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You must be a lazy man if it takes you ten hours to do a day’s work

March 2nd, 2009 · Comments

When A.B. Farquhar, a Pennsylvania businessman, mentioned to Carnegie that he was always sure to be in his office by “seven in the morning”, Carnegie remarked laughingly:

“You must be a lazy man if it takes you ten hours to do a day’s work.”

“’What I do,’ he said, ‘is to get good men, and I never give them orders. My directions seldom go beyond suggestions. Here in the morning I get reports from them. Within an hour I have disposed of everything, sent out all of my suggestions, the day’s work is done, and I am ready to go out and enjoy myself.’”

What was remarkable about Carnegie’s newfound success as a capitalist was how little it required of him. At each stage of his business career from bobbin boy to steelmaker, he had worked less and earned more. Since moving to New York City, in his middle thirties, and settling into a state of semiretirement, his income had increased exponentially. Carnegie had no delusions at all about the virtues of hard work. He avoided the topic of “diligence” in his lectures, speeches, and articles on “how to succeed in business.” On the contrary,, he took great pride in his own rather idiosyncratic work habits. — Chapter Ten, Page 184,  Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw

This is one of my favorite excerpts from the thoroughly researched, well-written biography Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw.

I don’t mean to dismiss the value of working hard. However, as one progresses in his/her career, and takes on more responsibilities, working hard alone is simply not enough. The ability to delegate and scale yourself becomes increasingly important for entrepreneurs and executives as they grow their businesses and careers.

In the blog sphere, there have been some backlashes again Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. But, I think that Tim simply did an excellent job to package some productivity principles and market these principles. After reading Andrew Carnegie, I feel that Andrew Carnegie was the “Tim Ferris” of 19th century at a much bigger scale – he was once the richest man in America, and a major philanthropist.

Are you working long hours and still feel that you need to push yourself harder to get ahead? It might be time to re-examine how you work and optimize your productivity. Working Hard helps you to get where you’re today; working smart will take you to where you want to be.

Resources that help you increase productivity and work smart:

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Tags: Start-up Success · Tools & Tips · Work/Life Balance

Viewing 2 Comments

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    Here's a bit of wisdom that I believe Todd Abel, one of my favorite managers, told me.
    Look at your list of thing to do and decide which ones you can get away with not doing and still reach your goal. Tell people who might be expecting those things that you're not doing them. You'll be left a few essential tasks and a clearer plan. No one should be surprised by what you do or don't get done. You'll feel better about the size of the list, and you'll see it shrink faster because it's shorer.
    It's like cleaning out your storage unit (garage, attic, etc). If you haven't used something in a year, it's unlikely you'll use it in the next year. Get rid of it and let someone else use it. If you haven't completed a task in a few weeks, it's unlikely you'll start working on it soon. Forget about it and let someone else worry about it.

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    Thanks for the comment. Great tip! It's very important to triage the to-do items, and focus on the important/essential tasks. I wish I have a wise manager like Todd Abel. :-)


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