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Gary Vaynerchuk speaking at a conference

The Case Against Perspiration

“Talent is not enough” in business, says Gary Vaynerchuk in this video.  “The defining thing in this whole game is hustle.”  He urges entrepreneurs to work longer and harder to achieve their dreams.

I have a complicated range of responses to this, but I’ll make my own choice clear from the start: I generally work 38-45 hours a week, and hardly ever more than 50. I intend to keep it that way, and I doubt that IdeaRocket, which has been growing very quickly thus far, will suffer because of it. Here are some thoughts:

Everybody Is different

Some people’s wheels start coming off as soon as they go over forty hours, while others can work seventy hours a week and still have the oomph to go dancing after work. People have different energy levels.

Situations Are different

I have an organic growth business. On the other hand, some entrepreneurs I’ve worked with in the tech field have a short window of time to achieve their goals, because they need to grasp the first mover advantage, or because they have a short takeoff runway because of their VC funding. They might need to get more done in a shorter time.

Return Curves Are Different

If I were folding pizza boxes, the rate at which I got my boxes folded might flatten out as I approached my 70th hour per week. But at IdeaRocket we don’t fold pizza boxes; we do creative work.  Some return curves don’t just flatten out; they also reverse and dip back down.  If people are exhausted, they come to hate their jobs.  And if they hate their jobs, they are not going to approach their work as play, but as drudgery.  Inevitably, the quality of the creative will diminish.

Delegating Work Builds An Organization

When I was younger, I probably would have chosen to do more work myself, not because I was more energetic then (although I was) but because I was more narcissistic.  Nobody is going to do this as well as I am, I would have thought. Now I’ve realized that this is only temporarily true, and never permanently true. Delegating work forces me to:

  • find people who are more talented than me
  • foster working relationships with them
  • develop their talents

Ironically, being a workaholic would probably stunt this process, which is the crux of building a scalable organization dedicated to creative excellence.

Work-life Balance Keeps Employees Happy

Recruiting and retaining talent is a vital part of running any business, creative or not. Given that there are many new generation businesses that demand 70-hour weeks from their employees, offering a manageable workload that can be combined with a social and family life can be more attractive than 401(k)s, generous health plans, or many other come-ons.

Give The People You Love A Say

It should go without saying, but at the same time it needs to be said: being at work can mean being absent from the lives of people you love. You owe it to yourself and to them to take their interests into account.

It’s Actually An Easy Answer

Of course discipline and hard work are important to achieving success. But that’s a comforting thought to consider, because it’s under your control. If hard work were the most important thing in business, then you could will your way to success. The truth, however, is that most businesses fail not because their owners don’t work hard enough, but because they don’t learn hard enough. They weren’t able to figure out fast enough how to create a value offering and bring it to market at a higher price than its cost. That takes hard work, but also temperament, social skills, smarts, connections, experience… and admittedly, more than a bit of luck.

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