The Ultimate Secret of Business Success

I often hear people advising young entrepreneurs to “work harder” or “work smarter.” While this is good advice, neither is the ultimate secret of business success.

Working harder is a good starting point. There’s no question that all other things being equal, I’ll put my money on the harder worker. The problem is that many people think that hard work is good in and of itself. Not true.

I’ve known plenty of “grinds” who beavered away, expending vast quantities of effort, but without getting commensurate results. At the end of the day, while the gritty, hard-working underdog makes for a nice story, he usually doesn’t win Superbowl MVP.

When folks realize that hard work is insufficient, they usually graduate to the next step: Working smarter. “Work smarter, not harder” is a time-honored maxim, and yes, it is often effective.

The entrepreneur who builds a better mousetrap is more likely to catch a mouse than the entrepreneur who works hard running from mousehole to mousehole trying to catch rodents with his bare hands.

But people who truly understand success know that working smarter is still a tactic, rather than a strategy.

Those who press on past working harder and working smarter discover the ultimate secret of business success: Working on the right things.

Trying to catch mice is fine, but wouldn’t you rather devote your time to starting a company that changes the world and makes you mind-bogglingly rich than to catching mice?

I’d rather be Steve Jobs than the world’s greatest mousecatcher. Heck, I’d rather be even a moderately successful entrepreneur like Evan Williams (the founder of Blogger and Twitter) than the world’s greatest mousecatcher.

Focusing on working harder and working smarter begs the question of judgment and prioritization. It’s the worker-bee mentality: How can I better carry out the wishes of my boss.

When you start asking yourself, “What is the most important thing I can work on,” you’re finally taking on the responsibility of being your own boss.

Don’t go into entrepreneurship, then chain yourself to an invisible boss by focusing on working harder and smarter.

Be your own boss. Work on the right things.

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Secret of Business Success

  1. Wise words.

    And the right thing to work on is about your values and beliefs, not just what you can get out of it. (Like, Donald Trump believes in really tall buildings, etc) 🙂

  2. Ibrahim

    Wow. I though a title like “Ultimate Secret” was sure to be a let down but the question “What is the most important thing I can work on,” is .. is just truly inspiring.


  3. pretty timely in my case — I just patented 2 items (finally, a ‘real’ product and not just another b.s. internet venture), ordered 5 .com names for support and am working on 10 things at once — from logo design to finding licensees to looking for angel investors to help get more done faster … I don’t know which is more important, I just know I’m on to something (a $3 billion US market) and SOMETHING needs to be done.

    Your post is the best break I’ve taken so far.

  4. Chris,

    Extremely well said. I’d further stipulate that one needs to do the NEXT right thing in order to succeed, and not be afraid to do some wrong things in the interim.


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