28. Work As Hard As You Can

Work as hard as you can. Even though what you work on and who you work with are more important.

Work as hard as you can

Naval: Let’s talk about hard work. There’s this battle that happens in Twitter a lot between, should you work hard and should you not. David Hauser’s (correction: David Heinemeier Hansson) on there saying, “It’s like you’re slave driving people.” Keith Rabois is always on there saying, “No, all the great founders worked their fingers to the bone.”

They’re talking past each other. First of all, they’re talking about two different things. David is talking about employees and a lifestyle business, which is fine. Your number one thing in life, if you’re doing that, is not getting wealthy. You have a job, you also have your family, you also have your life.

Keith is talking about the Olympics of startups. He’s talking about the person going for the gold medal and trying to build a multi-billion dollar public company. That person has to get everything right. They have to have great judgment. They have to pick the right thing to work on. They have to recruit the right team, and they have to work crazy hard. They’re basically engaged in a competitive sprint.

If getting wealthy is your goal, you are going to have to work as hard as you can. But hard work is absolutely no substitute for who you work with and what you work on. What you work on is probably the most important thing.

What you work on and who you work with are more important

Finding Product-Market-Founder Fit to expand on Marc Andreessen’s definition, he came up with Product-Market Fit. I will add Product-Market-Founder Fit, which is how well you are personally suited to that business. The combination of that three, that should be your overwhelming goal.

You can save yourself a lot of time if you pick the right area to work in. Picking the right people to work with is the next most important piece. Third comes how hard you work. They’re like three legs of a stool; if you shortchange on any one of them, the whole stool’s gonna fall down. It’s not like you can pick one over the other that easily.

The order of operations when you’re building a business, or even building your career, is first figure out, “What should I be doing? What is something where there is a market that is emerging? There’s a product that I can build that I’m excited to work on and something where I have specific knowledge and I’m really into it?”

Second, surround yourself with the best people possible, and no matter how high your bar is, raise your bar. You can be working with other people who are great enough. There’s someone greater out there to work with, you should go work with them.

I advise a lot of people who are looking at which startup to join in Silicon Valley. I say, “Basically pick the one that’s going to have the best alumni network for you in the future.” Look at the PayPal mafia. They worked with a bunch of geniuses, so they all got rich. Just try and pick based on the highest intelligence, energy, and integrity people that you can find.

Finally, once you’ve picked the right thing to work on and the right people to work with, then you work as hard as you can.

Nobody really works 80 hours a week

Now, this is where the mythology gets a little crazy. People who work 80, 120 hour weeks, a lot of that’s just status signaling. It’s showing off. Nobody really works 80 to 120 hours a week sustained at high output with mental clarity. Your brain breaks down. You just won’t have good ideas.

Really, the way people tend to work most effectively, especially in knowledge work, is they sprint as hard as they can while they’re working on something, and they’re inspired and they’re passionate; and then they rest. They take long breaks.

It’s more like a lion hunting and much less a marathon runner running. You sprint, then you rest, you re-assess, and then you try again. What you end up doing is you end up building a marathon of sprints.

Inspiration is perishable

Nivi just made the point to me on the side that inspiration is perishable, which is a very good point. When you have your inspiration, do it right then and there. This happens to me a lot with my tweetstorms. I’ve actually come out with a whole bunch of additional tweetstorms besides the ones that are already out there, but sometimes I just hesitate, or I just pause, and it just dies.

What I’ve learned is, if I’m inspired to write a blog post or to publish a tweetstorm, I should probably do it right away. Otherwise, it’s not going to get out there; I won’t come back to it. Inspiration is a beautiful and powerful thing, and when you have it, just seize it.

Impatience with actions, patience with results

People talk about impatience. When do you know to be impatient? When do you know to be patient? My glib tweet on this was, “Impatience with actions and patience with results.” I think that’s actually a good philosophy for life.

Anything you have to do, just get it done. Why wait? You’re not getting any younger. Your life is slipping away. You don’t want to spend it waiting in line. You don’t want to spend it traveling back and forth. You don’t want to spend it doing thing that you know ultimately aren’t part of your mission.

When you do them, you want to do them as quickly as you can while you do them well, with your full attention. But then you just have to give up on the results; you have to be patient with the results because you’re dealing with complex systems, you’re dealing with lots of people.

It takes a long time for markets to adopt products. It takes time for people to get comfortable working with each other. It takes time for great products to emerge as you polish away, polish away, polish away. Impatience with actions, patience with results. As Nivi said, inspiration is perishable. When you have inspiration, act on it right then and there.

If I have a problem that I discover in one of my businesses that needs to be solved, I basically won’t sleep until at least the resolution is in motion. This is just a personal failing, but if I’m on the board of a company, I’ll call the CEO. If I’m running the company, I’ll call my reports. If I am responsible, I’ll get on there, right then and there, and solve it.

If I don’t solve a problem the moment it happens, or if I don’t start moving towards solving it when it happens, I have no peace. I have no rest. I have no happiness until that problem is solved; so solve it as quickly as possible. I literally won’t sleep until it’s solved. Maybe that’s just a personal characteristic, but it’s worked out well in business.

Chapter 29 >>