In the early 2000’s, I worked as a senior print designer at a small street-level marketing company. I had a creative director whose catch-phrase was always “work smarter, not harder.” This made a lot of sense to me at the time because I hated my job. Like most people who hate their jobs, the trick is to spend as little time as possible to complete your tasks. “Work smarter, not harder” is the type of advice you get from someone who knows what hardships lay ahead. Someone who knows how to play “the game”. Someone who also hates their job.
I hated hating my job. Being simultaneously satisfied and dissatisfied with each task is a stressful way to go through each day. When I was laid off in May of 2002 thanks to post-9/11 frozen marketing budgets, I vowed to never again hate doing what I love doing. Instead of getting my resume together in hopes of trading an unsatisfying 40-hours-per-week for a crappy paycheck, I resolved to be happy. Working makes me happy. Working hard makes me happy. And you know what? Whoever thinks that smart and hard are opposites is an idiot.
The other day I got the newest issue of INC in the mail. On the cover was a familiar face – Markus Frind. Markus is the founder of Plenty Of Fish, the largest free online dating site in the US. I met him a few years ago when we spoke at the same conference at Stanford. At the time he had over 5 million registered users and was the sole developer, which is still the case only now his user base has grown and he’s hired a couple customer service people. I remember feeling a little put off by Markus’ blase attitude about work when he spoke. In fact, I got the feeling that he had a distinctly detached attitude about his success. After reading the INC article I know not much has changed.
The INC cover boasts that “Markus works one hour a day and makes $10 million a year.” This statement follows a trend that has been making me uneasy for a good long while now. It appears that it’s no longer noteworthy to simply be successful – you have to achieve it with as little effort as possible. Why is hard work no longer news? From the four-day workweek to the four-hour workweek, there recently exists the idea that it’s possible to achieve just as much (if not more) while cutting back on time spent actually working.
My confusion with these concepts is two-fold: (1) if you love what you’re doing, why would you want to do it less? (2) If you don’t love what you’re doing, why not do something else? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not the type of person who is out with friends having a great time and thinks “wow, what I need is to do this less. Much, much less.”
Admittedly, I’m not well versed in some of the examples I’ve given. Tim Ferriss’ book (The Four-Hour Workweek) may truly be a work of genius, but I’ll never know. As long as it’s about working as little as possible and delegating everything downward, I’ll continue to have zero interest. I have gone through his website a little, and I actually talked to him on the phone last year. (On a total side note, I made a point of keeping him on the phone for as long as possible and successfully burned a little over 1/8 of his workweek.) What became very clear to me is that there are two distinct types of entrepreneurs: hustlers and lifestylers.
Lifestylers work as a means to an end. These are the type of people who leave their phone in their hotel room when they go down to the pool. These are the people who don’t check their email at 3am when they get up to use the bathroom. I’m going to assume that Tim Ferriss is a lifestyler. His website has images of people getting massaged, going skiing, slow dancing and flexing biceps. The cover of his book is a silhouette of a hammock between two palm trees. “Escape 9-5, live anwhere, and join the new rich.” Sounds pretty dull. Plus, nouveau riche isn’t a label I’d want to tag myself with.
Me? I’m a hustler (aww, yeah!). I escape 9-5 by working 8 to 8. I work weekends. When I’m not working, I’m thinking about work. Sound bad? Maybe we have different ideas of what work is. Work has no negative connotations to me. It’s equally rewarding as it is inspiring; equally exciting as it is relaxing. I always have my eye on the prize: making things better all the time for our company, for our community and for our customers. It’s not that I have no life, hustlers are expert life-multitaskers. They recognize that ideas or opportunities can arise at any time, and they’re always prepared. Ever seen Gary Vaynerchuk speak or watch WLTV? Hustler. Ever notice how Marc Ecko always has 100 things going on at a time? Hustler. Hustlers work smarter and harder.
The problem I’m finding with the glorification of “look how little they do and how much they’ve made” is this new-wave-work-ethic sets unrealistic expectations to up-and-comers. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Being a successful entrepreneur is even less easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. Building a business takes time, strength, struggle, persistence and patience. The key ingredient to all of this is fun. Work is fun. Don’t think so? Do something else. None of this is conducive to “less”.
Ultimately, my point isn’t to try to convince that between hustlers and lifestylers, one is better than the other. You have to be yourself, and you may be more comfortable being one or the other – or neither. It just doesn’t make sense to me that someone can find something they love to do, and then consciously choose to do it less.