I have a friend who loves telling me how they work smarter, not harder.

Isn’t that how the saying goes? Work smarter, not harder.

It’s a cliche, and like most cliches they are simple and to the point. But does that make it accurate?

I don’t think so.

When you think of working hard, you probably imagine someone constantly moving around, trying to do too many things at once, working over-time, sweating, stressing–you get what I’m saying right?

Let’s take it to the other end of the spectrum. Imagine those who work smart. Finding shortcuts, drawing maps, planning, strategizing, barely having to lift a finger because they’re smart and they’re leveraging resources to get what they need done.

Sounds like a better position doesn’t it?

It’s no wonder one would gravitate toward working “smarter.” It just seems easier. Maybe even sexy.

There’s nothing sexy in doing the work. There’s no “cool” factor involved when you’re hunched over a keyboard attempting to type something. Starting and stopping. Starting and stopping. For hours on end. Or maybe lifting weights, every day, an hour or two a day, for the next six to twelve months.

Hard work seems to carry a negative connotation because it’s, well, hard. Difficult. Monotonous.

Hard work seems to have lost value in this age of information. In this age of wonderful technology that, perceivably, help us to achieve more in shorter periods of time. Well, in a way it does if we’re talking purely on a task-by-task basis (and I have a ton of apps on my phone that I use regularly to get things done).

But there’s the kind of work that don’t have apps to help (maybe not yet). It’s the kind of work that you do to achieve skills. To become an artist. An engineer. A lawyer. A marine biologist. A successful entrepreneur. A captivating stage actor. A clever lyricist. A five-piece juggler.

There’s the hours that we still need to go through.

Learning time. Simulation time. Application and experience.

There’s no shortcut past these hours, short of inserting a microchip directly into your brain with preloaded knowledge and fine motor skills–which probably isn’t that far off.

Working hard is not being afraid to do the necessary work. It’s not trying to find a way around a problem or rigging it with temporary solutions.

It’s not repeating the same actions and NOT learning from it.

It’s not overworking yourself and NOT taking breaks.

It’s not taking action WITHOUT purpose.

It’s not doing something with NO end goal.

It’s not shoveling shit and cursing your life.

It’s leaning in and figuring things out.

And isn’t that… smart?


Image: Those are some rare carts / Arne Kuilman / CC BY-SA 4.0  / Text added to original