When smart yields more than hard work


No one could guess how the European Champions League semi-final game between Liverpool and Roma was going to turn out to be. This was especially the case because both teams were underdogs at the quarter finals and they managed to upset the odds to make it through quite emphatically and deservedly so.

Roma came from behind to go past the revered Barcelona. Liverpool emphatically defeated Manchester City-a team that was nearly becoming invincible in the English Premier league this season.

It turned out on Tuesday night that Liverpool maintain its momentum better than did Roma – from the quarter final stage into the semi-finals, at least in the first leg so far. Winning by five to  two goals at that stage is no mean feat. Of course, many think that Liverpool should have maintained the 5 to 0 goal lead if they did not falter towards the end when they conceded the two goals. Some commentators even thought that Liverpool could have scored more than five goals especially if one of their prolific strikers Sadio Mane did not waste the amazing chances he had in the first half.

Not once or twice but several times, Mane was in clear goal scoring positions but his excessive use of power without precision did not yield much effect. This was contrasted with the man of the moment Mohamed Sallah who scored two amazing goals using very little effort but a lot of clever and smart thinking. On our school’s (St. Patrick’s Seminary) alumni chat forum, John Gift Mwakhwawa could not hide his observation that the contrast between the two was a clear testimony that smart effort does beat hard work. I agree with Mwakhwawa.

Make no mistake that Sallah did not put in effort or the hard work. But, it was his smart thinking, clever techniques with the ball and tricking the defenders and the goalkeeper that really made the difference. At that level, hard work is a given. Beyond that minimum threshold of hard-work, you need the smartness.

Mwakhwawa’s observation is not just about football. It is applicable in all life. In business as well as at work. I was reading recently some article or book that talked about how big billionaires make their billions mostly because the smartly arrange their ideas to employ many people to work for them to make the money for them. Logically, the amount of work required cannot be done by the billionaire alone. Smart thinking means that the billionaire needs to split his or her work in an arrangement that makes you and me work for him or her. This is the basic and straightforward application of smart thinking. And no one is stopped from applying the same principle to work less hard but more smartly and yet achieve much more.

In the United Kingdom (UK), many like to have the vision to work hard and invest their money until they grow their wealth to a level where “money works for them.” They can then sit back and drink coffee, make a couple of phone calls in a day to the bank and to check with their investment manager just to follow up on how much “money was made from their money” the day before.

That is the ultimate point where smartness yields maximum results, at least in a commercial sense. This is to illustrate the limits of the equation of smart versus hard work. But remember that the two still go together because in this example, the Britons believe that they need to work very hard in the beginning and so that later on, they can mostly rely on working smart only.

This should trigger a reflection point for each one of us. Am I working hard? That is the starting point. Then we should ask ourselves if we deploy the smart thinking of Sallah or we just want to hit the ball very hard without precision as did Mane in the first half of the game. Mane must have listened to a signal from Mwakhwawa because in the second half, he shot smartly and managed to score. Like Mane, we too can change. Good luck! . n

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