Hard work is not the solution

I listened to the Tropical MBA podcast a few weeks ago and one idea made me drop everything and question my process. I wrote about it at the time, but since then my thinking has moved on a bit, and I want to share what I’m currently exploring.

So I truly believe, especially when you’re stuck, which is I’m sure a problem all of us have, it’s much better to experiment and play that gets you much further along than hard work. Now disagree with me if you want to. But the biggest breakthroughs in my business, and my personal life, they’ve all come through experimentation. Not hard work.

Darren Joe

This is frighteningly true in my case.

The best work I’ve done was the result of experimenting and stepping outside my comfort zone. But daring to experiment and follow the results requires an open mindset, and relaxed schedule. In other words experimenting with a sense of play. Not at all the structured process I usually apply to work.

A little later in the same episode the host, Dan, connected another thought to this powerful idea:

essentially practice based learning. You can’t read or listen to this podcast your way into being a great entrepreneur, you really have to kind of like monkey see monkey do

Dan Andrews

I believe this to be true. In fact it was the first topic we discussed when I studied pedagogics at University. Somehow I’ve forgotten this over the years.

The Idea

These two ideas paint a vivid picture for me, that make me want to change my approach to work. I’ll try to summarise this thought here:

  • You won’t learn the important things without trying them out. Reading, listening, taking notes, can only give you ideas you need to experiment with. Not the actual knowledge.
  • You won’t get much done if you’re only working hard. You can do linear, mechanical, work. But not the creative work that will really truly leverage your time. For that you need to experiment, and playfully.
  • So to improve your output and learning, you should maximise the amount of time you spend playing around with experiments. In short, follow your inspiration and explore.
  • Here’s the awkward part; it follows logically that hard work and formal learning might actually slow you down. So you should avoid them at all costs.

The Work

I’m excited to experiment with this. Though since this is a big change of direction, I’m not sure how. To make time to play and experiment, I need time, without the pressure of goals. So I need to stop working on a lot of the projects I’ve started.

I also need to follow my curiosity, but inspiration wanes, so I probably need to make smaller experiments profitable. One way of doing that is to publish the work.

I’m excited about trying this out. I will try to share my progress, but I’m also really interested in hearing other ideas on this topic. Drop me a message, or tweet. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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