Thinking Harder vs. Working Harder

Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying,

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Is that what most people do? Most people start sawing away at their problems. I think it feels safe because you don’t feel as accountable. If something didn’t work out, you can fool yourself and simply say you tried really hard. It’s a loser’s mentality.

Winning requires analyzing what is wrong with a situation or yourself. That’s hard work to think things through and come up with a strategy that makes sense. You have to be vested in the idea and direction when you stop and think harder.

When you don’t know what to do you have that crossroads to buckle down and work harder or step back and think harder. What if you worked at the strategic level on the problems you are solving. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Call a trusted advisor for coffee. Get in dialogue and open the problems up to see if you can gain additional insights and perspective.
  2. Create a decision tree. Whether by yourself or in dialogue with a business coach or advisor, think about outcomes and probabilities. Map out your options and what the probabilities look like with all the outcomes. Use your experience in reality to come up with an educated outlook.
  3. Get away for a walk. Your subconscious is an amazing resource to bring clarity of thought. Walk for an hour and let go of your problems. When you get back, you could likely have new approaches.
  4. Read for an hour. Let  your mind get dialed into a business book or even fiction. There are lots of nuggets of wisdom and insights that come from story and case studies that can feed your creativity to sharpen your saw.

Thinking harder has to be a reaction that becomes a habit. You won’t live and work so wastefully because you are taking on that leadership quality of deliberation and strategic thinking that is required to come up with elegant and holistic solutions.

Do you tend to work harder or think harder?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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