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Working Hard vs Working Smart
2 min read

Working Hard vs Working Smart

When you ask people what is better, to work hard or to work smart, it has now become a no-brainer, most folks will answer "to work smart".

However, what I have come to realise is that the answer is more nuanced than that.

When you are building your career, there isn't going to be a choice other than working hard. It is like learning the fundamentals and if you don't get in deep, and get involved (that takes bandwidth and energy), it becomes hard to build on.

Once you have built up your foundation, and you want to scale, at that point you work smart by simplifying things, delegating, automating etc. but if you didn't get to peek at the nitty gritties of it, you might cut a life line when you are simplifying, or delegating - leading to issues (or worse, a slow bleed that you never notice).

so it isn't about working hard or working smart, it is both. work hard in areas where you are growing. Work smart in areas that you have already established yourself and have mastery over.

I can however tell you this : There is no mastery, without committing time, energy and bandwidth - and that is what hard work is.

Just remember that you don't continue following the same process, without achieving any new understanding or learning, or pushing yourself - at that point you've fallen into a rut and are bleeding away your own value.


As a good Example - When McDonalds was set up, there were two founders who were running it like a normal cafe. They tried to scale up by creating more centres - and they realised that each cafe had its own unique taste and appearance and they couldn't maintain uniformity. No uniformity means you can't make a promise and if you can't make a promise, you can't build a brand.

So they tried the other option, closed all the other centres and just ramped up on marketing for their first cafe - and there were so many people there, but long lines and bad customer service. Eventually they resigned to thinking, that perhaps small is the only way to deliver that quality.

It was when their third co-founder and eventual successor came onboard that he stood in the kitchen and did a flow motion study of the process of making a burger, that he designed the floor in such a way that no one is running around with a patty in hand, or the veggies are on the other side of the room - instead everything each person needs is right around then and refilled. Once they got that sorted, standardizing the ingredients came naturally, and that meant they could do franchisees and deliver the same burger anywhere.

The process of understanding and designing that kitchen and workflow sure must have been hard work. There is no alternative to it. Once you know it, there is no need to have every new outlet do things from scratch (the old way).

Bottom line: You'll have to work hard before you work smart.

PS: If you were setting up a fast food restaurant today sure you can borrow a lot of the "hard work" from folks like McDonald's or hire a consultant. Truth is, if you are doing the same thing as them, then sure. But if you are trying something new - where the texture of the food is different, or it's no longer a burger but idlis and dosas and there is chutney and sambar involved - then that process does require engineering from the ground up (if you want to build efficiency and moat).

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