Though not where it originated, the first time I heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder,” it was being uttered by Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales. Being fifteen or sixteen years old when I first heard it, I didn’t get the gist of it.
For a long time I never completely comprehended what this really meant, and just how much it applied to. Like my favorite Yoda quote, “Do or do not, there is no try,” the underlying depth and meaning of this quote would not fully impact me for some time.
Why does this matter? Because people too easily believe that they need to work harder. You see it in popular movies and television, read about stories of people working hard across social media, and are inundated with all sorts of quotes and phrases praising working harder.
“There is no substitute for hard work.” — Thomas Edison
“I learned the value of hard work by working hard.” — Margaret Mead
“Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” — Napoleon Hill
Work hard, and you will get where you desire to go in this life. That’s the message being presented here. Putting in effort and intention into work is important, but it is equally important to recognize the line between work and intentional work.
This is what I have come to translate “Work smarter, not harder” to mean. You don’t just work hard because that’s what is necessary for success. You work with intent, with a goal and purpose in sight, so that you are working smartly on getting where you desire to be.
This is why a part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path is Right Livelihood. I would interpret this as the essence of work smarter, not harder.
Working intentionally is working smarter
If you are unfamiliar with the Eightfold Path, it is eight Buddhist practices that are intended to help provide insight into liberation and enlightenment (I apologize if this is over-simplified and not entirely accurate. My own explorations into Buddhist practices are still very new, and I am learning what…