Stop Working So Hard

Sometimes working really hard isn’t enough. Sometimes it’s even the wrong thing to move you forward. I was thinking about this the other day, not as I was running my company and pondering being the “duct tape” of my organization vs. the leader who creates a sustainable business framework, but as I was attempting to steer a three person kayak in Elliott Bay.

My sister was in the front of the kayak and my seven year old niece was in the middle. The kayak purveyor had kindly given my niece a paddle. My sister, not an experienced kayaker, but a very nice and lovely person, would become alarmed that we were heading too close to a pier or the shore or a boat and would frantically paddle in an attempt to move the kayak in another direction. Meanwhile, I would press one foot a few inches on a pedal that controlled the rudder, and the kayak would drift into the right direction. My sister would breathe a sigh of relief.

My niece jumped right in to help: paddling backwards, her paddle kicking up lots of water at me, generally having a great time. These efforts, while vast, did not actually propel the kayak where we needed to go.

What propelled us was the rudder. And more directly, my foot pressed a few inches on a pedal.

We’ve all scoffed at the ridiculous “work smarter, not harder” motivational posters because sometimes, there’s work to be done and you just have to roll up your sleeves and do it. But sometimes, you just need to make sure you’ve got the pedal hooked up to the rudder.

Kayaking on Elliott Bay

Casey and Sofia On Our Great Kayaking Adventure

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4 Comments

  1. Bas van den Beld September 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I like the analogy. It is not specifically about working hard, but how you work hard. Good weekend post :)

  2. David September 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    There is a great sense of drive in many sports where you find the way to work efficiently, and all of the sudden the burden is lifted, and you have this extra energy that wants to really go for it. I found the same thing in swimming and in ballroom dancing. You can struggle for weeks, months, or even years finding that “something” that makes it easy, and then you find yourself with this great sense of “awe”. It feels good doesn’t it?

  3. Marc Perez September 11, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    This is a beautiful metaphor for a real business experience.
    You were given a job to accomplish, and you built yourself a team to get the job done (sister and niece). The objective was to go from point A to point B. You met with a few obstacles/bumps in the road :) like the pier, the shore, and the boat. With dedication, hard work, good intentions your team tried to control the situation before it got out of hands. In a way, you let your team grow on their own, and gave them the space they needed to learn. That is the role of a great leader, and how to build a healthy business. Knowing the strength and weaknesses and helping them improve them. With your great leadership, you showed them things are not always complicated as they seem, and that taking a step back to assess the situation. With a small gesture, you made a big impact.

  4. Agent_99 September 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    It’s all about the water-wings ;)

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