The Difference Between Working Hard vs. Working Smart

Before I started my business I was a very athletic and healthy young college man who rarely missed a day on the basketball court. When I started my first business at twenty years old, I worked seven days a week, and a minimum of fifteen hours a day. If I was lucky, I would get in at seven in the morning and work till ten.

The result? In the first six months of business, I had gained fifty pounds, was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, hadn’t done five minutes of physical activity, and couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs without stopping a few times to catch my breath.

When Your Agenda Gets The Best Of You

There were so many things to do that I didn’t even attempt to put them in any sort of planned and organized agenda. I just knew, somehow, some way, and at some point, they all needed to get done. I had an eleven by seventeen planner that I would use to write hundreds of things I needed to do that day. When I ran out of space I would write sideways, up and down, even staple a legal piece of paper to my day’s agenda and fill up more and more agenda, literally to the point of driving myself crazy.

At the end of each day, if I accomplished fifty things, there were a hundred things that I had failed to do and, without fail, the few things that were absolutely relevant to that day’s agenda…did not get done!

The Payoff?

When ending the company six years later, the business had all but taken its toll on my body, and I was not ready for the devastation of losing the business.

Consequently, one afternoon, a few weeks after losing the business, I had to be rushed to the emergency room and treated for a nervous breakdown.

The Lesson:

Quality works at a thousand times the pace of quantity.

I had a friend who had a tremendously successful business as a hat manufacturer. He had a huge factory with a few hundred or so employees who would all run around the factory like chickens with their heads cut off. All except him. He was always calm, happy, and never flustered. He came in at nine and out at five, took an hour lunch break, and never worked weekends.

Sitting in his office one day, he told me that, at the rate I was going I would never even make it to thirty. He shared with me his key to success. He told me that the key to running a long and prosperous business is to know how to prioritize your agenda, and to never try to conquer the world in a day.

My ‘Successful’ Friend’s ‘Success’ Tips

His tips were as follows:

Step One: At the end of each month, write your agenda for the following month. Put down every little thing you must do that month, no matter what…

Step Two: Before the first week starts, write down everything that you absolutely must do that week, no matter what…

Step Three: Before each day, write down only the things that you absolutely must do that day, no matter what…

Step Four: Stick to the agenda and always see it through till it gets done….

Step Five: Once your pressing issues are dissolved, just take out the week’s agenda and see what’s next.

Following these steps keeps the priority of your agenda intact so nothing takes you away from any urgent agenda. There may be only one item on my agenda that day, but you can be sure that would be the first thing I did when I got in.

Once you complete what’s on your daily agenda, there’s no need to work on something else into the wee hours of the morning when it can just as easily be tackled the following morning with a fresh head.

Pace Yourself

You should never reward yourself on the hours put in, but what you accomplish while you are there… And here’s something he told me with that I still fight with to this day… Never work weekends. I know what you’re thinking…

Huh? Never Work Weekends? But I’m An Entrepreneur!

Again, let me give a bit of a disclaimer here: When you are starting a business, quite often, the rules are pretty much out the window as there can be quite an imbalance of time and work, one of the biggest sacrifices an entrepreneur makes when starting a business. make and You have to do what you have to do, period. I have learned (the hard way), however, that it is very hard to do business from a hospital bed. Just keep that in mind. Let me continue…

How Your Time Off Greatly Increases Your Time On

When you lift weights on Mondays and Thursdays, your muscles grow on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you lifted the same muscle every day, the muscle would never grow because when you lift weights, you are ripping and tearing the muscle, and it is only on the days off that the muscle repairs and rebuilds itself stronger than it was before. If you don’t give the muscle any time to rest, you will eventually destroy it.

The same rule applies in running a business… If you don’t give yourself a chance to rest and reflect on the work already done and the accomplishments of the past, you will never regain the clarity and creativity to grow the business in the future….

Strategy Disguised As Inactivity

For those of you familiar with the rope-a-dope style Muhammad Ali used in his 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman, you already get this. For those of you who don’t, let me give you another example…

Years ago, I remember watching Mike Tyson in a fight against some fighter I had never seen. From the opening bell, his opponent came out throwing shots at Tyson by the dozen (hint: QUANTITY). Upstairs to the head, then down to the body, jab, jab, jab, hook, uppercut, jab, jab, jab, straight right, hook… you get the point.

About a minute and a half went by and the guy must have thrown a hundred shots and Tyson hadn’t even thrown one, yet Tyson seemed strangely patient and unfazed. A few minutes later, the fighter threw a real sloppy left hook to try to knock Tyson out. At the very point he thought he was going to connect, Tyson dipped underneath the blow, bent his knees, twisted his hips and threw the hardest straight right I had ever seen in my life…and knocked the guy out cold. End of fight. One punch. So much for quantity!

My questions for you today are:

  • Are you handling your agenda or is your agenda handling you?
  • Are you working hard or working smart?
  • Are there any tricks of the trade that you have acquired that has both increased your quality level and decreased quantity at the same time without   sacrificing the integrity of your work?

Have a great day!


The following is an excerpt from How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying… To receive complimentary chapters, sign up at the top right of the page to get a download link. For more information about the book,  Click Here


“MJ takes a new and exciting approach on how to teach entrepreneurs.”

Daymond John
Co-host of ABC's, 'Shark Tank'

Hustle Branding Featured In:

Hustle Branding in Fortune Magazine
Hustle Branding on Fox News
Hustle Branding in Sales Force
Hustle Branding in Forbes
See All Media

4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Working Hard vs. Working Smart

  1. MJ, working smarter is definitely better! I love how you always write with an authentic voice. Please keep it up!

    1. Thanks my man. And great post on your part today on Steamfeed blog. Good luck with WeMontage. Seems like an interesting niche to me. I see you write biz plans… Did them for about 12 years (still do on occasion). Like-minded individuals! Have a gr8 one. Best- MJ

  2. Hi MJ and congrats for making the front page of the BizSugar community with this post. I think many entrepreneurs know what it’s like to almost kill yourself over your business. It isn’t any more fun or glamorous than almost killing yourself at a regular job. There are always ways to make things better in your business if you take the time to look. The key is not to memorize a bunch of tips, though I think your list is a good place to start. Instead, you must find smarter ways to run your business that work well for you. After all, isn’t this why you got into business for yourself in the first place?

    1. Hey Heather. Agreed and thanx you for the comment. I think too many people think money is the main motivator for the entrepreneur, which I believe is only a very small piece of a much larger pie. To your credit, yes I agree it is about doing things smarter in ways that work well with us. I could not have put it any better… and yes, it always is nice to avoid nervous breakdowns at all costs! Have a great night and enjoy your Thanksgiving. Best-MJ

Comments are closed.