“work hard at something worth doing”

 

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at something worth doing.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

“Our nation’s work force is the most productive in the world because, as a societal norm, hard-work is deemed honorable and

The GE Equation (2) excellence considered admirable. This holiday is about those who sweat for a living, literally and figuratively, and whose characters are molded by their industry. Whether done to improve another tough shift, there is pride in a job well done. In shops, factories, plants, offices and homes throughout the country, a strong work ethic pervades as part of our heritage.”

– David Patton, Houston Chronicle, Sept 5, 2011

When to Apply Business Advice

I emailed out to the company today’s quote of the day, something we do internally, with the three quotes below. But given how popular advice from 37 Signals is among some of my employees, I wanted to add some commentary (after the jump). And BTW, I definitely agree with these three quotes from Rework.

“You need less than you think…Do you really need six months or can you make something in two?”  (pg. 53)

and

“No time is no excuse.  The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.”  They claim they’d love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Come on.  There’s always enough time if you spend it right.” (pg. 40)

and

“When you put off decisions, they pile up.  And piles end up ignored, dealt with in haste, or thrown out.  As a result, the individual problems in those piles stay unresolved.  Whenever you can, swap ‘Let’s think about it’ with ‘Let’s decide on it.’  Commit to making decisions.  Don’t wait for the perfect solution.  Decide and move forward.  You want to get into the rhythm of making choices.  When you get into that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale…You can’t build on top of ‘We’ll decide later,’ but you can build on top of ‘Done.’  The problem comes when you postpone decisions in the hope that a perfect answer will come to you later.  It won’t.” (pg. 77)

All from Jason Fried and David Hansson in the book Rework

COMMENTS: 37 Signals has been successful creating jobs for people and making a profit. They build tools for themselves and then share their applications with others. There is no question Basecamp is a success. The 37 Signals formula is to build products to the exact specifications of THEIR customers, it just so happens the customer is first and foremost THEM.

Our business model is different. We make products for OTHER people. This is a subtle but important distinction. Picture a male fashion designer who makes women’s clothes. He can appreciate them. He has a creative vision. But the clothes he designs will be worn by his female clientele. The male fashion designer’s success is when women purchase his designs built for the them. The male fashion designer is challenged to make a simple and beautiful product that works with the physical reality of his customers.

While I usually agree with the content of Rework, I find I do not always agree with the 37 Signals viewpoint. Yes, it works for them. Yes I agree with 90% of it. But just as critical is to know what advice is bad advice for a firm like ours. I think it is important that I plan for the company’s future. Thus I do not agree with statements such as this:

“Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control…Why don’t we call plans what they really are: guesses.  Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses and your strategic plans as strategic guesses.  Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”  (pg. 19)

It is catchy. It makes for a good anti-establishment Purple Cow type of quote. But I suspect the employees at Schipul appreciate me applying that advice carefully. Does that advice relate to our particular situation? No. And I think the team at 37 is plenty of smart enough to tell people to apply their advice…well, if it applies!

Sometimes advice is populist, but there is a logical flaw. A company who follows the infamous “work smarter not harder” quickly falls to a company that believes “work smarter AND harder.” Working smarter-not-harder would only work if hard workers were dumb. But we get smarter through experience! So unfortunately, hard workers are typically also smarter than you. Oooops. But we don’t like to admit that. What we want to hear is that the 4 hour work week is a winner.  I certainly wish the global economy worked that way!

I guess I am saying, use common sense and trust experience built upon DOING stuff.