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Take It Easy (And Other Bad Ideas)

There are some seemingly harmless statements that I hate to hear people say. The message is bad, and believing them is a recipe for failure.

“Take it easy.”

How many people do you know that are working so hard that they need to “take it easy?” Most people would do better by taking it a lot less easy, by trying harder and designing and living a more fulfilling life.

Why you want to spend your life “taking it easy” when you could instead spend yourself in some worthy pursuit that stretches you? Who on their deathbed is going to say: “Wow . . . I wish I would have spent more time taking it easy?”

What do you get for “taking it easy?”

“Don’t work too hard.”

Who believes that “don’t work too hard” is really good advice? I cringe every time I here someone say it. Most of us don’t work in positions where it would even be possible to work too hard.

Are most of the people that you see producing results and making more of themselves trying not to work hard? The people that I know that are killing it are working their ass off. They straight up hustle.

Are you really working “too hard?”

“It’s not personal. It is just business.”

If you are making a decision that impacts another human beings life and livelihood, the action may be necessary, but it isn’t “just business” as far as they’re concerned. It feels personal to them, and if you care about people it should feel personal to you too.

It may help to remember that the rest of your team witnesses how you treat people, and you send the message that you don’t care about people when you treat them like means to an end. I don’t know why some people believe that caring about people and making tough business decisions are mutually exclusive. They’re not! In fact, they can’t be!

“I’m fine.” I’m okay.” I’m alright.”

You are doing quite a bit better than “fine,” “okay,” or “alright.” Why would you answer the question “How are you?” with something that makes it sound like you’re something less than you really are?

When people ask me how I am I say: “I am wonderful!” Why? Because I am wonderful. And I am grateful to be so. Sometimes I say, “I’m awesome!” Then, of course, since I said it, I actually have to be wonderful and awesome. It takes some effort to be wonderful or awesome, but it beats the heck of being “fine,” “okay,” or “alright.”

Something to think about.


What are some of the unhealthy language choices you hear people make?

What are some of the language choices that you make that aren’t as healthy of a choice as you might make?

What do you language choices say about you? About your beliefs? About your personal psychology?

What might you replace them with?

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  • miriamgomberg

    I agree that semantics help frame an outcome. You don’t accomplish much by being lazy, and not working your market/audience/customer.

    However, what motivates some, can deflate others. For example, I set high expectations on myself and because of that, I recently finished an MBA while working full time and taking care of a family. As a recent graduate, I find my motivation waning.

    How do I push myself to the next level? I spent the last few months being hard on myself, but it was more degrading than hard. My next steps seem nebulous and I need to tell myself the right thing. Any advice is appreciated. Miriam

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hey Miriam, 

      Congratulations! Killer accomplishment! 

      Maybe you could convert “I find my motivation waning” into “My next steps are clear. I am passionately sharing all that have learned to create value for my company and it’s clients.”
      Maybe: “With my MBA done, I am re-energized and ready to tackle a new and exciting challenge!”What say you? A

  • Dan Collins

    Excellent post. Self talk is a critical component of character and actions inevitably follow along the lines of what we convince ourselves. This topic is really important and many do not recognize how seemingly harmless asides, comments and humorous cast offs can determine the makeup of our mindset. TGIF, don’t work too hard, It’s almost quitting time and similar “I’m not where I want to be” statements only set the stage for us to avoid making the most of where we are when we are there. With that said I think it’s  more of a frustration for those who care about this than those who “laugh it off”.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      It’s true, Dan. 

      Too many people laugh this topic off. They believe it’s just “happy talk” and that it has no bearing on their life or their results. But really, it’s a window into their personal psychology. I am more then ever convinced that the difference between people who succeed and people who fail is their personal psychology. I also believe that changing the language changes the psychology! There are healthier choices, and we know that people like Victor Frankl (see Man’s Search for Meaning) have framed the most horrific experiences in empowering ways. 


  • AmyMccTobin

    Once upon a time I worked at a fabulous company where we all ‘worked harder,’ and it was always personal.  The President was fired, and the incoming President (whose reputation we all knew from our sister company) said to me during our second conversation “You work too hard.”  The message was clear: If you work hard and outshine ‘us,’ we’ll have to work hard and we don’t want to.

    Needless to say the company shrunk by 2/3rds and he was demoted.  I am self employed:)

    I work really hard, and I play really hard with my daughter, and I never, ever take it easy. 
    You are now in my top 3 favorite bloggers…;)

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      When I was a kid, I worked at a factory sealing nuts and bolts in little plastic bags. I don’t remember what the daily quota was, but I doubled it my first day. It brought a lot of positive attention from management, although that isn’t why I achieved the result. I was just working hard because it is who I am (even at 16). At lunch, all of the old timers cornered me to let me know it was going to turn out bad for me if I continued to work hard; I was making them look bad. 

      Fortunately, I was too dumb to be intimidated. I tried to rally them to break records. They decided that I must be some kind of idiot and that there was no helping me, so they left me alone. 

      As to your daughter, there is another area of life in which it’s a bad idea to “take it easy.” Full, passionate engagement is a much better choice when it comes to your kids!

      Thanks, Amy! 

  • Ajflint_99

    Love your page and your thoughts. [I used to be you] If I ever get back to being that awesome; I’m certainly not telling anyone. [Envy stung]  share the same type of story as Mariam, accept others degraded my ego, through sheer stupidity, or spite.

    • Aaron Flint

      You’re my top blogger; and I have alot who I: follow, comment for, and subscribe to.

  • Nicole Papaioannou

    I do understand that you’re trying to be motivational, but I think there is a danger in never taking it easy. Sometimes, when you work too hard, you burn out. Occasionally, you have to reward yourself with relaxation. I think adding “prioritize” to this list would help. 

    And I disagree that no one ever said they wished they took it easy on their death bed. I think lots of people wish that they worked less and spent more time on the things that really matter: family, relationships with others (romantic, friendships, etc.), their lifelong passions, etc.

    I do like your questions for self-reflection, though. I think considering your language use is quite valuable. For Lent this year, I gave up leaving negative/whining/complaining statuses on my Facebook and Twitter– no more pointless whining– and I think it has been a positive influence.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I disagree with the idea of rewarding yourself with rest and relaxation, Nicole. I believe that recovery is a critical part of the whole cycle. You recover so you can adapt to greater and greater levels of effort–and the accompanying results. It’s not a reward, it’s necessary! Vital even!

      And, making time for family, friends, and your other passions are also activities where you shouldn’t take it easy and where you should work hard. Why not invest the energy in passion you should in those relationships, instead of putting them on autopilot. 

      I take you point though, I did make it sound like it’s all about work (that is just my disease–workaholic–seeping into my work! 


  • Joe D.

    What an excellent post, Anthony. I’ve been around a lot of the “don’t work too hard” crew in my sales career. If you’re not aware, it can be easy to fall in the same trap. But I’ve always had the lessons of my immigrant grandparents and their peers to call up and fall back on. They worked like their lives depended on it, and then got up and did it again the next day.

    A lot of my co-workers are obsessed with Mondays (bad) and Fridays (good). I don’t care what day it is as long as I get a chance to get out of bed and have an opportunity to support my family and make a dent.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Your immigrant grandparents worked like their lives depended on it because it did! But then, so does ours! Make a dent! A big one!