Smarter Not Harder: Wasting Your Work

There is an old urban legend about the U.S.-Soviet space race. NASA had a problem. They needed astronauts to takes notes with pen and paper but in space the ink stayed in the pen.

Without gravity there was nothing to propel the ink from the pen down onto the paper. So, along with many other expenditures, they invested heavily in time and money into a pen that propelled the ink on its own thus allowing the astronauts to write in space.

The Soviet Space Program also had a problem. They needed their people to write in space. They gave the cosmonauts pencils.

Now this story is just a myth (both space programs equipped their crews with pencils) but it outlines a truth. The truth outlined is the simple mantra “work smarter, not harder.”

This principle seems self-evident. Who wants to work harder than necessary? Most of us would assume no one.  Yet the mantra keeps on being repeated to every new generation. Why is this a lesson that needs to be learned at all?

Well there is a competing mantra, a couple actually, that glorify hard work. Sayings like “No pain, no gain,” “No guts, no glory” or even “ the early bird gets the worm.” These mantras push people to give it their all, lean into the wind, take that one more step… But what if that step is in the wrong direction?

Hard work at the right time and moving in the right direction should be applauded. When there is no other option, grit and determination are the exact investment needed.  But no amount of work or go-getter attitude will make a waste of time and energy worth it.

If the only tool you have available to dig a hole is a hatchet, then that’s what you have to use. But if someone comes along and offers you a shovel, it isn’t heroic to keep using the hatchet. Don’t keep on giving it your all with the hatchet; there’s a better way. 

For those of you giving it your all to catch a plane heading away from your family and office the third time this quarter, leaning into the wind to pass through twelve time zones in a week, and taking that one extra step to visit your people around the world; we have a smarter solution. 

Please hear me when I say that your heart for your ministry and your people is evident. The hard work you put in to check on and train your people does make an impact. Grow2Serve wants to help you multiply that hard work; directing some of that wasted effort away from jet lag and into greater relationship and equipping.

Online communication, coaching, and courses take some work getting used to.  If they were super easy then Grow2Serve wouldn’t need to exist. Online is worth it though, it is the smarter work! Every hour invested in preparing an online course saves you and your people days of travel time and thousands in hard earned cash. Not to mention the invaluable gift of allowing everyone involved to stay near their trusted teams and beloved families.

We know it’s easy to start remaking the pen (in-person communication) even though it takes more work.  You’re used to using the pen, and the pencil (online communication) feels different and less comfortable.   And even though it takes more work to use the pen in this environment “mama didn’t raise no quitter.” 

Don’t waste your time and money rebuilding a pen.  Work smarter, not harder.  Use the right tool for the job.

Daniel Morgenstern is the director of youth and small group ministries at Restoration Covenant Church in Apple Valley, MN and proudly serves as a Sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard. In all his work, he relies on his background as a Missionary Kid who spent the first 12 years of his life in Ukraine.

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