Why Hard Work is a Big Mistake

By Mike Johnson

I used to mistreat myself in ways I’d never ask anyone else to mimic.

Arise at 2am to complete my day’s work before the boss arrived, so I could work on his special project during office hours.

Slave 36 hours straight to publish a newspaper by an impossible deadline.

Work 2,500 days in a row, never missing a day, to freshly update a 24-hour news website.

Yes, the work got done. Yes, I received kudos from people I’d worked far too hard to please. Yes, the experiences caused personal growth and some great stories.

But treating myself so badly subtly told me I wasn’t worthy of better treatment. And it prevented me from rising to a higher perspective that would’ve revealed better ways to achieve my real goals.

“Work smarter, not harder” is a profound statement.

Time and energy is all we really have. Burying ourselves in hard work is just a noble-looking way to squander massive amounts of time and energy. And it prevents us from seeing better opportunities.

The world will reward us with cubic zirconia comments like, “He’s such a hard worker,” or “Moss will never grow on his back.” We’ll grin proudly, never realizing we just traded priceless life force for mere throw-away words.

Worse, we never gain the higher perspective of flying over the forest to see the bigger picture. Maybe we’re in the wrong forest. Maybe there’s a meadow nearby with an easier path. Maybe what we’re looking for isn’t in the countryside at all. Nose buried in hard work, all we see are the trees. And keep working. As our time and life force drain away a little more each day.

Today, I’m terrified of hard work because I don’t want to get trapped in any activity that doesn’t return the maximum reward for my time and energy investment. Hard work blinds us to better choices. It’s too easy to get sucked into the vortex of approval and perfection. “Just a little more work and the boss will be so impressed at the perfection of this proposal.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s certain that your wife won’t be impressed that you pulled an all-nighter trying to enchant someone who will never conceive your children. You made a bad trade. “But he’s such a hard worker!”

Hard work is vastly over-rated. The RIGHT work is vastly under-rated.

I buried myself in hard work for decades before I learned that passive income properties can provide financial and time freedom in mere months. I finally awoke and early-retired at age 52. But only a lack of knowledge and self-worth prevented me from achieving financial and time freedom at age 25. If I’d worked smarter not harder, I could’ve saved decades of time and energy. I could’ve applied those resources to bigger dreams than mere survival.

So I share this higher perspective on LinkedIn, which is the bastion of hard work, busy with their goal of sharing tips on how to turn the misery of jobs into something more comfortable.

Instead, I ask:

“Why not use the same energy it takes to make your misery more comfortable, and instead, use it to leave the misery altogether?”

Perhaps what we really need is a new online community named LinkedOut. We’ll teach people to work less and look for better opportunities more.

Today, I share another fear. What if my current ways of passive income still aren’t the best? What if I reach age 85 and realize I under-utilized another 20 years because I failed to see better choices?

This is one more reason why I make sure my daily schedule has lots of unscheduled time. Opportunities become more visible when dipped in time and space. But now, I’m wise enough to realize that the opportunities have to serve ME. I run them through a rigid cost-benefit equation. If they take hard work to achieve, they aren’t the opportunities for me. That equation, thank God, ruined me as an employee long ago.

So, to all you young, ambitious go-getters out there trading time and energy for money, I gift you with another profound thought.

Ambition has a shelf-life. It starts to expire the day you realize that hard work is a poor substitute for smart work.

I hope you learn this far sooner than me.


Mike Johnson made the journey from jobs to freelance writer to entrepreneur to passive income and early retirement. Today he teaches people how to skip right to passive income and early retirement at WorldsBestWriter.com .

Once I learned how to BUY passive income, I stopped chasing the bucks and the bucks started chasing me!