The raw truth about “I work harder than you”


By Brooke B. Sellas, {grow} Contributing Columnist

“I work harder than you.”

Those five words are devastatingly destructive. I had this terrible fight with a good friend about a year ago. She basically told me that because I work from home and “play on Facebook all day” (I own a fast-growing social media marketing agency, but let’s go with it) have no idea what it means to be “exhausted from work.”

She’s a nurse and works 15-hour days. I’m an entrepreneur and often work 15-hour plus days. I spent more than two years working 7 days a week getting my company off the ground.

But my friend trumped me with the I work harder than you statement of, “I save lives! What do you do?”

The “I Work Harder!” Competition

I don’t save lives. Not even close. I’m not even sure that I can say I save anything (brands? scarce social streams?).

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have a better appreciation for nurses than most; my sister is terminally ill. We had nurses in and out of our home growing up. I have a deeply profound understanding of how much they give and what they do. They’re incredible. So is my friend.

But I don’t think it’s fair to compete with me on who works harder. It shouldn’t be a competition. But it is, with SO many people.

We Americans really respect busyness.

It’s a constant one-up game of who is busier. I was guilty of this. In fact, while my friend was working just as many hours as I was (or more) she still found the time for social activities, friends and parties, and exercise. I was “too busy” for those things.

I win!

But I don’t. No one wins in the competition to work harder.

Changing A Mindset

My husband, who also competed with me on who works more/harder, noticed this troubling trend, too.

At his workplace, motion and busyness are often confused with progress.

Just before our one-year wedding anniversary we looked at each other and said, “ENOUGH.”

We made a decision to stop with the “I work harder” B.S. and change directions.

Now, what we did was pretty drastic but it doesn’t mean the message isn’t the same. We went out for our one-year anniversary and bought a summer home in Maine. Right on the ocean. With a boat and a dock.

We made a promise to each other that we would start down the path of working less. In fact, we both plan on being off on Fridays while living in Maine for the summer.

Three-day weekends, for the win? I’m betting on it.

A study conducted in France says that a 4-day workweek schedule has a clear effect on work-life balance.

Working Smarter Not Harder, A Mistake?

If I work a 50-hour week am I less of an entrepreneur? Do I not “want it as bad” as other business owners? I’m I lazy; do I have no hustle? (and here’s the problem with hustle)

I’m not buying it. I plan on doing everything I do now, which is continuing to aggressively scale my company. But I also plan to enjoy being a newlywed, to exercise, to stop and smell the roses (or the salty sea air with the wind in my air!).

I can own a business and also have a life, no matter what our culture says about those who “work harder” or “hustle.”

So can you. You can be a smart and exemplary entrepreneur/employee/consultant/ without being sucked into the vortex of jam-packed schedules and “I’m too busy to breathe.”

Don’t let our society fool you. You can hustle your way right out of a life worth living if you compete hard enough.

The Future

I have this hard and fast rule about friends: I cannot be friends with people who want to compete with me.

We have to compete everywhere else in life.

In business, I know that there’s always someone …

  • Smarter/more educated
  • With a bigger network
  • Who has more cash
  • Better spoken/read/dressed

… right around the corner.

I think that’s part of what drives me to continue to identify gaps and grow as an entrepreneur.

I don’t feel like bringing that frenetic energy to a friendship.

While it’s yet to be seen if my friend will continue to try to compete with me, I’m done competing with her. And you. And everyone else who works harder than I do.

Take it. You win.

I’ll be over here spending a little less time at work and little more time on me.

Does that make me less of an entrepreneur? You decide. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Brooke Ballard for {grow}Brooke B. Sellas is an in-the-trenches digital marketer & owner at B Squared Media, blossoming blogger, and a purveyor of psychographics. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter.

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  • This is a great perspective, Brooke. I’m a believer in working hard, but not working all the time. There’s much more to life besides work. We won’t look back on life and say, “I wish I had done more at the office.” Family, friends and the other pursuits that bring more joy to life are the things that really matter most. Thanks for sharing!

  • So Brooke, can I use this when I tell my husband why we need a beach house? LOL! You are SO right on all points – and you didn’t even touch on those of us who are like you but have kids as well. I’ve learned to just smile and bite my tongue so many times.

  • Thank you, Steve! I’m trying to adopt your mindset. For me “hustling” meant not doing or thinking about anything but work. I’m “practicing” taking Fridays off now. It’s not going great, but I AM trying really hard and I think once I get it figured out I won’t look back. Life is too short to (only) work like crazy!

  • Absolutely! I know our path is a bit “out there” but Alex and I are so stubborn about working like crazy people that our “remedy” had to be “out there” as well. I can’t even imagine throwing kids in the mix! I do bet, though, that they force you to stop and enjoy things … like ballet, or getting ready for dances, etc. (I’ve seen some of the awfully cute pics!!).
    It’s easy to ignore strangers … a little harder when friends and family come at you. But hey, they have a point. The “I work hard” award really isn’t!

  • Claytonjay101

    This reminds me of when I was in college and I asked some friends if they wanted to go to a $2 movie with me. They said “No, we are trying to save money” which I thought was weird because it was $2 and I was driving.

    I found out later they ended up going out to eat when we all had the same meal plan that was already paid for. I still give them a hard time about that to this day but really it’s amazing how our psychology can justify or just make things up in our mind.

    It’s really all about perspective and such a fruitless conversation of the let’s see who’s busier. I know people that occasionally bring that up and I just roll my eyes. I know I am busier than them but I never talk about it because why. It’s a vanity metric so to speak, it should be about output, not just input.

    Anyways, really enjoyed your perspective Brooke!

  • Brooke Ballard

    Totally agree, Clayton. It’s all about perspective. And it’s fruitless. I’m done with competing about who is busier/more important/etc. — it’s all so silly once you pull back and realize what you’re doing. I love that you say it’s a vanity metric! That’s SO TRUE.

    Thank you for sharing your story with me! 🙂

  • SynDolly

    Congrats on the get away home. I think that we as people tend to resent those who work equally as hard, without making it look like work. Maybe that’s where your friend was coming from? Either way I think it’s awesome that you’re working hard so that you can take more time to spend with each other and your family. Wishing you both the best. <3

  • Thanks so much! Perhaps that’s where my friend was coming from … I’m really not sure. I don’t feel as though I’ve made it look “easy” since I have sacrificed a lot of relationships, my own personal health, and any “fun” activities to get here — but we always seem to look at people’s outcomes and not the path to how they got there when we make judgements. In any case, I’m really excited about working more on ME!

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