Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

e.e. cummings


“I’m a slave to my hatred of boredom.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


There is a difference between smart and smarter. That may sound obvious but I think it is important in this discussion.

In most of the world progress, or being smart, is defined by some outcome or achievement, i.e., what did you do today. In other words, output.  Smarter, on the other hand, is an input progress. What did I learn today that made me just a bit smarter? Input. Smarter often doesn’t have any immediate ‘output’ consequence just a nice intrinsic consequence, i.e., I am a bit smarter. My point is lots of smart people do smart stuff and produce a lot of smart things, but generally speaking, their output can only either (a) offer stable consistent value or (b) diminishing value. In other words, there is little lift in future value. They have specialized their craft <hence, ‘smart’>, tied it to output <execution well done> and will pound that particular smart nail into whatever wood you put in front of them. to be clear, once again, this has value.

Smarter is more focused on ‘better today than I was yesterday and better tomorrow than I am today.” It has less emphasis on doing and execution and more emphasis on learning.

That said. Smarter is actually about hard work. Smarter requires more than a surface ‘this is what I think’ tweet popular vote. If we really want to do what needs to be done to maximize meaning, we have to hunker down and work hard. Work hard in that we need to reassemble the present (knowledge) & rethink things by using all aspects including economic thought and philosophy and the past … all of which means dealing with ambiguity and contradiction.

And, yes, that is hard work. But it is the kind of work that hones the smarter insightfulness we need.

Instead of dumbing things down we need to be raising the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of a business which inevitably will lead a business to a higher level of ‘smartness’ which leads to a higher level of organizational efficacy <internally and externally>.

And while you may balk at something like ‘smarter’ as too far reaching, suffice it to say, we just need to be smarter, less ignorant, more enlightened <open to additional thoughts> and more involved in the difficult and uncertain work of demystification of business impact <and objectives> beyond profit and revenue and, well, just plain rethinking shit <and, yes, this can include doing and executional excellence>.

  • Simply talking about world-changing ideas will not simply make the world change. Changing the world takes work, really really hard work.

  • Simply having a positive attitude ain’t gonna work. Hard work will work. And in this case I mean hard thinking

  • Simply ‘doing’ aint gonna cut it. We need to be smarter. And whether you think about thinking this way or not, it ain’t about staring off into space doing nothing, thinking is a blue collar job. It’s about work.

Circling back to one of my opening quotes, ‘smarter’ makes work less boring and more engaging which, well, is certainly the pathway to more meaningful.

Which leads me to more specificity on meaning, smart and smarter.

As I stated earlier, smart has value. What that value means is that meaning is attached more tightly to output. And while that may sound mundane or every transactional, it can also offer a lot of tangible, easy to see, meaning to an individual. Their ‘transactions’ with their productivity <what they put into their work> simply needs to be extended to an external impact to tighten it to ‘meaning.’ I guess I would call this a more linear definition of meaning and a less esoteric version. And if I am correct on that, even of its value, it also makes it more fragile – extrinsic in its ‘survivable nature.’

‘smarter’ meaning is a bit different. It has some dimensions and is less linear in its nature. It makes it a tad bit squishier and has some intrinsic aspects. I would suggest it is a more robust meaning.

All of this matters. I would note that on both smart and smarter I have referred to ‘impact.’

Research shows a 400% increase in employee productivity after meeting just one person impacted by their work.  That’s one way <and an effective way>, but the point is you are seeking to not inject confidence or belief <some gamification of motivation to ‘push’>, but rather to encourage belief to emerge naturally <i.e., ‘pull’ motivation>. This is emergent motivation or intrinsic energy. It is believing in oneself and when you align it in believing in what you are doing AND aligning that with belief in the business vision and who and what the business is achieving, well, you have maximized the believing business.

I would also note a couple other things Zach Mercurio has stated about meaning:

  • 83% of people say meaning in work is a priority
  • Regularly show people how their work helps others
  • Connect people to the beneficiary of the work
  • Show people how they matter
  • Place contribution over achievement.


“Consent yourself to be an organ of your highest thought, and lo! suddenly you put all men in your debt, and are the fountain of an energy that goes pulsing on with waves of benefit to the borders of society, to the circumference of things.”



Look. I have purposefully used smart & smarter today because I worry the world, and business, is getting stupider on a daily basis. Ok. Not really. I imagine we are actually getting smarter every day, yet, the overarching public narrative just seems stupider every day. It’s just that it sometimes feels like smartness is whispering and dumbness <or ‘simplification’> is shouting. All of this dumbing down seems to center around complexity and simplicity. It just feels like because we increasingly understand the world is complex, we have increasingly become convinced simplicity is the key to, well, everything. The truth is almost all hope, and possibilities, and even meaning, resides in managing complexity (if not the complicated) and fear (including lack of risk) thrives on simplicity. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out meaning, itself, becomes quite brittle in a simplicity world.

Smart isn’t an absolute. Smart is not simple. Smart, and smarter, resides on a sliding scale of which there is no mean, medina or average. There are few 10’s and few 1’s and you can be an 8 on one topic and a 2 on another and ‘smart’ is not an average of them nor can you add or subtract them. I know I have said it before but the people who make it look easy, make it look easy because they invested a lot of hard work to make you think so. Smart, and smarter, is exactly the same.

Smartness demands you to work to gather knowledge and skills, sift thru it and understand it and apply it. but be aware. In today’s world smarter is harder than one would think. The world, in its quest to increasingly create more frictionless ways of circumventing thought and separating us from any random knowledge that could possibly prompt becoming smarter in combination with its relentless religion of ‘simplicity’ will fight ‘being smarter’ every step of the way. And maybe that is the grander point. Navigating that gauntlet enhances meaning.

In the end I believe smarter is worth the work and worth the meaning it offers. I believe we should be seeking ‘smart’ as a minimum. That is actually the solid foundation for higher value for a business and higher value meaning for an individual. But I also believe, whenever possible, we should be maximizing ‘smarter’. It more naturally ties to progress, learning organizations, continuous improvement and a more robust, less fragile, meaning. Ponder.


The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not obtained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Written by Bruce