To Get Ahead, Use Your Head by Harvey Mackay
I’m the last person in the world who would tell you not to work hard. I’m also the first one to remind you that working hard must also be tempered by working smart, or you might just be wasting a load of effort. There is a reason why we were born with both muscles and brains.
Consider the story of two lumberjacks in a tree-cutting contest. Both were strong and determined, hoping to win the prize. But one was hardworking and ambitious, chopping down every tree in his path at the fastest pace possible, while the other appeared to be a little more laid back, methodically felling trees and pacing himself. The go-getter worked all day, skipping his lunch break, expecting that his superior effort would be rewarded. His opponent, however, took an hour-long lunch and then resumed his steady pace. In the end, the eager beaver was dismayed to lose to his “lazier” competition. Thinking he deserved to win after his hard work, he finally approached his opponent and said, “I just don’t understand. I worked longer and harder than you, and went hungry to get ahead. You took a break, and yet you still won. It just doesn’t seem fair. Where did I go wrong?” The winner responded, “While I was taking my lunch break, I was sharpening my ax.”
Hard work will always pay off; smart work will pay better. Remember back in college, there were the kids who studied all day and all night, but still struggled to pass exams? Then there were the kids who studied hard but also found time for a game of cards or basketball, and still aced every test. Both groups studied the same material, attended the same lectures taught by the same professors, and took the same test. Was the second group just that much more brilliant? Maybe, but my money’s on the way they approached their material and learned how to study. If they were smart, they applied those same principles after graduation: work hard, but work smart.
That’s a lesson that can be learned by even young children. A little girl visiting a watermelon farm asked the farmer how much a large watermelon cost. “Three dollars,” he told her. “But I only have thirty cents,” the little girl said. The farmer looked around his field, and feeling sorry for the little girl, pointed at a small watermelon and said, “That one’s thirty cents.” “Oh good,” she replied as she paid him, “Just leave it on the vine and I’ll be back in a month to get it.”
Call it creativity, call it ingenuity, call it whatever: I call it using your head. Knowing how to analyze a situation and how to execute an action plan will put you ahead of the game in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with having a leg up on your competition—it’s how you win. The combination of hard work and smart work is the formula for success. Think about what needs to be done, and then think again about the best way to accomplish it—not necessarily the way you’ve always done it, or the fastest way, and certainly not the hardest way. Never make work harder than it has to be. That’s just a colossal waste of time.
Perhaps the ingenuity award goes to the fellow who came to the Canadian border on his motorcycle, carrying two saddlebags strapped across his seat. The border guards asked the obvious question, “What’s in your saddlebags? ” “Rocks,” was the reply. So the guards emptied the bags to check out his story. Sure enough, all they found were rocks. So they sent him on his way. The next week, the same fellow came to the crossing, again on a motorcycle, again with the same payload. The guards checked once again, and found more rocks. Off he went. The scene repeated itself weekly for several months, until finally the guards couldn’t stand it any longer. “We know you are smuggling something across the border, but every time we inspect your saddlebags we find only rocks. Please tell us what you are up to, and we promise not to turn you in.”
“Well,” the fellow replied, “It’s really very simple. I’m smuggling stolen motorcycles.”
Mackay’s Moral: It’s good to work hard. It’s great to work smart. But it’s best to work hard and smart.
By Krish Dhanam
On July the 7th of 1994, I had the rare privilege of meeting one of the most effective top performers of our time. I was entrusted with the task of taking a donation from my employer in Dallas to a little missionary worker in the backward slums of Calcutta. I was asked to meet and greet Mother Teresa and offer the donation as a gesture of goodwill for all that she had accomplished. Little did I know that the encounter, which would last about twenty minutes, would give me some incredible leadership principles that were going to last me a lifetime. In my haste to part with the money and capture a picture with the future saint, I kept egging this icon of patience to come to where I was standing so a memory of our meeting could forever be recorded. It was clearly evident from what transpired that the memory I hoped to create was of less significance than what was to become the results of the events of that day. My camera malfunctioned and any number of efforts to get a picture were thwarted by fate, coincidence or happenstance. I left India disappointed and blamed myself for having come so close to greatness only to fail to have something to show for posterity.
The Saintly Leadership of Mother Teresa taught me some valuable lessons. She was consistent in her quest to save the very poor, calling them “distress in disguise.” In an audio series called “Thirsting for God,” she tells of the many times when she faced the impossible just to be rewarded because of her consistency. She was loyal to her cause. In her acceptance speech when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize she simply said “I accept this in the name of the poor.” These were the people she was called to lead and amidst the degradation and decadence of human decay she found the self-reliance to be loyal to her cause. She believed in succession planning. Even though the world knew her name and her deeds, she knew that one day her role as the visionary for the Missionaries of Charity would end. She knew that she needed a successor whose vision could take this humble organization forward. Sister Nirmala was appointed the successor the day Mother Teresa passed on and continuity was established.
The role of top performers is to learn the various attributes that allow people to go from normalcy to greatness. Great people don’t start out to be great. They follow their vision with consistency and loyalty. When I wrote a letter of gratitude to Mother Teresa she replied with a picture and a personal note to me. She taught me humility. This great lady wrote me a letter thanking me for mailing some letters for her that were sent to encourage the sisters representing the Missionaries of Charity in the USA. Along with the picture and letter were the words, “Be a little instrument in God’s hands, so that He can use you any time, anywhere. We have only to say ‘Yes’ to Him. The poor need your love and care. Give them your hands to serve, and your heart to love. And in doing so, you will receive much more. Keep the joy of loving through serving.” In doing this she proved to be a great encourager.
I call this article Saintly Leadership because most of us reading this know she got her skills at a venue more prestigious than Harvard and from a teacher who was called just that–”Teacher.” I call her a top performer because this Roman Catholic nun who lived and served amidst the poorest of the poor had her home in the only Marxist state in a predominantly Hindu society. (Dominique Lappierre called this infested maze of degradation and filth “The City of Joy.”) Yet when she died she was given full state honors and was sent to her resting place on the gun carriage that carried some of the great martyrs of India. She transcended circumstances and societal assumptions and rose above the plateau of mortal expectations while practicing servant leadership of the very highest order. While many of us will not be called to live a life of such exemplary servitude, we can conclude that all top performers can practice the principles of Saintly Leadership.
Thoughts on Successful People by Chris Widener
I was hired to do some training for a sales team from one of the largest companies in America. There were 16 people on this team. This year their sales (for the 16 of them) will be $250 million—that’s right, a quarter of a billion dollars! Needless to say, it was an excellent and fascinating time. I decided to learn a little bit myself so I watched them closely to see what kind of people they were and to see what common denominators they shared. Below is what I found. I think you will find the elements applicable to your own life.
The first thing I noticed about this successful sales team was that they had a sense of humor! They simply weren’t a terribly serious bunch of people. Instead, they saw that life was to be enjoyed and that means they were able to laugh a little bit. Sure, there were varying levels in this but they all had a sense of humor. They were able to laugh at circumstances, and they were able to laugh at themselves. It was quite refreshing and a core element of their success, I’m sure.
The second thing I found out about this group was that they did not achieve their success through pedigree, but through hard work. They didn’t come from families that gave them a free pass into the upper echelon of the corporate world and they didn’t get a head start from upper-crust universities. What got them to where they are now? Hard work! That’s right, another example that if you put your mind to it, work hard and get in the right situation, you can achieve great things! These folks work long hours and are disciplined in the work they do. And it is paying off.
The third thing I noticed about this team is that they are learners. They were always engaged in the learning process. During my sessions they were engaged and listening. You could see their minds processing the information. They were asking questions and applying the material to their work and their lives. They wanted to improve in any way that they could. It was also interesting to watch them in their team meetings led by their sales manager. They were very interactive and were learning from one another. None of them was above learning from a peer.
What did I see in these successful people? The same things that can make you a success as you apply the principles to your own life: A sense of humor, hard work, and a desire to learn at every turn.
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