When I was battling with social anxiety, all I did was keep my head down and work hard. Just embrace the pain. Persevere. Will myself thru every social situation that I’d encounter. Just try hard. After all, that’s what you’ve been taught in school.
Ever since elementary school, I was taught by teachers to work hard. To put in maximum effort. Because eventually, you will be rewarded for your effort. And this was the mentality I brought ahead thru adulthood as well.
But, somewhere along the lines, my perspective began to shift. Sometimes, I feel that I don’t need to subject myself to so much torture and cruelty. So much discomfort and agony. Sometimes, if I worked “smarter” rather than harder, I can achieve what I wanted with more efficiency.
This perception shift gradually happened when I started working in the family business. When I realized that it takes a tricky mind to succeed at business. You need to work hard, yes. That is a given. But, you also need to employ the right strategy as well. To sell to the right people. To be a bit lucky even. To see things thru multiple lens. To discuss with your mentors and colleagues before moving forward with an action or a decision.
In the business world, things were not as black and white as getting an A on an exam. It wasn’t like we were just passing or failing tests in school. It was more unclear on how to gauge success in the “real” world. What is success anyways? What I see as success could be seen as an abject failure from another person’s point of view?
So, there didn’t seem to be a standard on how to measure winning or losing. You would make up your own standard. You would develop your own game to play. You would be more proactive on strategizing about how to make money for the business.
After all, that’s the goal of a business. To make money. Or was it more than that? Things just didn’t seem as crystal clear upon graduating with a MBA. In school, there were standards for you to fall back on. If you failed on something, you could at least tweak your approach based on the standards given to you by the system.
But, in the wild world of business, there was no system or “safety net” supporting you in case you fell. You had to think more holistically. Work smarter rather than harder. Find the right ways to communicate to people. Find the right time to approach a problem. Find ways to resolve a conflict. Put out fires, while having enough prongs in the fire to perhaps have a lucky break.
It was all up to you. No right or wrong. Of course, I had guidance in my parents and I am thankful for that. They were the ones offering me advice and suggestions on how to approach different problems in life and in business. And it made me a bit smarter than before. It opened my eyes and mind to a whole new world where the lights shined brighter. And there was no clear definition of success or failure.
It wasn’t just about working hard. It was about working smart. It was about setting your own expectations. Your all goals. Developing your own path. And finding what is right or wrong for yourself. If you make a mistake, learn from it. Develop your own system and tweak it accordingly. It was kind of a trial and error approach that I’ve rarely done on my own during the schooling days.
But, it’s helped me develop and grow. And now I realize that if I can work both hard and smart at the same time, then that would be quite an unstoppable force to contend with. If I can train my mind so that it becomes an open book. One that can see things from all angles. One that can make quick decisions based on the external circumstance. Then life would feel more successful.
Rather than just keeping your head down and working hard like you were in an industrial job back in the 1940s, these days work trains you to work smart. Truly use your head for multi-dimensional heuristic tasks that demand for creativity and high level thinking. Working smart is something that you can train yourself to do. Like I’ve gradually trained myself to hone throughout the years of working in the family business.
Someday, I hope that I can successfully take over the lineage and run a healthy, sustainable operation that can contribute positively to the world economy and society as a whole. I’m actually kind of doing these things right now, which I am glad about, but I hope to continue the trend and see things from a fresh set of eyes every single day.
Work hard and work smart. That is the unstoppable duo.