High Performance Isn’t What You Think It Is

One of the most misunderstood concepts in personal development is high performance.

What does high performance mean to you?

Take a moment to answer that question.

To me, high performance means producing great results. To produce great results, I need to be productive.

What does productivity mean to you?

Again, take a moment to answer that question.

To me, productivity means output divided by input.

The Formula of Productivity

We can derive several conclusions from that formula.

We can increase our output by increasing our input and keeping our productivity constant.

That’s what most people understand from high performance. Do you want to increase your output? Increase your input. They make the assumption that your productivity will remain the same. This type of thinking can be summarized as “work hard.”

We can increase our output by increasing our productivity and keeping our input constant.

Some people realize that you can only increase your input to a limited level without sacrificing your productivity. There are only 24 hours on a day, and you need some sleep too. To increase your output, you need to improve your productivity. The motto of this type of thinking is “work smart.”

High Performance: Work Hard and Work Smart

Obviously, high performance involves working hard and working smart at the same time.

Believe it or not, working hard is the easiest part. Self-discipline is a muscle you can develop over time. The hardest part is to work smart.

Working smart, in other words increasing your productivity, requires innovation. Innovation requires taking a step back from your work. Looking at your processes from a higher level, detecting bottlenecks, and solving those bottlenecks.

Innovation requires taking a step back from your work.

You might need to replace some processes altogether. Sometimes, you’ll come across challenges to which you won’t have immediate solutions. In other words, you’ll bump across some roadblocks that you can’t overcome with hard work.

Solving those roadblocks requires reflection. Reflection isn’t working hard. When somebody observes you reflecting, they might think that you aren’t doing anything. You might as well believe that you aren’t doing anything, and be tempted to stop reflecting and start working hard again.

In some cases, you might need to stop working altogether and to rest so that “the answers come to you.” That means giving your mind the rest it needs to function properly again. But that doesn’t mean to distract yourself with the Internet or hanging out. It means doing nothing, and actually, it’s a hard thing to do in this day and age.


High performance requires working hard and working smart. Working smart requires increasing your productivity, innovation, and reflection. You can’t reflect while working hard.

Reflection involves getting into a relaxed state of mind and letting the answers come to you instead of actively pursuing them. Sometimes, you need to stop working altogether and rest your mind to make that happen.

That doesn’t mean distracting yourself with all kinds of other intense experiences. It means doing nothing and relaxing, which is harder than working hard.

Working hard is necessary for high performance, but if you avoid the working smart part of the formula, no amount of hard work will produce the results you’re aiming for.