Strugglers and Smugglers

This might be the most nonsense article I've ever written.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


The way I see it, there are Strugglers and Smugglers.

I’m not good at a great many things.

I’m ter­rible at sav­ing money. I’m also ter­rible at going to the gym reg­u­larly, stick­ing to strict diets, wak­ing up early, writ­ing on the same pro­ject every day, com­pil­ing time reports. The list goes on and on.

So what, you ask. Lots of people would say the same thing. 

Am I just anoth­er entitled asshole for not want­ing to do the things that I find to be boring? 

Or worse — am I just a slack­er who lives under the illu­sion that I’m some­how too spe­cial for mono­ton­ous work?

During one of my pro­cras­tin­a­tion ses­sions, I came up with this the­ory: there are Strugglers and there are Smugglers.

Let me explain:

Table of Contents

    Going Down the Rabbit Hole

    In my mind, a suc­cess­ful per­son is thriv­ing mainly due to their habits. They have an almost hero­ic amount of self-dis­cip­line, they have their eyes firmly fixed at their tar­gets, and they go after them fiercely yet patiently. One inch at a time.

    Successful people got their shit together.”

    Well, for 40 years now, I haven’t had my shit togeth­er at all.
    Does this make me, like, unsuccessful?

    At 40 years old, I’ve adop­ted a new way of look­ing at success.

    Here’s the rab­bit hole I decided to go down:

    I’m not actu­ally “unsuc­cess­ful.” But I cer­tainly don’t “have my shit togeth­er.” How does this work?

    Then, a little bit deep­er down the rab­bit hole:

    I struggle a lot, but for whatever reas­on, it’s as if the struggle with the struggle itself isn’t in my wheelhouse. 

    Then, a little bit deep­er down the rab­bit hole:

    It all seems very much like a Pareto prin­ciple thing: If I “struggle with the struggle” for 80% of my time, it still only yields 20% of the pos­it­ive results.

    Then, a little bit deep­er down the rab­bit hole:

    To get by, I do things to cope with every­day struggles, like writ­ing this blog. I always feel guilty about it, simply because it feels so good.

    Then, a little bit deep­er down the rab­bit hole:

    However, the things I do seem to yield 80% of the pos­it­ive res­ults. So, there we go with the Pareto prin­ciple again.

    And, at the bot­tom of the rab­bit hole:

    It seems that I should be doing less of what typ­ic­ally makes oth­er people more suc­cess­ful and more of what makes me more successful.

    What’s this all about? Why is everything counter-clock­wise down here?

    Strugglers and Smugglers

    Most suc­cess­ful people seem to be great Strugglers, yes. But maybe not all of them? 

    Maybe some suc­cess­ful people are suc­cess­ful for oth­er reas­ons rather than “hav­ing their shit together”?

    My hypo­thes­is is this:

    There might be a sub­set of suc­cess­ful people who can­’t help them­selves but focus on doing things that no one is ask­ing for right now. They sneak their stuff out in the wild to see what happens.

    Allow me to call them Smugglers:

    To smuggle is to ship a con­stant stream of nov­el con­tent, nov­el ideas, and nov­el solutions. 

    As opposed to the Strugglers:

    To struggle is to do all the things you’re sup­posed to do even though it’s hard.

    The Pareto Principle of Smuggling

    Since I encountered the Pareto prin­ciple down in that rab­bit hole, why not go all-in?

    Out of suc­cess­ful people, 80% are Strugglers, and 20% are Smugglers.

    We can­’t all struggle all the time, and we can­’t all smuggle all the time.

    Since Strugglers will get 80% of their res­ults from 20% of their struggles, they should find a bal­ance of 80% strug­gling and 20% smug­gling.

    Since Smugglers will get 80% of their res­ults from 20% of their smuggles, they should bal­ance 80% smug­gling and 20% struggling.

    Of course, this whole line of thought could be 100% nonsense.

    But what if there’s a hint of truth to this? 

    I’ve tried to shift from 80% struggle to 20% and do the oppos­ite for smuggling.

    And, I could­n’t be hap­pi­er about the results.

    The Benefits of Being a Smuggler

    By accept­ing myself as a Smuggler, I’ve encountered sev­er­al stag­ger­ing benefits:

    Since smug­gling, at least for me, yields 80% of the pos­it­ive res­ults, I now get sig­ni­fic­antly more and bet­ter results.

    I get so much energy from 80% smug­gling that the remain­ing 20% of strug­gling now feels like a sooth­ing breeze on a sunny day in the park.

    I’m now less hard on myself, which makes me hap­pi­er, which yields even more pos­it­ive results.

    Pretty cool, right? 

    This shift in mind­set, how­ever non­sensic­al, seems to be work­ing well for me. 

    How does it work daily?

    How to Smuggle Successfully

    Here are a few prac­tic­al examples of how smug­gling works for me:

    I find to-do lists suf­foc­at­ing, so I keep them to an abso­lute min­im­um. Instead, I use “have-done-lists” to doc­u­ment the things I ship dur­ing a day. The more I send because I want to, the more energy I get.

    If I feel down some­how, I take a break and cre­ate some­thing nov­el. For instance, a cli­ent could sud­denly get a white­pa­per with a detailed solu­tion to a prob­lem they did­n’t even know they had.

    I pair up with tal­en­ted Strugglers, people who get lots of energy from abso­lutely crush­ing their to-do lists but who might get anxious about uncer­tain­ties. We can share the load while boost­ing each oth­er with energy.

    I intro­duce nov­elty to oth­er­wise typ­ic­al struggle-type tasks. For instance, in the gym, I bring a note­book and chal­lenge myself to devel­op ten excit­ing ideas dur­ing every workout. 

    Could this idea apply to your life in any way?
    I hon­estly don’t know. 

    For sure, this could very well be the most non­sensic­al art­icle I’ve ever written. 

    Still, I just had to ship it.

    Update: I did a per­son­al­ity test called the Big Five Aspects Scale. Given my out­land­ish the­ory above, the res­ults sure was interesting.

    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

    The Cover Photo

    The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

    The cover photo has



    Subscribe to Spin Control—it’s 100% free!

    Join 2,550+ fellow PR lovers and subscribe to Jerry’s free newsletter on communication and psychology.
    What will you get?

    > PR commentary on current events.
    > Subscriber-only VIP content.
    > My personal PR slides for .key and .ppt.
    > Discounts on upcoming PR courses.
    > Ebook on getting better PR ideas.
    Subscribe to Spin Control today by clicking SUBMIT and get your first send-out instantly.

    Latest Posts
    Similar Posts
    Most Popular