Secret to Success

The Secret to Success isn’t Hard Work

  |   Derric, Entrepreneur, SplashZone, Startup   |   2 Comments

How Building Upon Yourself Trumps Hard Work Every Day. 

Do you feel the pressure?

The pressure to succeed, impress, and win?

I know I do. I’ve felt it my whole life.

I think I have some valuable insights into how we can structure our days, and our lives, to make it relatively easy to succeed as an entrepreneur, but I want to talk about hard work first…

Hard Work

I watched a video recently where Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the secret to his success, which he accredits a large portion of it to working harder than everyone else.

While hard work is imperative, focusing too much on working long hours is not the secret to success. The video, to me, was meant to make us to believe that the only way to win is to put in 12+ hours a day.

This is wrong.

The problem is, hard work is not the main reason for success, although it is a necessary part.

Gary didn’t wake up one day and have 300,000 followers on Social Media, and I am sure he worked very hard to build his following, but it is actually not the derivative of hard work that built him that following, even if he believes that it is. So what then is it? 

Most people work. Some work hard while others pretend they work hard, but they really are just putting in an average amount of effort.

We’ve got nine to fivers, white collar, hard-working blue collars, and, of course, the independent no collars (yes I am stealing this concept from the last season of Survivor).

There are single moms working 80 hours a week and struggling, and successful entrepreneurs working 4 hour work weeks and thriving.

But if hard work is the largest contributor to success, then we should expect this to not be possible.

I would like to argue that this means we can be relatively certain that hard work is not the largest contributor to success. So what then really gets you to the top? Intelligence? Luck? Maybe a little bit of both would help get you there faster, but that’s not it either.

In my opinion, the number one largest contributor to success is smart work.

Smart Work

Smart work is the combination of hard work and incremental learning that allows you to build a mountain and climb up it, and not just run around the base of that mountain.

Working Smarter By Climbing a Mountain

Smart work is where you build one block on top of another, slowly over time, and eventually you build the Great Pyramids.


Smart work is where you learn something yesterday, apply it to your business today, and teach it to someone else tomorrow.

 It’s called ILT: Invest -> Learn -> Teach and has been popularized by people such as Ray Higdon

So this is it.

And you also must own the thing that you are working towards, whether that is your personal skill set, your business, or some sort of book, side project, website, etc.

So what I am trying to say is that I don’t think Gary built a massive following and became successful because he put in 19 hour days; he became successful because every day that he worked, he built upon something that he owned to create something better than the day before. He built his mountain and can now stand on top of it victorious while everyone else runs around the base and wonders how they can be where he is standing.

Not Gary Vaynerchuk on a Mountain

Of course I don’t think he is done yet. I imagine he will keep building it and growing his success. And that’s how it goes.

Why You Shouldn’t Work 19 Hour Days

No matter how much of a boss Gary might be, he is still a human being and thus working 19 hours a day is actually a rather inefficient use of his time.

From my experience as a professional poker player, I have learned a few things about my body and the mindset of most working adults.

The first thing you should realize is that you’re a human – an animal – and human evolution did not design you for working in the environment you are forcing upon yourself.

Humans are actually accustomed to, and possibly evolved to work better with, multi-phasic sleep schedules (taking multiple naps throughout the day).

But because of the traditional work habits of most modern nations, we lump all that together at the end of the day (usually).

Your brain only has 3-4 hours maximum of peak activity. After that your work abilities start to slide off.

When playing poker, this can mean the difference between being a profitable player, and being a losing player.

When in a game, I would monitor myself closely. When I felt myself slip into off-peak brainwave activity (a real thing, but not that I can necessarily identify it… you know that feeling where you get a little tired of staring at a computer screen, that’s the hint your body gives you that you are fading), I would pick up my chips and cash out. 

So, out of necessity, I had to work only within peak active hours, which are generally 2-4 hours after waking up, and before your second meal.

(Another side note, I structure my day to always do the most complicated and important things before lunch, and the more remedial tasks after, I would recommend trying to do the same.)


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So back to my point…

While 19 hour days seem like a great way to get things done, it’s actually more beneficial (and psychologically stabilizing) to limit yourself to significantly less work.

Rest, tackle more things at a later time, and you will do better at them.

This is just another reason why working hard is not as important as Gary seems to think it is.

Ideally, you work for your 3-4 peak hours on your main tasks, another 1-3 on your rudimentary tasks, and use the rest of the day to unwind, think about work away from work, and clear your thoughts to do even better the next day.

And this is coming from me, a workaholic, who is currently writing this on a Sunday in an empty office building in Downtown San Diego.

Processing Information

A huge part of smart work comes down to the strategy you have for processing information.

You need to learn. You need to learn a lot. But there are a lot of mediocre resources, and even the good stuff might not directly apply to you.

So it’s your job to sift through countless resources, learn the right things, and discard the wrong ones. Then you must use your new-found knowledge to grow your business in a lasting and mostly permanent way.

Whether this is automating tasks, hiring employees that you can manage, learning a new language so that you can do business overseas, or simply working your butt off to gain 100 Twitter followers, you must do something EVERY day that moves you forward.

This is the power of the entrepreneur that many hard working Americans never know or understand.

It’s the power to own your work, and build upon it day after day, rather than working for someone else, helping them to build their Great Pyramids.  

Scaling Yourself

Another thing about hard work is that working more hours is very important, but it doesn’t really allow you to scale.

Every hour you work, you get one hour closer to your goal. But every hour you improve how you work, you get that much faster forever.

It’s a multiplier effect that will make every subsequent work hour that much more valuable. 

Let’s imagine we have a project, like building 100 websites. 

You have two options to begin building these 100 websites.

1. You can just start plugging away with the knowledge you have right now, or…

2. You can spend a large chunk of time learning how to make websites faster, maybe even hiring people to do specific functions, or creating checklists that improve your efficiency.

If you spend the initial time investment learning how to do something faster from the beginning, you will crush through the task, and all subsequent tasks way faster than the alternative.

By the way, it’s not laziness preventing you from doing this, its complacency.

This strategy is the ultimate in laziness:

you figure out how to do the least amount of work the fastest so that you can get back to doing whatever it is that you want to do instead.


And I want to be clear that I understand that Gary Vanyerchuk would most likely agree with me here, but my point about his video is that it may be misleading to young entrepreneurs about the things they should focus on the most in order to succeed.

Work ethic builds over time, and often comes from necessity.

Choosing what you spend your time doing is one of the largest freedoms you have in this world. Use it wisely, and you will thrive.


So what do you think? Are you working hard? Too hard? Or are you working smart? Do you build your business incrementally every single day? What are some ways that you’ve learned to work smart? Leave your comments in the section below, or Tweet at us! We’d love to hear your answers.

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AUTHOR - Derric Haynie

CEO of Splash - Online Presence Management Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur