Welcome to the second in my series challenging the conventional wisdom of financial advice (check out the first article here). I think this particular advice is given out by people who don’t do either particularly well. While not specifically financial in nature it is often used by people who want to sell you some technique they have or some marketing plan they want you to buy.
Even if they aren’t selling you something they’re often just repeating what people like to hear. It sounds good but really it’s just a way out, an excuse not to work harder.
The above realization came to me while my wife, Julie and I, were out for our morning run at our second home in California which soon will be where we live during the winter months, splitting our time between CA in winter and NJ in summer.
Julie had commented that we were lucky to be able to do this at 48 years old and I had to question that statment.
“Luck,” I asked, “Don’t you mean hard work?”
“It’s a lot more than just hard work,” she said. And that’s when it hit me. It was also smart work. But hard work and smart work is not an either or thing. One without the other is incomplete.
To those who say, “I don’t work hard, I work smart,” I say you’re kidding yourself at worst, and only getting half of what you could at best. You’re taking the short route but it doesn’t get you all the way to your destination.
Here is what smart and hard work together has done for me. In 1995 I bought my first house, a condo and had a roommate to help with the mortgage. In 2000 I bought my first rental property, smart, and together with Julie, did major renovations, hard work. In 2009 I bought our second rental property and in 2017 bought our vacation/second home in CA.
While all that was going on, Julie started a small side business (the trendy term is side hustle), which was both smart and a lot of work. In 2012 I wrote a book and that same year, we opened a business which at its height had 30 employees and nearly a million dollars in revenue — and we kept our day jobs — probably not smart but certainly really hard.
Now we’ve sold the business and are very close to realizing our dream of living a bi-coastal lifestyle. The bottom line is that, smart without hard is a fantasy and hard without smart is worthless.