Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hard Work is Overrated

I know what you're thinking...

"Arun, despite your devilish good looks, witty personality, and snappy dance moves, you've finally gone off the deep end."

Rest assured, I went off the deep end a long time ago, but I'm happy you appreciate the "ass-shimmy-of-wonder" that I recently added to my dance repertoire.

But to the point at hand, if you give me a few paragraphs, I think I can convince you that the idea of "the harder you work, the bigger the reward" is actually not only counterproductive, it's also flat out wrong (stop shaking your head at me, and keep reading).

Somehow, the idea of hard work has actually become glorified.  A lot of people wear it as a badge of honor.  "I work hard and bust my ass everyday!" While working long, hard hours is admirable to the extent that someone is enduring something difficult to attain something greater, it usually gets a disproportionate amount of credit for success.

The truth is, hard work is one small part of this greater thing that we all want.  Things like timing, luck, talent, and "working smart" play equally huge roles.  And if you work smart, then your odds of hitting the jackpot with timing and luck increase as well.  The thing is, people don't like to acknowledge the timing and luck part of the equation because it deflects the credit of accomplishment away from them.

But if we say, "I made it where I am because of a LOT of hard work" the credit belongs entirely to us which feels good.

There are a lot of blue collar workers out there that work tremendously long, hard, physically, and mentally exhausting hours, that by a lot of people's standards would not be considered "successful."

They're neither wealthy nor happy.

There are people working far harder than us that, through lack of talent, luck, or knowledge, have not been able to escape the grind of life.

Lets look at example of someone....oh, I don't know...ME (shocking, I know).

I would love to sit here and say, "Blog readers of the world!  I am where I am today because I worked harder than anyone else I knew!  Revel in my awesomeness!"

As good as that would feel, it's not the truth.  But you can still free to do some "Arun Reveling."

I am where I am because of some hard work, but really, its the combination of luck & timing, and seizing some fortuitous opportunities.

The truth is, I am NOT a particularly hard worker.  But what I am good at is figuring out what I have to do to deliver results that at least meet, but hopefully exceed expectations.

We tend to admire people who work really hard because we know how difficult it is and how much it sucks to do it.  So, when we finally work hard, we want some doggone recognition!  But is there any worse feeling than busting your ass only to receive NO credit or reward?  It's the reason many people are unhappy with their jobs.  Most people feel like they are under-paid, and under-appreciated at work despite their hard work.

To boot, most of us actually overestimate how hard we're actually working.  Again this is because people usually don't like work, so two hours of working hard, mentally feels like 10 hours of work.

Similarly, it feels amazing when you really work hard and something amazing happens as a result.  I lost a lot of weight when I was younger, and believe me, I busted my soft yet jelly-like booty in the gym so when I finally attained buns of steel (thank you Suzanne Somers Thigh Master), it felt so great that the credit was entirely mine.

BUT, there's the "smart work" aspect too.  I can kill myself in the gym everyday but if I'm eating ice-cream after my workouts, I'm not going to get anywhere.

Then there's the aspects we can't control.  I like playing basketball, but even if I train everyday and work really hard, its pretty unlikely that I'll ever be able to dunk (I've pretty much maximized my "Indian athletic dunking potential" and I can barely touch the rim).

Similarly, I don't care how much weight she loses, how much surgery she gets, or how long she works on her runway walk, Rosie O'Donnell will never be a super model.

But, if I truly I wanted to become a professional basketball player (which despite the way I utterly dominate people at such athletic games as H.O.R.S.E and P.I.G. will still never happen), I might "work smart" and focus on improving my passing and shooting skills, rather than killing myself trying to jump higher (the phrase should be, "White men AND Brown men can't jump").

Ok.  So I think I've made a decent point that hard work does not always result in success or happiness.  I think I've also been fairly convincing that hard work is not the only answer to achieving your goals, because if all you focus on is hard work, you're not utilizing other, more efficient resources to reaching the goal.   Then by the time you get there, you'll be unhappy and overworked which defeats the purpose of even achieving the goal in the first place.

Because the ultimate goal is to feel good, right?

So how do we use all of these other parts of "Arun's success equation of awesomeness" to minimize the amount of needless hard work we're doing?  Well, one thing we all struggle with is the urge to procrastinate.

Cafe Calabria - One of my "office" locations
When I was in business school, people always wondered why the hell I wasn't studying the night before a test or how I wasn't stressing about a deadline for a case study.  It's not that I'm some sort of business savant.

It's that I don't like having to bust my ass and work super hard with deadline ready to smash me in the face (and anyone who knows me, knows how much I treasure my face).  I leisurely studied and finished assignments because I started early and didn't procrastinate.  If there was one piece of advice I'd give to someone in order to avoid working hard, it's to not procrastinate.

Another thing is identifying your talents/interests.  When I was an Engineer, work seemed really hard.  I HATED having to sit down and calculate some weird systems reliability prediction or create a logistics outline. I didn't like it, it didn't come naturally to me, and I never looked forward to work which made even regular work seem like hard work.

An 8 hour day at work consisted of 2 or 3 hours of actual work which felt like 12 hours of work.  It's the reason I would spend hours doing ultra productive things like chasing a bee around the office.

These days, I provide marketing expertise to companies which I find incredibly enjoyable.  I love being creative, developing new ideas, and working with people.  Marketing and working with people is something that comes much more naturally for me which makes it fun to work.  It also means that I don't have to grind on certain problems like I did when I was an engineer because now I'm in a profession that aligns much better with my talents and answers to problems come very quickly and easily to me.

I actually like work and mornings go by super fast.

So it's not that you shouldn't work hard, especially if you're enjoying work.  The point is that hard work is waaay overvalued in terms of the results it delivers, and you shouldn't have to bust ass at something you're not enjoying at the expense of overall well-being.  It defeats the purpose of making life enjoyable.  The journey should be just as enjoyable as the reward, and if it isn't, think about how to get the same results without grinding, and don't feel bad about not killing yourself everyday.

Ok, now stop slacking and get back to work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Your Company is Badly Managing You

Zaytinya - Washington DC with Darren.  FANTASTIC restaurant.
Ok, so your company may not be *badly* mismanaged but in all likelihood, a lot of you will nod your head when you read this thinking, “Gee, that Arun is really on to something!  Aside from being devilishly handsome, fabulously witty, and a great dresser, he really has my company pegged.  I should go show my boss this post so that he can make my work experience really enjoyable!  Arun saves the day again!”

Disclaimer: your boss may be old and stuffy and spit in the face of this article when you show it to him in which case I trust that you’ll defend my honor.

I suppose there’s a possibility that YOU reading this ARE the old stuffy guy (unlikely because most of my readers are young and…uh…flowing (or whatever the opposite of stuffy is)), in which case maybe you should implement my suggestions into your company and put a big poster of my face on the office wall.

So when you think of most companies or jobs, what do you think of?  I’ll help you out here.
  • 8 hour days
  • 1 hour lunches
  • Cubicles/offices
  • Endless Meetings
  • Dress codes

And I’m sure there are a few others in there.  So how much fun does all of that sound?  If you said, “Gee Arun that sounds swell!  Where do I sign up?!?” well then you my friend are an idiot.

All of these things were a staple of my old engineering office job, and surprise surprise, I hated it.

But the truth is, these things are the main structure of most of my friends’ jobs too, and whether or not they like their job, these restrictions are suffocating. 

I was required to be at work from about 8-5 but frankly, I rarely had 8 hours of work to do.  But, I had to show “face time” by being there for the entire 9 hours, many of which were spent in complete boredom.

Going out to lunch was always a little annoying because by the end, I was always rushing back to work.

Most meetings were a waste of time.  Two hour meetings frequently accomplished nothing and could’ve been productively finished in 30 minutes.

But I tell you this, my brothers and sisters…I have seen the other side, and it is magnificent!

As I mentioned in my last blog post (4 months ago…I know, I know…no more empty promises about frequent posting), I am now an independent marketing consultant.  I have four big clients right now and I work 100% remotely for all four.

My longest client, I’ve had for three years.  In three years, I’ve actually never once met anyone in that company.  We talk on the phone once or twice a week, email everyday, and manage to rake in pretty big money for the company.

So what is so special about these four companies that allows them to succeed without having all of their employees (or consultants in my case) in an office everyday?

Absolutely nothing

The only real difference I can see is that when working remotely, it’s paramount to set frequent milestones to ensure things get done on time.  I basically make weekly AND daily a to-do-for-work list that I update frequently.  Once finished with the days tasks, I relax and have fun.

I’m not going to lie…it’s easy and tempting to put off work when you don’t have Bossy McStufferson looking over your shoulder and are not required to go to a daytime prison with desks to get work done.

But my productivity-per-minute-working is exponentially better now when I work on my terms.  For example, no one can work for four hours straight and maintain optimal productivity for the whole duration.  I generally work in one to two hour increments with frequent breaks.  So throughout a day, I have a lot of “work bursts” that are ultra productive.

I know that it’s easiest for me to get distracted at home, so I make it a routine to go somewhere (usually one of my favorite coffee shops) every morning to sit down and work. 

I tend to bring my laptop a lot of places so that, if I have some down time, I can burst out some work.

And when you have control of your day, then work becomes, dare I say, enjoyable (hence the reason I love Mondays)!

So right now, I’m writing this post from a French bakery in Georgetown, Washington DC (and eating an incredible macaroon I might add – they don’t call me the “Mac-Arun” just because I like the ladies).  Last week, I was in Philadelphia visiting my sister and adorable new nephew, but went to a coffee shop in center city everyday to work and take a lot to take some of the load off of this week for sight-seeing and hanging out.  Tomorrow, I’m heading to New York for a few days before heading back to San Diego.

The train ride will be a great time to work and prepare for meeting a potential new client in New York.

But this isn’t a vacation…it’s a “workation”.  I take some time out of each day to work, yet I still have time to hang out with my friends and sight-see.  Work flexibility allows this type of enjoyment and makes me want to work even harder because I love this lifestyle so much.  I mean, I frequently will work some on the weekends because, for me, there’s really no difference in the day of the week other than the fact that more of my friends are free during the day on Saturday and Sunday.

So contrary to Bossy Mcstufferson’s belief that “employees might go rogue and never work” if given independence, I think they would actually work HARDER because they’re much happier and because they want to keep this independence.  In fact, the friends that I know that DO work from home a lot, are incredibly valuable to their company and really excel more than the average employee.

I frequently ask my friends who work in offices about the possibility of working remotely, and they say that they could, at the very least, work a couple of days per week at home.

How nice would it be to have four days out of the week to sleep in a little extra?  Or not having to worry about rush hour traffic for a couple of extra days?  Maybe run some errands when you don’t have to battle the typical rush hour crowds and thus be able to create MORE time in your day?.  Wouldn’t it make you want to work harder to reward your boss’s trust?

Having now worked independently for almost three years now, I can’t imagine going back to the office life.  

But, I would encourage those of you in the office, to write a proposal to your boss in which you are working remotely for at least one day a week…get your toe in the door first then slowly crank that baby open until you’re going to the office only as much as you have to!  I think Tim Ferriss writes something about this in his book “The Four-Hour Work Week” but I can’t remember exactly what he says.

If he/she approves, then you’re welcome to come with me on my random east coast jaunts or other travel excursions which, this summer will include Cabo San Lucas, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, England, and Sweden.

It’s not vacation – it’s “workation.”  Luckily for me, all of those places have wireless internet ;)