Hours Worked versus Success Achieved

2 minute read

I have to admit to being a little bit jealous of people who are only working twenty hours a week and pulling down amazing salaries or writing productivity “work smarter, not harder” pr0n. I mean, it’s true. There is very little correlation between hours worked and what most people define as success. And that’s before you even get into the whole argument about what success is to some people versus others. I know I feel a lot more successful having taken a huge paycut and doing what I’m doing now than when I was being paid a lot more (I still remember the look on the face of the CFO when they said they’d counter-offer me leaving and I said I was taking a huge pay cut. ;-) )

I mean, there are obvious rock-star examples like the guys at 37 Signals, Merlin Mann, Matt “plenty of fish” Frind (who, along with his girlfriend, I unknowingly went to dinner with once), Tim “4 hour Workweek” Ferriss and people like Matt “Daring Fireball” Gruber, and others in the “new economy”, but that’s before you even get into the people using things like eBay and Amazon to make very good livings for what most of us wage slaves would consider part-time work.

So, really, it’s about what’s important to you. Or your ability to break free from classical, industrial revolution style thinking about what work is versus effectiveness.

Anyhow, great post from the guys over at 37Signals:

“It’s been a long time since there was a direct correlation with the number of hours you work and the success you enjoy. It’s an antiquated notion from the days of manual labour that has no bearing on the world today. When you’re building products or services, there’s a nonlinear connection between input and output. You can put in just a little and still get out a spectacular lot.

Here’s where I put on my pocket psychology hat. I think that it’s very hard for some people to come to grips with this new reality. It’s a lot easier to deal with your lack of success when you can rationalize it by saying other people just work harder. That leaves the door open to think, ‘I could have that too, if I was just willing to give more. But since I’m not, I’ll be content with what I have.’ That’s a comforting, ego-protecting notion.

It also works if you’re already having reasonable success and you want a life > distraction. You can assign your success to the insane hours you put in and then not feel so bad about giving up everything else. If you convince yourself that the only way that you can have success is through total immersion, you don’t have to make excuses to yourself or your surroundings. The sacrifice is justified.

I’m not saying that you can’t have success by pouring in all your waking hours. Of course you can. I’m saying that you don’t have to. That the correlation between the two is weak.”