Effort. You need effort to succeed a traditional corporate environment. You need it to succeed in academia. You need it to succeed when you start a business. But when it comes to running a company, effort doesn’t guarantee that you succeed like it does in the other two.
When you’re in school, your grades are – for the most part – tied to your effort. If you study hard, you’ll score higher on tests. Even if you do bad on tests, you get credit for attending class, asking questions, and doing homework. If you put in extra time after class, your teacher/professor will likely notice and adjust your grade accordingly. Your hard work is directly tied to your success: you work harder and longer and you always get better grades.
Same thing in the corporate world. Work hard, put in extra hours, and you’ll inevitably get good reviews, get raises, and get good recommendations. Even if your project bombs and costs the company a ton of money, your boss will still likely give you a glowing review if you come in early and stay late. You work hard. It wasn’t your fault that the project failed.
That’s not what happens when you run a business. You can throw all of the hours in the day at something, all of your heart and soul, but if the work is misguided it doesn’t matter. All of a sudden your hard work isn’t necessarily rewarded.
Running a business is hard. The odds are stacked against you. You have competition that has more resources and more experience. There are a lot of ways your business can go wrong. There are a lot of things you cannot control.
Your smart work is what’s rewarded. You still have to work hard, but the amount of effort doesn’t directly correlate to success. You have to decide what matters and what doesn’t, and then spend your time doing what matters and ignoring everything else. Most people suck at this because someone else has always made those decisions for them. Their entire life someone has told them what is important and how they should be spending their time.
Starting a successful business always requires effort, hard work, and persistence. But it also takes effort, hard work, and persistence applied to the right things. You can’t just blindly throw hard work at something and have success. Working hard is no longer the difficult part. Figuring out what to work hard on is.