We’ve all heard the saying, but many of us don’t heed the wisdom of “work smarter, not harder.” Yet, let me assure you that this is indeed a biblical model for the way we conduct our lives. King Solomon, writing under the pseudonym “The Preacher,” wrote, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed,” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, ESV). It is not hard to see what the preacher meant. If one is chopping down a tree with an ax that is dull, he has to swing harder and harder in order for it to ever cut through. If he were wise, he’d sharpen his ax. At the same time, the person who is dull of thinking must work hard as well.
What Solomon advocates here is that one should seek to sharpen his intellect as well as his skills. This tends to be a problem for many people as it means making an extra effort initially and getting into new habits. Rather than coming home and plopping in front of the television, or going straight to bed, one must discipline themselves to sharpen their intellectual acumen as well as their skill-set.
Here are 5 ways you can do this:
- Take every opportunity your employer gives to grow in your field. That may mean having to take personal days, go on your off-days, or use vacation time and pay in order to go to a conference or training seminar that they are offering. Initially, the investment is heavy, but in the long-run it can certainly pay off. You are not only sharpening your knowledge and skills, but you are also showing your supervisors and employer that you care about their company and your performance. When it comes to reviews and promotions, you are likely to be receiving high marks, new responsibilities, and a raise.
- Read books. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we encounter a man with rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” This will mean being auto-didactic (self-taught), but that’s okay. You don’t need a certificate or a diploma if you end up practicing and speaking on what you know. The paper may get you in the door at times, but it is the sharpened mind and skillset that keeps you in. This would include audiobooks that can be used on your commute, but nothing is like having a physical book with real pages in hand.
- Listen to podcasts. There are thousands of podcasts in this world. Download a podcast player like Stitcher or use Apple’s podcast player and search for podcasts dealing with your field. If you’re a construction guy, you should be able to find some quality podcasts. The same would go for gardeners. There is just about a podcast for every profession. If you can’t find one for your exact profession: 1) find one that is of similar profession, 2) listen to those that deal with where you want to be, not where you are. If you want to be a leader but are currently a grunt-worker then listen to leadership podcasts and learn how to be one. If you’re tired of working for someone else, start listening to podcasts now so that later you may be able to be an entrepreneur or come to realize that it is better for you to stick with working for the man.
- Go back to school. This may mean getting your HSE (formerly known as the GED), or it may mean going to night-school or taking courses online. There are a plethora of ways to get a general or college education. No one needs to tell you that statistically speaking college grads make more than high school grads and high school grads make more than those who dropped out. But it doesn’t have to be college. If you’ve been in your field for a while, you might want to go back and brush up on the new technology that affects your expertise by going to trade school for a semester or two. Again, this might be offered by your employer, but it may not be. Make the extra effort yourself.
- Learn online. A little known fact is that YouTube and iTunes (as well as other players) have free college courses. You receive all the instructions through video or audio, but have none of the homework. Again, there is no diploma or certificate, but you get the knowledge, the sharpening and honing of mind and skills. You could also take courses from www.greatcoursesplus.com. You have to pay for these, but they are top notch classes.
There you have it, on this Wednesday Wisdom I would encourage you to work smarter, not harder; it is the wise and biblical thing to do. No man, woman, or child should purposefully allow their minds to dull; may we always seek to sharpen and hone them. If you have any other ways to stay sharp or get sharp, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.