There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about work. The president brought up the minimum wage in his State of the Union address. Every month we get the numbers on unemployment and most of us growing up were promised the golden ring if we would just “work hard.” Work hard in school, work hard at your job, work hard on your relationships, and work hard to be a good person. It seems we might have a definition problem.

What Exactly Makes Work Hard?

In my personal opinion I worked hard at losing weight. Was it really that hard? It took some time? It took some sacrifice. It took some life style changes. But, was it really that hard? People do say it’s so hard to lose weight or quit smoking. Looking back it didn’t seem so bad. Should I feel guilty that I accomplished it while others haven’t? Perhaps we are too hung up on the word “hard.”

Work Smart or Work Hard

Anything worthwhile is worth giving your best effort to accomplish. Some people say that the only real difference between Michael Jordan and thousands of other basketball players is an additional 20 minutes of practice per day over many years. Having played basketball in high school and college I can attest to it being physically hard.

Just because a job is physical doesn’t mean that it has to be hard. Today’s carpenters for example have nail guns, Skill saws, drills that are all powered by batteries. Their fathers and grandfathers used handsaws, hammers, and hand powered drills. Today’s carpenter is much more efficient than the previous generation and can do more with less effort. Computers and calculators have made all of us more productive and have contributed to a more productive society.

Problem Solvers

We’ve all met or know problem solvers. These robotic thinkers that see things in their heads that somehow elude the rest of us. They have the innate ability to focus on the problem at hand and find a faster, easier, or more efficient way of accomplishing the task at hand.

I honestly think we all have this ability at some level. Some folks, like Michael Jordan, are able to do it at a higher level but all of us have had a “Eureka” moment at some point in our lives.

Some Final Thoughts

When some people hear the term “work smart,” they assume that means “slack off.” Find a way to get the work done by spending more time resting than working. And I’m sure there is a healthy segment of society that use that plan as their motivation. But I think most people feel that finding smarter ways to work is a lot like performing a good deed. You not only help yourself be more productive but you also help all those who follow you. And that’s a pretty good feeling. So when you’re looking at that bowl of lemons life has just handed you; there’s lemonade in there somewhere.

Tom Egelhoff is an Amazon best selling author of three business books. His 400+ page web site is one of the oldest continuous sites on the Internet. He has been featured on MSNBC’s “Your Business” and quoted in business publications in China, Turkey, India and the UK. He hosts “Open for Business” each week, 11-2 PM Mountain Time on