There are many successful people whom we envy. “Damn it! I deserved it more than him” said an entrepreneur friend of mine in utter desperation. He wasn’t ready to digest the fact that his competitor was successful in gaining multi-million dollar funds from a venture capitalist. “They are nowhere close to us in terms of honest and quality driven services” he argued. “Nobody cares about quality these days!” he murmured an exaggerated assumption to satisfy his ego and frustration of ending up second to someone he considered petty.
It is too hard to accept the fact after someone beats you whom you generally laughed off as a minion. The same was the frustration for him. It is hard to believe that someone rose to heights before you could and went past your business out of nowhere.
Many of us blame others for own failures but ourselves. We are unable to accept the truth that we were undone by the better. Just because you don’t consider a person better than yourself doesn’t change the fact that he tried harder and got better than what you expected of him because he was much more than what perceived of him. Who gave you the right to believe that only ‘your’ hard work counts, and dismiss others by declaring them petty. The ‘reality’ is that not you don’t see the mirror of truth because that etches your ego. Either you accept or not, the ‘Truth’ is that you are second to someone and it will not change by your ignorance.
I have one story that gives a really good lesson. Why your perception doesn’t always reciprocate the entire reality?
Once Upon a time,
there was a Soldier who primarily served as a guard for the King. The guard always made sure that the King stays happy with his service and followed each and every order from word to word. The king also seemed quite satisfied by the sincere service of the Soldier.
But the ‘Loyal’ Soldier was really hurt when he found a relatively younger soldier has honored the title of ‘a Knight’. The Soldier believed that he was a much more deserving person for the ‘honor’, at least more than that Younger Soldier.
One day, he decided to have a word with the king about his hurt sentiments. On a fine day when the King seemed in a relaxed and happy mood, the soldier took his chance and asked, “O Lord, I always served with utmost sincerity, with courage and valor which can be deemed second to none. Not once have I abstained from my duties while serving you. Then, how come you ignored my dedication and instead, honored a much younger soldier?”
The soldier continued after a brief pause, “All the courtroom members had suggested my name for the ‘honour’ of a Knight. Yet, It was not enough to convince you. While I know that your decision to chose him, must be rightful one for our state. But, I am unable to figure out the reason which made him more valuable than the years of honest and courageous services of mine?’ The King smiled back and gave a short compact reply, “You will get the answer at the right time.”
The very next week, the King planned to go to the forest for a two-day ‘hunting’ expedition which he usually went for once in every two months. The Soldier and the ‘New’ Knight both accompanied the king on the expedition. As it grew duskier, the king made up his mind to stop and find a safe shelter for the night.
They stopped at a suitable place. The King ordered the ‘New Knight’ to fill the empty containers with fresh drinking water from the nearby river. As the King and the Soldier were waiting for the Knight to return, they saw smoke, a bonfire and a group of people not very far away near the diminishing sun.
Though the group wasn’t very close, still the King wanted to make sure that those were not potential danger for their stay. So he sent the Soldier to learn more about those people. The Soldier joyously sprang into the direction determined to prove his worth to the King. He went and came back with the information, “They are spice traders who travel from one state to other looking for trade.”
The King replied in an affirmative gesture and asked, “So, Where have they come from?”. The Soldier did not knew that he had to ask this question. The soldier replied in a hurry, “I will be returning soon with an answer” and dashed towards the traders. He returned as fast as he could. Take a deep sigh, he replied ‘they have come from the south and they visit our state at least once every year.’
The King fired one more question, “Do they have a problem if we join them?” The Soldier was sweating, breathless and tired. But still, he ran again, went there and returned with the answer. “They will stay with us but on some terms,” the soldier said while breathing heavily.
“What terms?” the King’s questioned back even before the Soldier had finished. The Soldier didn’t bother to ask more. He was really tired but yet ready to run back for the answer. The soldier was too desperate to prove himself, “I will be back with the information. You didn’t ask about it earlier” the Soldier said while turning back to run. But the King stopped him this time. Instead, The King turned to the Knight who had already returned after filling the water container, “Go and Find more about those people” the King ordered pointing his finger towards the smoke.
The Knight disappeared in a flash. But he took much more time to return. This lighted up the Soldier’s confidence. He was filled with enthusiasm as he was sure that he was much faster and agile and he took lesser time to return. “Ohh this young ‘Knight’ is wasting the precious time of my King,” the Soldier tried to boast himself by whispering in a sarcastic arrogance. The King smiled back at him and signaled him to show some patience.
As the Knight returned, King asked, “So what information did you fetch?”. The Knight began, “Lord, they are Spice Traders of the South who visit this place every summer to trade spices with other states. I have cross verified and they are truthful. They know the biggest spice merchant of our state and also knew about few other gain merchants whom they deal with. One grain merchant they are talking about also sells spices.”
The confidence of the Knight was haunting the Soldier. The Knight continued after a deep sigh, “They are staying here tonight and it looks like they don’t even have arms in case, for self-defense. In fact, they were scared to see me with a sword. I thought that it could well be a safe place for our stay tonight. So, I assured them that the King is committed to safeguarding the guests visiting his state. Therefore, the King has decided to stay with them tonight. They showed their gratitude for the large hearted King like you and are keen to serve you delicious spice products. I have assessed and found that it will be safe for us to spend the night. So, shall we proceed with your kind permission.”
The King nodded and three of them started to move towards the Traders. The King looked at the Soldier briefly. The Soldier’s face looked faded, colorless and pale. The King walked near the Soldier and said “What you couldn’t do after three rounds, the Knight did much more than that on his first visit. You concentrate on my order, he understands my order. The Knight focuses on getting the work ‘done’, not just the order. You are sincere and hard working but lack the smartness to think beyond the order. He knows what he is supposed to and doesn’t waits for my order to do that. Whose work do you think will be more productive for our state?”
The Soldier felt ashamed about his stupidity and ignorance. All his self-righteous ego had melted. He never thought that way. But he finally knew that hard work and smart work, both are two distinct parts of a work which one has to balance.
This short story seamlessly stands out to teach us a lesson about failures. When we fail after working really hard, we ignore the fact that our efforts were not enough to ensure success. When we don’t succeed, we should come to terms with the fact that there are ‘others’ who outsmarted us and stayed two steps ahead of us in terms of preparation, planning, and execution. One whose efforts have the smart propensity to manage their between hard work and smart work always succeed in their efforts.
But when you talk of business, there are many more factors that determine success than few individual efforts. A successful business is more about an efficiency than individual hard work.
‘Working hard’ and ‘Working Smart’ are two very different aspects. In the story, the Soldier ran much more than the Knight and yet you talk of productivity, the Soldier is clearly ‘no match’ for the ‘Knight. ‘The Knight’ was much more productive even though he didn’t work as hard as the Soldier. The results reciprocate the same. It is not about how hard you work. It is more about how productively you work.
Coordination, the Successful Mantra for Effective Efficient Efforts
When you think as a business, the King’s decision makes more sense. But in reality, you will rarely find people as good as the ‘Knight’. You can maneuver the individuals during the work to make them more efficient. The best way to make sure that individual members of your team are seamlessly guided to productive results.
You don’t have the fictional liberty which the King enjoys. You want every employee to be as much productive as ‘the Knight’ which is not possible. Every person doesn’t have the same proficiency. Most people share the similar mindset as the Soldier had. But, the good thing about such people is that they are willing to ‘work hard’. You just need to maneuver their efforts and transform it productively.
When You ‘fail’, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t work hard. It is just that your efforts were less productive than what you actually want. When we place our efforts without any specific orientation can never overhaul the focused efforts of someone else. One whose work is focused wins the battle.
The smart effort brings you closer to results, far much more than disoriented and disorganized individual efforts. So better build a smart team rather than individual ‘workhorse’. Work on efficiency, not ‘vague efforts’. Organize your team…