, and ready to go. And if we can also cultivate useful skills during our free time, then adding a little more work-life balance to a hard charging career can actually be pretty smart.

Of course, too much life in the work-life balance is what we see in Europe, where lower output is almost entirely explained by people working less. There’s nothing wrong with a French lifestyle of less work, less wealth, and more leisure. But that’s not the American way, and if getting ahead is the goal, we need to stay focused. Vacation is important, but not too much, and don’t let that interfere with getting things done. This approach helps explain why America is wealthier than Europe, and it has certainly helped me grow my business.

Subscribe to our commercial real estate newsletter.