A hundred years ago, the only way out of poverty was to work as hard as you possibly could. It was a test of endurance, grit, and brute strength. People faced many problems that are much less significant today such as starvation, disease, illiteracy, etc. Resources were scarce and life wasn’t guaranteed. Being successful a hundred years ago meant survival.
However, in most first-world countries today, success and the path to success looks vastly different. Being successful and rising above the mundane everyday means that working as hard as you can is no longer enough.
The access to resources, opportunities, and connections that we have today is infinitely greater than what our grandparents had. The devices that we carry in our pockets today are more powerful than what presidents could do twenty years ago. As Seth Godin puts it, we are moving from an industrial economy into a connection economy.
The industrial economy is about the factory worker, working as hard as he or she possibly could in order to support his or her family. The connection economy is about the individual, finding their own personal niche to change the world with his or her own unique art.
In other words, being successful today is not as much about working hard, but more about working smart. Hard work pays off, but smart work is what grounds hard work. Working smart is about the individual, creatively crafting their own unique journey in order to find their niche. Sometimes, working smart may look extremely unconventional, perhaps forgoing education or conventional paths of hard work. And to people stuck in industrial mindsets, it can be difficult to comprehend someone else’s personal process.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon currently worth $25 billion, was once a fry cook at McDonalds. McDonalds, often heralded as the epitome of horrible, low paying jobs, was a step in the process of his entrepreneurial career. To Bezos, working at McDonalds was not accompanied by a sense of failure, but simply part of the process.
Working smart means leveraging the resources and connections around you. And no matter what you might think, there is an absolute abundance of resources and connections available to you. It has never been easier to follow your dream and do the work that you love with people that you love.
Only work as hard as you can if you’re working as smart as you can.