Everywhere I turn, I hear people say, “Don’t work hard, work smart!” And they say it like it’s the magic bullet to solve all life’s challenges. My problem? I’m not that smart! So, my “smart” work doesn’t always turn out to be perfect. Or accurate. Or even acceptable. So unless you’re a freaking genius already, what good is it to work smart?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating hard work either. Hard work is great, but it tends to be focused on the task at hand, neglecting all signs that you might be working blindly in the wrong direction. Working smart has that same problem. It implies that you already know the smartest way to tackle something, and you work on it given that assumption. If it turns out you’re wrong, then well… It’s just as bad as working hard.

So what can you do? Don’t work smart or work hard… Work dumb. Working dumb means:

  1. Slowing down instead of jumping in;
  2. Asking lots of dumb questions;
  3. Making sure you truly understand before starting work; and
  4. Continuing to do all those things as you do your work!

Do more of the following: Confirm that which goes without saying! Ask the unanswered questions! When you hear hooves, don’t assume horses rather than zebras–ask someone! When you’re afraid something might be the exception to the rule, bring it up! Take a childlike curiosity in the task at hand. Stop being so afraid of embarrassment in asking a dumb question. I promise you, it won’t be embarrassing when the answer to that dumb question was the difference between failure and success.

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