Everyone likes a story. It’s a timeless way to learn and remember a concept, and this is a concept that you’ll want to remember.
I want to share with you one of my favourite business stories, which has completely changed my life and how I view business. It illustrates the concept of “Working smart, not hard”. This phrase has become used and abused over the years, that most people dismiss it as a cliche without giving it much thought or credit. But if you give it a chance, it might just save you from years of frustration and unfulfilled hard work.
I’ll paraphrase the story for you.
Once upon a time…
A great Egyptian pharaoh summons his two young nephews, Chuma and Azur, and commissions them to a monumental task: Build two massive pyramids as a tribute to Egypt. Upon completion, the pharaoh promised them kingship and riches for their remaining days. The only condition is that they must construct it without the help of anyone else.
Chuma and Azur are both young, ambitious, and up for the challenge.
Azur gets to work immediately. He drags heavy stones into a square formation, and in a few months completes the foundation of the pyramid. Townspeople cheer him on and commend his hard work.
But Azur is confused. When he looks over to where Chuma’s pyramid is supposed to be, he only sees an empty lot.
He goes to visit Chuma, only to find him working on a twisted apparatus that resembles some kind of a human torture device.
Azur says “Chuma, why aren’t you building your pyramid?! The Pharaoh might take this as disrespect and kill you!”
Chuma smiles back quietly and says “I am building a pyramid, leave me alone. Your short-sightedness and thirst for wealth have clouded your vision. You build your pyramid and I will build mine”
Another year passes and Azur is now building the second level of the pyramid, where he encounters a problem. As the pyramid gets taller, it is becoming increasingly difficult to carry the stones up. He hires Bennu, a local strong-man to teach him to be stronger.
As the pyramid gets taller, his toil gets harder. He continues to pay Bennu for his services, and Azur’s only consolation is that his pyramid is higher than his brother Chuma’s, which is still nonexistent.
One day, while Azur hauling a heavy stone up his pyramid, he hears a loud commotion erupting from the town square. He rushes over to see what is going on.
Surrounded by a cheering crowd, Chuma is commandeering a 25-foot contraption, a towering machine built from a twisted maze of gantries, wheels and levers.
Within minutes, Chuma’s strange machine starts moving heavy stones and begins to lay the foundation of his pyramid. The machine effortlessly lifts the stones and softly places them side-by-side into place.
Using his machine, Chuma completes the base of the pyramid in a week, and the second level within a month.
Azur was destroyed. But instead of building his own machine, he buckles down and trains even harder with Bennu, promising himself that he will not let Chuma beat him.
After a few years, Azur dies from physical exhaustion, leaving just two more levels to go to complete the pyramid.
Using his machine, Chuma retires 40 years early, and uses his riches and free time to become Egypt’s greatest scholar and accomplished inventor. He is buried in the same pyramid that he built.
This story comes from the book “The Millionaire Fastlane” by MJ DeMarco. I know, I know, the title of the book sounds ‘scammy’ at best. But trust me, you’re scamming yourself if you don’t read this book at some point. All you have to lose is $16.15 on Amazon.com anyway.
By now I’m sure you see the moral of the story. Simply working hard, ‘grinding’ and ‘hustling’ is important, but not enough to be productive in business and build financial wealth.
Going back to school and getting more degrees and qualifications is like Azur hiring Bennu to get more strength and nutritional coaching. It might make you more skilled and allow you to lift heavier stones for your employer, but it does not change the fundamental reality that you are working as a part of the system, not as an operator and owner of the system.
“Working smart” means building and leveraging systems. It might take a while to build and some may doubt you while you are in the process of building it, but far-sighted businesspeople and investors know that it is a much more worthwhile investment of your time and energy than trading your time for money.
A system maybe a business, or it maybe an asset. Regardless, it does most of the ‘heavy lifting’ for you when it comes to wealth generation. Although systems do require care and management, they generally do not require for you to be physically present to operate.
One of the best ‘systems’ to leverage in my opinion is real estate. Not only are you able to leverage capital from banks and other sources, but you are also able to leverage other people’s help to manage your properties, find opportunities and operate your business.
Coupled with equity build-up over the long term and consistent cash flow, it can be an incredible system to build wealth.
Other examples of ‘systems’ might be a traditional business like a restaurant (with personnel in place to operate without your full presence), a book that you’re written that is being sold through a publisher’s distribution ‘system’, or even a monetised website that you own. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
I read the “The Millionaire Fastlane” when I was university, and this story always stuck with me. It played a big part in shaping my decision to become a property investor and developer. I hope you take away from it as much as I did.
Both Azur and Chuma worked hard, but only Chuma worked smart.
How about you?
Director, Epic Property Investors Club