What does this sentence mean?

He is working fifty percent more on his job and fifty percent less in his job. He is 100% happier.

  • 2
    I don't understand the downvotes on this question. This is clearly a confusing cliché that depends on the distinction between "on his job" and "in his job."
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Nov 4, 2011 at 13:20

3 Answers 3


A popular phrasing among entrepreneurs distinguishes between working "on your business" and "in your business." For example, if you own a restaurant, working on your business includes marketing, hiring and firing, choosing suppliers, changing your sign, getting new furniture, joining an association, etc. Working in your business would mean cooking. Maybe setting the menu. It's a way to remind people they are the owner, not just an employee.

In that context, working on your job might mean politics and "managing up" or it might mean taking courses to fill in your knowledge gap, meeting your counterparts elsewhere in the business, reading about your industry and trends, going to user group meetings or industry events, golfing, going out to buy clothes that suit your role and so on. Working in your job would be writing code or issuing mortgages or whatever you are actually paid to do.

The percentages aspect of the sentence are a red herring - there's no particular meaning to the 50, 50, and 100. The important part is the in/on.

  • 1
    The 50-50-100 aspect is a pun on how percentages work. I agree that they are a red herring; they just happen to be a common red herring.
    – MrHen
    Nov 4, 2011 at 13:27
  • Thanks a lot dear Kate, it was very useful for me, so my English is terrible, How can I improve my skills in English?
    – Freeman
    Nov 4, 2011 at 15:47
  • Seems to me, @Mike, that you're doing just what you need to as far as improving your English is concerned. It is undoubtedly better than my grasp of your first language (which is probably non existent.) Nov 4, 2011 at 15:53
  • If the two prepositions on and in weren't being "wittily" juxtaposed in a single sentence like this, I think most people would have a hard time instantly recognising the semantic distinction. In most other contexts working in/on/at his job can be used interchangeably. Nov 4, 2011 at 15:59
  • @FumbleFingers I agree. For the original business sentence, it makes sense. For the job, far less so. I suspect the non-obviousness is listed as a feature by the original coiner. Nov 4, 2011 at 16:01

It has none that I can see.

  • 6
    shouldn't this be a comment on the question? Nov 4, 2011 at 12:21
  • The question was 'What is the meaning . . .?' and 'None' was my answer. Nov 4, 2011 at 12:26
  • fair enough I suppose Nov 4, 2011 at 12:27

With special thanks to dear Kate, I finally found the answer:

He spends less time at work, but the work he does helps the company more. (work on = improve)

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