“You Can’t Outsmart the Work”

Chris, Jeff and I all went to the same school to work in our respective Master’s programs back in the early 2000’s.  Our studies were challenging and we enjoyed our learning experience.

Jeff went on to earn a Ph.D in Leadership Studies at a fine school on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  Those pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree spend a lot of time in books and writing, like their counterparts in the medical and legal professions, to name just two disciplines.

Some time later, Chris and Jeff got together—reflecting on their educational journeys.  Their conversation went along these lines.

Chris:  “So, how is your Ph.D program going, Jeff.  I bet it’s intense.”

Jeff:  “For sure.  I’ve never read and wrote so much in my life.”

Chris:  “What does it take to get through a Ph.D program?”

Jeff:  “You’d be surprised.”

Chris:  “Oh really?  What do you mean?”

Jeff:  “Well, the ones who make it through a doctoral program like this aren’t the ones you’d expect.”

Chris:  “Really.  Who make it through and who don’t?”

Jeff:  “Not the geniuses.  The ‘Einsteins’ are the ones who wash out.”

Chris:  “Really?! Why?” (This goes against the standard assumptions of genius and success.)

Jeff:  “Because you can’t outsmart the work.




There is gold here.  And it is this.  There is no substitute for putting in your time and paces to earn a high degree/platform or income.  10,000 hour rule again.   One could fairly apply the 19th century label of “snake oil” to a lot of get-rich-quick schemes and thinking that so many of us gravitate to to make as much money in as little time with as little effort as possible.

We cheat ourselves when we do this.  Self-deception is delicious but it bites hard in the end.

Here’s a couple of quotes to ponder on the value of hard work:

  • “Wizard?  Pshaw. It’s plain hard work that does it.” (Thomas Edison, on being called a wizard)
  • “I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.” (Johann Sebastian Bach, author of over 1000 musical works in all sorts of genres)
  • “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working. One is tempted to stop and listen to it. The only thing is to turn away and go on working. Work. There is nothing else.” (Albert Einstein)


  • Do you love work or loathe it, seeking to avoid it if at all possible?
  • If you loathe your work, what can you do to change your approach to it? Perhaps cultivate a new field of work, a new discipline?
  • Are you aware of the genius/talent discussion embodied in the “10,000 hour rule” and the Edisonian maxim, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration?” As a counter to the rule read here.


Suggested Resources:

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)


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Think Different

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

–Steve Jobs/Apple Inc.

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Tolle Lege (Take Up and Read)

I frequently ask people I meet as well as friends, “What are you reading these days?”  Today I’m spotlighting five books that really gripped me over the past few years.  I hope you’ll enjoy these as well.

How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci (Michael Gelb) – Easily the most fascinating book I’ve read in ten years. Da Vinci, the quintessential renaissance man, is analyzed by Michael Gelb.  Gelb has boiled down the secrets to Leonardo’s genius in seven approaches to viewing and experiencing life and the world you live in.  Full of prints from Leonardo’s journals and lots of practical exercises.  Buy this if nothing else.  Very cool.

The Road Less Traveled (M. Scott Peck) – The opening sentence of this book is “Life is difficult” which lets you know where he’s headed.  Written in the late ‘70’s, this has become something of a modern classic.  A psychotherapist, Peck forces you to ask tough questions of yourself.  His insights on delayed gratification alone are worth the price of the book and if you’ve read anything by Bill Hybels, you’ll see that Peck’s shadow looms large.  This book really changed my life.  I’ve told people I wish I’d read this thirty years ago.

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse (Michael O’Brien) – Stunning.  Not a zombie apocalypse, “we’re-all-gonna-die” work.  The plot deals with an antichrist figure.  This novel betrays a profound understanding of human nature.  The chapters dealing with Elijah’s redemptive dealings with the befouled Count Smokrev are shattering.  You will come away from this book with hope in a forgiving Creator revealed in Him who was impaled on a tree for your sins.  Visit Michael O’Brien’s website (he’s an artist first)—there’s more.  http://www.studiobrien.com/

Making Records: The Stories Behind the Music (Phil Ramone) – Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Phil Ramone shares secrets and anecdotes from a career of making popular music.  He’s worked with everyone from Sinatra to Billy Joel to Barbra Streisand. This book is not a dish book.  You won’t find juicy, behind-the-scenes stories from the lives of those he produced.  Instead you will learn a lot about the craft of making fine records.  Loved this book.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis (translated by Raphael Brown).  This is a classic, written some seven hundred years ago.  Francis of Assisi was a remarkable, Spirit-empowered follower of Christ.  Rejecting wealth, he started a move of reform in the Church of His day.  Miracles were a regular occurrence in the lives of him and his friars.  This is a book of amazing stories from his and others lives.  My kind of saint.