Work Smart

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Today, I’d like to use an excerpt from my book It’s Totally Possible: Achieving the Life of Your Dreams Through Accelerated NeuroConversion as an intro to this blog post. Here’s the passage:

“Once upon a time, two men set about chopping trees into firewood in a certain section of a dense forest, armed with only their axes. Their foreman had set a firm quota for them both and it was a spirit of competition as well as the fear of reprisal that motivated them to do their very best. The first worker, George, was a brute of a man, his body bulging with muscles and sinews as thick as the beard pasted across his lumberjack face. The second, Bill, was not quite as virile or large but he was an intelligent fellow who went about every task thoughtfully. 

“The day began with George attacking the trees with bullheaded determination. His pace was nearly twice as fast as that of Bill’s, amassing a pile double Bill’s size in a flurry of shattering bark and splintering branches. Bill was equally resolute but rather than charging with full force he paced himself, stopping often to catch his breath and allow his weary back to rest. Each time he paused, Bill would take out his stone and sharpen his axe, bringing it to a razor’s edge while his body recharged. 

“George would taunt him every time he stopped, for the giant had scarcely halted long enough to eat his lunch. Interestingly, by noon, the men’s wood piles were nearly even in size. Bill encouraged George to work smarter, but his words were ignored and, sometimes, even laughed at. George said he had no time to stop and that, to meet the quota, he had to just power through, giving it all he had. 

“As the sun began to slip behind the tree line, casting long shadows across them both, George heaved and grunted, hacking away with a dull axe beneath trembling arms weakened by constant exertion. When he noticed Bill’s pile had grown even with his, he labored all the more, throwing his weight behind every blunted blow. Once, at last, the foreman came to inspect their work at day’s end, Bill was commended for his greater productivity and larger wood pile. Bill simply smiled and headed back to camp, leaving George behind to wheeze and stagger in the dark to finish his task. 

“It’s sadly common to see how often professionals scurry about in the same way as poor George, conditioned to punish themselves when, in reality, working smart produces greater (and far easier) results.” – pp. 62-64

Clearly, this passage is an example of how working smarter is more effective than simply “soldiering on” with brute force or sheer willpower. And while the book discusses how ANC helps professionals achieve more in a shorter time through its principles, I’m pivoting here to highlight how sowing into others amplifies one’s efficiency at whatever it is they are doing. 

The first step to this is gazing up from your task to take a look at those who are working around you. 

Recognize Opportunities for Others

It goes without saying that we live in a world fixated upon “pecking orders,” whether this is found in the rat race of climbing the corporate ladder, the Jones’ with the biggest home and most luxurious car, or the high school cheerleader that is the envy of her less charismatic peers. And so we naturally subscribe to the idea that “this is the way it is,” especially when we find we have been pushed down or ignored by others in their pursuit of greater success.

The problem with this mentality is that it causes us to see others as objects, either as the “means to our desired ends” or as threatening obstacles that must be neutralized and overcome. Thus we brown our proverbial noses, sacrificing our better sensibilities in the hopes we will be favored and elevated by them or else we limit their opportunities, block their advance, and muddy their reputation so we don’t fall behind their achievements. 

But what if that is all hogwash? Of course, there are those we should admire and emulate, just as there are those we should show due respect to for their status or position. And there are genuine enemies that seek our hurt that we should diligently guard against. Yet, in reality, these two categories are, for the most part, exceptionally rare. Mostly, we are surrounded by our peers, the ones that are doing the same stuff we are doing, just trying to get by and complete the difficult tasks set before them. My challenge to you, if you’d like to work smarter, is that you notice these people and focus on their opportunities for growth or success more than focusing on your own. These things are really not difficult to spot if you try. 

Slow Down & Be Intentional

I’ve honestly lost track of how many times so-called professionals have intentionally blocked promotions, positions, influence, and advancement that I had earned by hard work throughout the course of my career. At first, these happenings were extremely confusing and hurtful to me. There have been times I literally shed tears because those I trusted or who should have been looking out for me deliberately betrayed, lied, and crushed opportunities I was striving toward.

When I became a little more seasoned, and perhaps more pessimistic and callous, these actions no longer hurt but instead angered me. And, to my shame, I engaged at times in “fighting fire with fire” by stooping to their level and groveling in the petty politics described above. Sometimes I “won” and sometimes I “lost,” but in the end it was always a waste of effort and potential. Eventually, I decided that I would no longer play that game. 

Yes, politics still had to be navigated, people were still fearful of another stealing their glory, and shameful deeds still occurred whenever insecure souls tried to hoard their resources or power. But these things began to matter far less to me than my purpose. So I just focused on that and also on those that had goals and dreams similar to my own. For I knew that these persons were not competition but allies, so long as their minds were singular in intent and genuine in their desire to make a positive difference. 

Interestingly, when I took this approach and began not only noticing the opportunities to help others’ grow but actively encouraging and equipping them to do so, the slights of foes were mere irritations and achievement came naturally in spite of obstacles placed in my path. A synergy occurred between myself and my likeminded fellow-laborers, and God seemed to make a way by opening doors no one could shut.  What’s more, I did not have to succeed alone. My allies advanced as well and, together, we became stronger with each new dream and each new person we could help achieve it.  

Join Forces and Accelerate Your Efforts

In full disclosure, this was never an intentional act, just the natural outflowing of a shift in my mentality toward success and people. This principle crossed my mind today while watching my teenage son stack chopped firewood. Okay, let me give you some context and then I’ll close. 

At our home, we have electric heat but also a large pedestal wood stove. Although it isn’t required for heating, we like to turn off the thermostat in winter, load the stove, and allow its glow to fill our home with radiating warmth. Plus, there’s something magical about watching its flames dance while illuminating our children’s faces on Christmas morning or when a fresh layer of snow has blanketed the rolling hills outside. 

But having a wood stove is dirty and hard work. In summer, wood has to be split and packed into the backyard wood shed. Then, in winter, the seasoned wood has to be loaded into a cart, brought up a hill on a 150-foot journey to the house, and unloaded into our wood box so it can be accessed and brought inside to fuel the stove as needed. This is especially important if you don’t want to have to climb that hill in knee-high snow because the stove is empty. And, yes, I’ve done this. Live and learn. 

When my son was young, I began to include him in the effort because I saw the opportunity to teach him something important about country living and so he would appreciate the effort involved in warming his hands by the fire. Because he was little, there wasn’t much help he could give. It slowed me down having to stop and re-stack the pile he’d made, or pause to explain why things were done a certain way, or walk at a crawl so he could keep up, or hold my hands around his, guiding him as he split kindling correctly. 

For years, this ritual took me much longer than it would have if I’d simply pushed him aside, said “I’m in a rush to get this done,” and went on without teaching him the nuances of running a homestead. But it was well worth it. This year, he is a teenager and, with amazement, I’ve watched as my little boy is growing into the tall frame of a young man. Now, he is strong…and he has the skills necessary to perform the task with virtually no direction given at all. 

This year, he and I loaded the wood box and, to my surprise, it was done in record time with very little effort. We had become a team and our combined strength and skill conquered the obstacle easily. This reminded me of how this same principle operates in business or any area of life. 

My father invested in me, slowing down to teach me how to drive his truck. Now, when he is in need, I pull up in my truck and help him haul whatever load he has to transport wherever it needs to go. I hope I’ve driven the point home. Stop ignoring or competing with others and, instead, invest in them. In time, you’ll find that not only do they grow, but that you succeed. 

Until next time, don’t just be transformed: be Kinged.

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