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It’s funny sometimes how our beliefs, and the way we perceive the world to be, can lead us away from our goals. Do you know what I am talking about? Let me give you a few examples:
If you believe “Rich people are bad, abusive and manipulative” like many people seem to think, you will probably never become rich – to do so would contradict your conviction.
If you believe “The world is out to get you”, you probably won’t venture much outside of your comfort zone, it will stifle your own growth and limit your personal expansion. That’s why Einstein famously stated that the most important question a man can ask is “How friendly is the world?”
In the same vein of thinking, to believe that “Success is the result of hard work” can limit your level of success. Now, I agree that this one is a little more ambiguous for most people. So, let me give you a little more explanation.
Before I jump in the core of my argument, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marco Robert. I grew up in a normal, average ordinary middle-class town in Canada. Most people weren’t rich or poor, they were all middle class. So, as a child I always believed this was the way to be. Poor people were lazy; rich people were abusive, that was it. That’s what I believed growing, because that’s what everyone around me believed.
My parents, and the others adults who surrounded me were adamant about what I had to do to become “successful”. When I was in school I was told to work hard, to get good grades. After I graduated I was told to work hard to get a good job. Everyone around me seemed to agree with this basic tenet of life: Hard work leads to success.
Maybe you too grew up in a similar community?
In my community, those who didn’t work hard, the lazy people, were much poorer, and my family didn’t miss a chance to point them out. So it was clear to me, hard work led to success. Just like the sun rises in the East, and sets in the West.
Then one day, I was in college and I realized that if I paid just a little more attention when I was in class, if I asked questions when I didn’t understand something, it allowed me to get a better understanding of the concepts the teachers were teaching, and I didn’t have to work hard and study all night before an exam. At first it was just a theory. But during my senior year I really got to test that theory.
You see, that last year of school I shared an apartment with two of my classmates. It allowed me to observe how hard they worked to get their good grades. They worked much harder at it than me:
When we were in class, they took loads of notes, but didn’t ask many questions. And the nights before exams they pretty much didn’t sleep because they studied all night.
My approach was different. As I said, I asked tons of questions, took notes, but not verbatim. Rather I took conceptual notes to help me remember what I understood – not remember what the teachers taught. My point is that I figured out a system that worked for me and it allowed me to study a lot less than my school mates.
You may want to know: “Did it work? What kind of grades did you get Marco?”
Let me cut to the chase, when I was in high school, I was a B and C average student. In college I graduated first of my class with something like a 3.76 grade point average.
Please understand that I’m not saying this to impress you, I am simply trying to tell you that I am impressed with myself. That one realization I had in school, that I didn’t have to study so hard if I paid more attention in class and asked more questions, changed my grades – it changed my life.
“Business strategists always kill business tacticians.” Chet Holmes
Fast forward about 25 years into the future, I am now an international management consultant with clients on five continents. Over the last couple decades, I have interacted with tens of thousands of business people, and consulted directly with nearly 500 family-run businesses. So at this point I would have to be pretty simple-minded if I didn’t see patterns emerge. Here’s one blatantly obvious pattern: Business people who put hard work at the top of their list of values ALWAYS fair out worse than those who focus on smart strategic work.
Ouch! I know, I know, for some of you who revere the virtue of hard work, it may be tough to take. You may feel offended by my comment. I understand. There was a time when I would have been offended by such a comment as well. Working hard was part of my identity, my heritage and even my masculinity. But I was wrong.
You see, hard work is not a bad thing. It’s a very good thing indeed. The problem arises when people believe that hard work is an end in itself, and when they elevate hard work to the top of their value list. The reality is that hard working people are statistically much poorer than smart working people. It’s those who think hard who rise up in the socio-economic ranks. So if you are the type that must believe success is due to a single thing, at least believe it’s thinking that leads to success, you’ll be much closer to the truth.
You Can’t Have Your Egg and Eat Your Cake Too
Believing hard work creates success is analogous to believing eggs make chocolate cakes. There’s nothing wrong with eggs. Every cake and every pastry has eggs in it. But the goal of a pastry chef is not to make eggs, it’s to make delicious pastries. And that requires much more than eggs. In fact, if the cook was too enamored with eggs, he would freak out when the eggs were mixed with flour, butter and cacao powder. “Where are my eggs?” he might cry out, when he could no longer see the eggs in the batter.
Of course I am being facetious. My point is that just like eggs are only a tiny part of the process of making recipes in a pastry kitchen; hard work is also just a tiny part of making a business successful.
Hard work doesn’t make a business successful, just like eggs don’t make chocolate cakes taste good. It’s just one of many ingredients.
“But Marco, so many successful people extol the virtue of hard work. Why should I believe you instead of the them?” you may ask.
I know. Let’s talk about the current talking head of social media who extol the virtue of hard work. I am talking about the Grant Cardone’s and Gary Vaynerchuck’s of this world. You must understand that those guys have a very narrow view of the world. When you spend time with this type of successful big-ego-gurus, as I do all the time, you soon understand that all they want to say is “Please listen to me, adore me, and imitate me, to boost my self-worth and make me feel good.”
By the way, I am not downing those people or even saying what they do or say is wrong. I watch them sometimes; they bring a lot of value to the entrepreneurial world.
My point is this: as long as you use discernment when listening to them, you can benefit tremendously from their passion-inflated commentaries.
But the truth is this: When you get close to those guys and look at their business journey closer, you realize that what made them successful was not their hard work but rather their smart work, their thinking. And hard work contributed little to their success, like it contributed little to me graduating on Dean’s List.
Potential Energy vs. Kinetic Energy
Here’s how I see it: hard work is like potential energy in aeronautic. Before a rocket can go to the moon, engineers must make sure it’s really powerful. They work on the engine, the fuel capacity, the combustion efficiency and so on and so forth. So that, at the moment of taking off, the rocket has the potential energy to get in motion and leave earth’s atmosphere. But that’s it.
The only real contribution of hard work is to get you off the ground and in motion. As an entrepreneur, as soon as you get beyond the atmosphere of average, normal and ordinary people, you need to recognize that you don’t need hard work any longer, you need strategic, and systematized thinking.
I work with business owners who are stuck all the time. I just with one these past couple days in Texas. After 15 years in business he finds his business stagnating. He’s working just as hard as before, in fact with mounting competition in his market, he’s probably working harder today than he did before. Yet, results are stagnating.
To correlate with the rocket story, once the flying rocket is in motion, it doesn’t need all that potential energy, that’s why it shrugs off its fuel tank and propulsion module. Once in space the rocket uses kinetic energy, and with that energy it can go much faster and much further than with its potential energy. Potential energy allows it to go maybe 20 or 30 kilometers into space. Kinetic energy makes it possible to travel millions of kilometers at super fast speeds.
It’s the same thing in business. The hard work of the founder can only take the business so far, then it starts to stagnate. It’s good to get it off the ground and get it in motion, but not much more.
Just look around you, most businesses don’t succeed for long after take off. Statistically over 50% of businesses don’t make it to the end of their first year. Within another 4-5 years they are pretty much all out of business. Those that succeed are run by a different breed of business owners. They are run by people who think differently who challenge their own beliefs, and who learn to take advice from mentors.
You see, the biggest challenge facing business owners is not what they know or even what they don’t know about business, no. It’s their code of morality, their values and their beliefs. I can teach them everything they need to know about business, but if their morally forbids them to use it, then it is pointless.
For this reason, most business owners can’t fix their business on their own because they can’t even recognize their limiting patterns. When business owners are convinced their success will come from hard work, they work hard and continue to do so sometimes even after years of lackluster results, because that’s the only way they know.
Like one of my mentors once told me: “When you are inside the box, you can’t read what on the box. You need someone to help you with that.”
Rocket Engineers vs. Management Consultants
Many management consultants and business advisors, like myself, have dedicated their lives to the study and the application of successful business principles. We know how to overcome all sorts business scenario, even morality-based ones. Our knowledge, experiences and the tool we possess, allow us to create lasting business success.
If you want your business to become as successful as I think you want it, step outside of your hard working box for a minute and see that what I say is true. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that in business, like in aeronautics, only the right experts can take you to the moon.
Like I often say: “Business is Simple – Let Me Show You How”. If you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s and you still haven’t reached the level of business success you always aspired to, isn’t time you change your approach? Don’t ask a rocket scientist or even an accountant; ask the only professional who can give you the business strategy you need; ask a management consultant.
If you are interested to chat with me about how to take your business to the next level let’s schedule a quick call:
And, on a last note: If you are reading this, you might be looking for a solution to take your business out of a jam. Be careful, it’s a shark infested world out there. Don’t let any one-tool guru convince you that their one tool is the best solution for you. Whatever their tool is, it’s just one tool. There are thousands of ways to fix your business. I would doubt that the guy who shows up with one way, would actually have the way.
Together we will explore all the possible reasons your business may not be where you want it to be, and we will get you there this year.
Over the years I have developed a management model and a series of tools that allow me to point out, often in a matter of minutes, where you need to focus your efforts to grow your business. For some people it is their beliefs, and the way they see the world that needs to change, for others it is their business sales, their staff or their finance procedures that require improvement. It’s never the same.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marco Robert is an international consultant, executive coach and business speaker. Over decades of dedicated research, he has acquired a keen sense of what it takes to make a business successful. He has mastered “business” like few of his contemporaries. Hundreds of millions of dollars in direct business results to prove it!