Entrepreneurs: How Bill Gates Taught Me That Your Hustle May Actually Sabotage Your Success

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Hey there,

I want to share an idea with you that is completely counter to what you hear every day in the entrepreneurship community, but I believe may be one of the most important lessons you can learn.

Here it is:

Your work ethic…your hustle…your willingness to do whatever it takes…can actually sabotage your chances of success as an entrepreneur.

“Wait! Are you saying hustle is bad?”

I know that sounds totally counter to what you hear out there all the time, which is you’ve got to work like crazy, you’ve got to hustle like crazy.

I’m not saying that that’s not entirely true, okay?

If you’re going to be an entrepreneur – if you’re going to be successful in anything – you’re going to have to put in a tremendous amount of work at least at some point or another, and potentially for a long period of time.

But I’ve slowly come to realize that my willingness to say ‘yes’ and hustle can actually sabotage my chances of success.

Here’s why:

For me personally, I have absolutely no shortage of motivation and no shortage of work ethic – I’ve never had a problem with either of those.

The reality is that, I’m so willing to hustle. I’m so willing to work that what I do is, I take on anything and everything and I just kind of assume that I’m going to get it all done. I’m going to move it all forward.

My willingness to work hard has literally landed me in the hospital twice from exhaustion.

Although there is some sort of ‘entrepreneurial merit badge’ that I wear from those experiences, that’s stupid!

When I say ‘yes’ to everything and just try to out-hustle my problems, I’m not exercising the discipline of actually determining what is the most important thing that I should be working on and saying ‘no‘ to the things that simply aren’t important or aren’t actually serving my best interests.

I’m telling myself a lie.

The reality is, I’m telling myself a lie. And you likely are too.

We don’t have enough time to get it all done.

And some things are simply lower value than others.

Any failure to recognize this and act appropriately is just being foolish.

It’s a psychology problem that then becomes a physical problem – I literally run out of time and don’t work on my most important things.

I have so much optimism around being able to get things done and I have such a willingness to work to get things done that I will actually put too much on my plate, and the reality is many of those things simply are not important and shouldn’t be there. I’m not taking the time to truly differentiate what’s actually most important.

That’s something that I had to learn to become very, very aware of because it’s too easy for me to just say ‘yes’ and I see many, many other entrepreneurs suffer from the same thing.

“Smart, lazy people.”

There was a quote that I read from Bill Gates that actually shocked me when I first read it and he was talking about how he actually preferred to hire smart, lazy people.

The reason why he said that is because he said a lazy person will find out the most efficient way to get something done and to get it done once because they’ll create a process around it or they develop software around or whatever so they don’t have to do it again.

His experience was that people that were really took pride in being hard working and motivated would often actually just take the task and do it and just do it as fast as they could — just get it done and move onto the next thing.

But by doing so, they weren’t thinking strategically to determine:

“Can I find a way to get it off of my plate going forward with a more strategic approach, such as creating a system, automation, or improvement that does the work going forward, or eliminates the cause of the work in the first place.”

And that was an eye-opener to me because Bill Gates is of course, infamous for his work ethic. The guy apparently didn’t take any days off in his thirties.

But he was always looking for the smartest way to get things done.

He would hire smart, lazy people because he knew that those people would try to find a way to do it something once and then create an improvement so that they didn’t have to do it again.

Be ‘Strategically Lazy’.

One of my favorite phrases I’ve coined in the last few years is ‘Strategically Lazy’.

Let me clarify what I mean by that:

It means that I want to consciously slow down a little to find the best and easiest way to do something to fully leverage my time and skillsets, not just ‘hustle’ to get it done.

It’s a psychological shift that has huge rewards.

Slow down a little, be willing to be lazy,  to actually slow down and take a look at the things that you’re doing and determine if you are being ‘Strategically Lazy’.

7 Powerful Questions to Focus Your Hustle

We need to focus our hustle on the most important things in our life to get the results we’re looking for – anything else is actually stealing from the ideal vision you’ve created.

Ask yourself the following seven questions to focus your hustle:

  1. By saying ‘yes’ to this, what am I saying ‘no’ to?
  2. Is this moving my most important thing forward?
  3. Will it really matter if this doesn’t get done?
  4. Can I get rid of it completely?
  5. Can I delegate it to somebody?
  6. Can I delay it to another day?
  7. If it is really important that it gets done, how can I create a process, automation or improvement to make it as efficient as possible going forward?


That’s the goal.

I am now constantly on the hunt for ways to get more leverage from my hustle. To produce greater results and my desired outcomes with the minimal possible effort.

Thus the name ‘LVRG’ for my business.

Again, you’re going to have to work hard to be a successful entrepreneur, but if you work hard on the right things, on the most important things, that’s going to put you on a totally different path than if you’re just doing everything because you’re willing to hustle.

There is a very important difference between just hustling frantically – saying yes to everything and always feeling like you are behind – and putting focused, intense hustle on your most important thing.

Have that discipline.

All the best,

Mike Cooch

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Mike Cooch
Mike Cooch

LVRG CEO Mike Cooch is a serial entrepreneur who generates 6-7 big ideas before breakfast (conservative estimate) each day.

Mike has a Texas-sized passion for sales & marketing, business development, technology, and entrepreneurship.

He has founded successful businesses in technology services, agency services, publishing, and ecommerce (and flopped on a variety of attempts as well…keepin’ it real!).

His businesses have made the INC 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America three times, and have been recognized as a 'Best Place to Work' in their respective cities.

He has an MBA from Babson College, the #1 ranked entrepreneurship program in the world by US News 24 years running, where he has been a regular guest lecturer on 'Managing a Growing Business'.

He has three children, is an avid skier, hiker and traveler, and is loving his adopted hometown of San Diego.