Too Lazy to Fail

The fact of the matter isn’t that I get excited about pouring every waking hour I have into my work. The reality of the matter is that I’m simply too lazy to fail. I’m too lazy to commute into an office job. I’m too lazy to be willing to earn a living doing manual labor, like construction. I’m even too lazy to mow my own lawn. All of that adds up to a situation where I am too lazy to fail: as long as I want to avoid those types of work, I’ve got to well enough at other things to avoid them. Heck, I even have to succeed if I want to be in a financially comfortable position where I can pay someone else to push a lawn mower around my yard.

What Too Lazy to Fail Really Means

Most people assume that laziness is a fault. But if there wasn’t some value to laziness, we’d all still be walking everywhere rather than driving. We’d be adding up long strings of numbers by hand, rather than using a computer. We’d even still be copying out manuscripts by hand, rather than using printing presses. Laziness is often a virtue. It’s a virtue when laziness gives you a reason to find a better way to do things.

I’m not talking about shortcuts, here. Getting things done right the first time is crucial when you’re the right kind of lazy — redoing things because you tried to take a shortcut that didn’t work just makes for more work in the long run. I’m talking about looking for the tools that will make a process easier, looking for the ways to cut out bureaucracy and generally getting rid of the dreck that gets in our way.

The problem with most laziness is that it’s hard to see where a single act of laziness will make more work later. I’m regularly on guard against such situations, though: my laziness should mean an overall improvement in the time I have free. It also means that when I work, I’m spending time on stuff that I don’t mind doing (as opposed to spending it commuting or mowing).

When I Became Too Lazy to Fail

When I first discovered science fiction, I tore through everything Robert Heinlein ever wrote. He remains one of my favorite authors and there’s certain stories and chapters in his books that I revisit over and over again. One is the story of “The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail.” The story is just a rambling little aside about a boy who would do anything to get away from his parents farm: he joined the Navy, went to officer training and worked pretty hard, to the point that he retired as an admiral — all to get away from looking at ‘the south end of a mule.’ He did everything right the first time (after all, it’s more work to screw up), looked for efficient shortcuts in everything from flying airplanes to getting girls and generally seems to have put in a lot of effort to be lazy.

When I read this story in high school, it was like having an epiphany: it made too much sense. I’ve tried to organize my work over the years so that I, too, am too lazy to fail. That includes borrowing — I mean referencing — post titles from somewhat obscure science fiction books. What about you? Are you too lazy to fail?

Image by Flickr user Phaesia

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2 Responses to “ Too Lazy to Fail ”

  1. Willie Hewes says:

    Dunno, I think I might be just about lazy enough to fail. :/

    Being too lazy to fail still sounds like a lot of work, just… work away from a specific direction. Interesting way of looking at it though.

  2. Peter Taylor says:

    Well as an advocate of productive laziness I totaly agree with you

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