Bad Advice: “Stop Working So Hard”

Written By John Sonmez

I’ve been seeing quite a few posts on Hacker News lately about why you should not work too hard and even saying you should work less than 35 hours a week.

(Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think the authors of these articles are awesome people who have accomplished huge things.  I don’t mean to disrespect anyone of these great entrepreneurs.  I just think some of them have confused where they are now, with how they got there.)

Would we ever want to live in a world where working harder didn’t amount to anything more, but rather ended up returning you less?

I know plenty of people who work less than 35 hours a week, and I wouldn’t say they are doing the best work of their life.

Homeless man on the street

In contrast, I know plenty of people who are working 50 to 60 hours per week and they are doing some amazing things.

You have to work hard now to reap the benefits later

At the beginning of every episode of Pat Flynn’s podcast he says

“Welcome to the smart passive income podcast where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later.”

There is no way around this.  It is the principal of sowing and reaping at work.

While many well intentioned bloggers have urged you to not put in those extra hours at night, but rather to take time to do what you want and live a life outside of your work, they have forgotten the very path they took to get to where they are today.

If you are in that season of your life, then please take their advice.  They are 100% right.  There is this point of diminishing returns where you don’t gain much more benefit by spinning the wheel harder.

Ever rode a bike down hill really fast?


You know how at first you can start pedaling and it will actually make you go down the hill faster, but at some point the pedals just start spinning themselves?

You reach that point where you can’t actually move your legs fast enough to make much of a difference.  Every couple of seconds, your foot will hit that tiny bit of resistance which tells you that you actually did something, but most of the time you are just spinning your loose pedals, not actually adding any speed.

It’s a pretty good feeling zooming down that hill with minimal effort on your part.  There is no need to pedal furiously like you did to get up the hill.  If you are pedaling furiously at that point, not only are you wasting your effort, but you are missing out on taking time to enjoy the best part of the ride.

You have to climb the hill before you can sail down it

When riding a bicycle, there is only one way to reach a point where you can sail down a hill effortlessly—you have to climb up a hill first.bikeup

Altitude change down, requires previous altitude change up.  No way around it.

Pedaling a bike up a hill is hard work.

Not only do you have to keep working to move the bike up the hill, but every time you stop pedaling, you run the risk of rolling backwards.

The faster you want to get up the hill, the harder you have to pedal and the more you risk tiring out and rolling down the hill.

There is no rest, there are no breaks when pedaling up the hill.  The best you can do is get off the bike for a while and walk it up the hill, but that will surely slow you down.

And so it is with life in general.

My personal hill

I’d like to buy into the story that we can just take it easy and good things will come, but the reality of the situation is that you’ve got to put in work first—hard work.

I started buying real estate when I was 18 years old.  I bought my first house, which is a rental I still have today.

Since then, I’ve been buying properties at a rate of about 1 every couple of years.

It hasn’t been easy.  Huge sacrifices to be able to do it, but from when I started I knew that I was pedaling my bike up the hill.

I also had been working as a developer full time for about the past 15 years.  During that time, I was working nights and weekends to handle my real estate, building apps, and most recently creating online courses for Pluralsight.

Only at the beginning of this year was I able to finally quit my regular job working for someone else and start working completely for myself.

It took a lot of extra hours on nights and weekends, week after week for over 2 years to get there.

Just within the last year have all the real estate investments that I have been making for the last 15 years started to actually put some money in my pocket.

I’m still at the point where I am working 60 hour weeks just about every week.  I am still climbing up the hill.

But, the good news is I can see the crest and I know that if I keep pushing down on those pedals, I’ll reach the peak from where I can coast down.

My advice

Don’t buy into the idea that there is someway to get around hard work.

Stop running away from hard work and start embracing it.  I’ve learned from experience that it takes much more effort overall to avoid hard work than it does to do it, and avoiding hard work engenders no benefits long term or short.

Make the right sacrifices.

Don’t sacrifice your marriage or family in order to get ahead.  In the end, it will put you behind.  Remember, there is no more costly pursuit than divorce.

Make time to be with your spouse, set aside time to play with the kids every day, if you have them.  Take a day off to have a family day.

Instead, sacrifice from this list:

  • Watching TV
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Playing games
  • Goofing around
  • Browsing the web

Yeah, it might suck for awhile, but if you want to climb that hill now, so that you can cruise down it later, you are going to have to make some sacrifices.

Don’t waste your time.

Here is a list of things I don’t do:

  • Cut my own lawn
  • Wash my car
  • Clean my house
  • Any kind of home improvement work

Mowing lawn


I pay for these things and instead spend that time—not sitting on the couch watching TV—but working hard at what I do best.  Working at doing things that will generate me more money than it will cost me to pay someone else to do the other things I mentioned in this list.

I use a service called Fancy Hands to handle many of the time consuming tasks I can delegate out.  I have saved tons of time and money by using that service. (Disclosure: that link is my referral link to that site.)

Every time I am doing something, I ask myself if I should be paying someone else to do this.  And if your time is escaping you completely, start tracking it.

Lighten your load.

Want to make it easier to pedal a bike up a hill?

Good, all you have to do is carry less stuff with you.

This means, get your expenses down.  Start being smart with your money.

Pay off debts, don’t go into debt.  Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish, but at the same time learn to live on less.

If you learn to live on 2k a month, guess how much you need to live?  That’s right 2k.

If you have saddled yourself with debt and expenses that make it so you need 10k a month to live, you are going to have to pedal a lot harder… just saying.

(If you want to read a good book that helps you learn this mindset, read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki.)

It all comes down to this

Be willing to work hard now in order to have a better, more relaxed tomorrow.

Don’t try to take shortcuts or get rich quick, those roads lead to disaster and wasted time.

Instead, if you are working a full time job now for someone else, give yourself 10 hours a week of “your time,” where you work for yourself.

Put in the time now to build that business on the side.  Make that sacrifice for 2 years or 5 years or however long it takes to get your bike pushed up that hill.

Don’t give up, don’t be afraid to work hard, and don’t be sucked in by any preacher that preaches a fast way to riches and leisure by doing less.

Remember, those who show up everyday eventually beat out both the faster and the smarter.