For generations we have been sold a lie that with hard work and determination you will be successful. The reality is hard work does little to guarantee any success you may have.
I grew up on a dairy farm so I was no stranger to physical labor. My parents instilled early on that working hard was extremely important and the only way you would get anywhere in life was through the effort you put forth. There’s a reason why many companies located to the Midwest during the industrial boom. As we moved into the manufacturing age, there was no shortage of able-bodied workers who left the farms in search of more money because ag production was changing. Tractors and farm equipment replaced the need for bodies in the fields to do the labor. Factory jobs paid well.
We heard similar stories in school. Our education system is based on the needs of industry. The messages were simple. Study hard. Get good grades. Keep your nose to the grindstone and you will make it. Over time I began to understand that the concept of work has held many of us back from true success.
After graduating from high school I went off to college because that’s what you did. You needed a four-year degree to get a good job. Like a lot of other college students, I had to work to cover costs. On top of carrying a full load, I also worked full-time to pay for the difference in tuition, room, and board that financial aide didn’t cover. A typical day meant getting up at 6:00 AM for classes. Then I would drive 45 minutes to my job where I would work until 1:00 AM. Homework was done between classes or during work breaks. After graduation I worked for several large corporations. Because I was taught that hard work was important I often put in 60 hours or more per week.
Several years went by and I decided I wanted to do my own thing. Not knowing what to do, I followed the path others thought I should take. At one point I was working full time and had two other businesses (now called side-hustles) going. Sleep was a luxury and as it turned out so was profits. But, you know, if you work hard you will be successful. The only thing I was successful at was lack of sleep. It wasn’t until I began the process of redefining what success was did I realize hard work wasn’t going to get me there.
When I launched InVision I began to figure out what was important to success. Instead of working more I began to focus on the elements of my business where I made a difference. I delegated things that I wasn’t good at to people who had the skill. Instead of trying to get every client I went after the ones that aligned with what my company was about. Each time I strayed from that I paid the price in quality of clients and success of engagement. It wasn’t the quantity of work, but the quality of customer.
The lie is pitched more than ever today. We have what is called “Hustle Porn” which has nothing to do with the magazine nor the adult industry. So called business gurus peddle the notion that you must always be hustling. You need to work hard. Sleep is for when you’re dead. Nothing matters until you make your first million. Then you should focus on your second. The only way you will ever make it, they say, is to work harder. Push more! Never stop! Don’t quit! People make millions selling this snake oil and have little regard for the damage it causes.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. At times it cost me my health, my quality of life, time with family, and in some cases my sanity. The secret to success involves so much more than the effort you put in. Why should you give up everything for the false assumption that prosperity is right around the corner?
If you are an entrepreneur, a business owner, or an executive you need to understand that hard work isn’t the end, but the means to accomplishing what you want. I’m not saying you don’t need to put forth effort to achieve your goals. It’s just a smaller piece to a larger puzzle and it shouldn’t be given the credit. Here’s the elements of success that will make a far greater impact than hard work alone.
Vision: Clarity with what your company is all about is often missing. Too many times we create a business that tries to be all things to all people and it loses relevance. So we work harder to compensate. Without a Vision your unifying message, story, and key differentiator may be muddled.
Leadership: Do you have leaders or managers? They are not the same thing. Leaders coach people. Managers work with tasks, systems, and production. Leaders know when to be managers. Those who manage don’t always know when to lead. Your efforts increase many times over if you only manage. Often at the cost of your success.
Talent: A fortunate few seem to have the ability to do anything and everything. That is not true for the masses. Yet as business owners we are reluctant to give up tasks to those who can often do a better job. It also means you should hone your skills with what you are extremely good at.
Delegation: When we are unwilling to let tasks go to someone else we find ourselves spinning our wheels and increasing our stress. Delegation is sometime perceived as laziness because if you can do the task, why give it to someone else? As an owner you need your time freed up to guide the company Vision and find growth opportunities. You also need to be spending time with your family and being present with others.
Marketability: Is your business marketable? Just because you have a widget to sell doesn’t mean you will have a viable company. What makes you unique? Why does your product/service matter? Who is your primary customer? How well do they understand your promise?
Efficiency: Are you designing your systems to increase profitability and efficiency without sacrificing quality and service? Do you know what really matters here? Companies waste a lot of time and money without understanding the impact efficiency has or where efficiency is needed. The smaller your business is the bigger this problem grows.
Network: Who is in your network? Who helps you address challenges? Who do you have to talk to when you are really stuck? I find a lot of entrepreneurs just don’t have a peer network they can work with to better each others’ game. As a client and friend has said, “Your network is your net worth.” It’s one of the greatest investments you’ll make.
You see, there are many factors that lead to success. While effort is required it is not the deciding factor. Hard work alone is no reward. It just leads to more hard work. We need to recognize it for what it is and quit letting it rob us of the quality of life we are trying to create.