August 27, 2016

Shhhh!

"Study Says Lazy People Are Smarter."

IN THE COMMENTS: rehajm said (efficiently): "Natural efficiency."

Tim Maguire said: "The smart people we've heard of aren't lazy." And by that, I assume he means that the smart and lazy people are being efficient by not drawing attention to themselves. The workplace is often administered by people who want to see that you're hard at work. The stupidest waste of time is looking busy, but it would be stupid to attract the supervision of somebody who will impose the requirement of looking busy when you have worked out ways of getting things done efficiently and want to benefit from your cleverness, not cede all the benefits to your overseer.

I have been in situations where a colleague will go on about how stressed out and terribly busy she is and assert that so are we all. The dead silence in a roomful of professors is ludicrous. You know damned well that many — I hope most — have figured out ways to work very efficiently and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the job. But no one with an eye on self-protection will stand up and admit to not being a workaholic. And so stressed-out, busy-busyness is the atmosphere that prevails because the ones who talk are the ones who haven't found the lazy-smart path (or they have and want to deny its legitimacy for some sadistic reason).

ADDED: I recommend "Essays in Idleness" by the Buddhist monk Kenko, "In Praise of Idleness" by Bertrand Russell, and "An Apology for Idlers" by Robert Louis Stevenson. That last one begins:
BOSWELL: We grow weary when idle.

JOHNSON: That is, sir, because others being busy, we want company; but if we were idle, there would be no growing weary; we should all entertain one another.

Just now, when everyone is bound, under pain of a decree in absence convicting them of lèse-respectability, to enter on some lucrative profession, and labour therein with something not far short of enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party who are content when they have enough, and like to look on and enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a little of bravado and gasconade. And yet this should not be. Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good a right to state its position as industry itself....
Gasconade... There's a word you haven't used in a sentence recently, I'll bet.

66 comments:

rehajm said...

Natural efficiency.

Humperdink said...

I tried reaching Professor McElroy this morning but his answering machine said to call back at noon.

Kate said...

Great. A lazyist. When will this discrimination and bigotry against deliberacy ever end?

Larry J said...

Larry's Secnd Law is "Laziness is the foundation of efficiency." Laziness is the driving force for much of engineering such as saving devics and increasing productivity. Give a job to a lazy guy and he'll find the fastest and easiest way to get the job done right the first time. Anything else is more work.

tim maguire said...

The smart people we've heard of aren't lazy.

ndspinelli said...

Go into any government workers office and you'll see this study is horseshit. Stupid and lazy. I coached baseball. I'll take a hard working player w/ average skills over a lazy, more talented player any time.

"Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Thomas Edison

Humperdink said...

I am thinking the good professor from Florida Gulf Coast University was a strategist for low energy Jeb. Didn't work out very well.

Jeff said...

I was going to write a long comment about this, but decided it wasn't worth the effort.

tim maguire said...

I especially liked the part at the end of this (short!) article where they likened laziness to physical disability.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

My problem is, I can never be sure where my laziness ends and my low grade, undiagnosable anxiety disorder begins.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

A quick spin on the internet tells me that there actually is such a thing as Procrastinators Anonymous.

Not quite sure why the need for anonymity.

Maybe it's a marketing gimmick.

Rusty said...

Blogger rehajm said...
"Natural efficiency."
Goddamn right.

JPS said...

One very smart person who claimed laziness was Admiral Spruance:

"I think that what success I may have achieved through life is largely due to the fact that I am a good judge of men. I am lazy, and I never have done things myself that I could get someone to do for me. I can thank heredity for a sound constitution, and myself for taking care of that constitution."

On his intellectual reputation: "Some people believe that when I am quiet that I am thinking some deep and important thoughts, when the fact is that I am thinking of nothing at all. My mind is blank."

FullMoon said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said... [hush]​[hide comment]

A quick spin on the internet tells me that there actually is such a thing as Procrastinators Anonymous.

Not quite sure why the need for anonymity.

Maybe it's a marketing gimmick.


Thanks for the info ! I am going to look into that, maybe next week, or the week after.

Sebastian said...

"savours a little of bravado and gasconade" Perish the pleonasm.

Johnson leaves the slight soupçon that he was not lazy when idle. Let us no equate the two, as he wouldn't have said.

And/or, as others implied upthread, it takes the right kind of laziness to get a lot done.

Humperdink said...

"I'm not lazy, I'm pacing myself".

The Neon Madman said...

From Heinlein, by memory (pretty observant guy): "All human progress is the result of lazy men looking for easier ways to do things"

Fernandinande said...

I'm too busy to work.

Quaestor said...

I love gasconade and use it frequently. Lately I've taken to hanging with golf freaks — men who can't keep a topic of conversation from straying into golf. (I don't play golf, so why they demand my company is beyond me.) Once the Peloponnesian War has been diverted to My Greatest Golf Lies (not having to do with the disposition of the ball, btw) the ensuing gasconade is breath taking, one even claims to have given lessons to Phil Mickelson. I just sit back, contemplate my beer, and murmur Comme on en prête aux Gascons.

FIYU gasconade doesn't rhyme with lemonade.

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaestor said...

FIYU??? huh I swear t typed FYI!! It's Safari exercising its antipathy again! Nothing Gascon about me, no sir!

chuck said...

That doesn't apply to Isaac Newton, workaholic and inventor of the cat door and ridged coin edges. Nor to Carl Friedrich Gauss, perhaps the best mathematician ever. Those guys were not only super smart, they worked their butts off.

EDH said...

And so stressed-out, busy-busyness is the atmosphere that prevails because the ones who talk are the ones who haven't found the lazy-smart path (or they have and want to deny its legitimacy for some sadistic reason).

Either that, or they have learned... The George Constanza Method.

"Yeah, you do! He looks very busy!"

John said...

Amen, Neon.

I make a pretty good living teaching people to be lazy based on Heinlein's slogan. The exact quote is "All progress is made by a lazy person looking for an easier way". It comes from his story "The man who was too lazy to fail" in his book Time Enough For Love

A similar quote is from Walter Chrysler of car and building fame: "Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it."

More on my thoughts here http://changeover.com/lazymanufacturing.html

and here http://www.packagingstrategies.com/articles/83957-machinery-matters?v=preview

I teach people involved in manufacturing, operators, techs, inspectors, supervisors, managers etc that the way to get more output is to constantly be looking for an easier way to do their jobs. Eliminate unnecessary tasks, do it right the first time (Precision) simplify and so on.

You can generally tell when I've been in a plant. You will see people, plant manager on down, wearing my "BE LAZY!" buttons.

John Henry

Bruce Hayden said...

@Questor - Not so sure that it is Safari, as much as Apple's spell check. I have horrible problems under IOS with Chrome. At least when I unfold the top line of the keyboard, I can see what it is planning to do. But, then, the one thing I am fast at is typing, and that means that I inevitably miss the spelling suggestions that it then implements. Some days, I think it might be better to just turn it off.

John said...

Re the Costanza method:

That is something I learned in the Navy aboard ship. Whenever I would come up from the engine room to have a smoke on deck some chief would yell at me to get to work.

A more senior skater told me the trick was to always have something in my hand, a bucket, a big wrench, some rags and look purposeful. Also to act dumb. "Where are you going?" "Over there" "Why?" "Huh?" (showing the bucket as if it were self-evident)

You could get away with a lot if you actually looked like you were doing something.

John Henry

John said...

Just noticed that I misquoted Heinlein. It is actually by "...by a lazy man..." I changed it to person in my work because I work with a lot of women and I want them to be lazy too.

John Henry

The Neon Madman said...

John Henry -

Cool that you remember it, too.

Bonus points to our hostess if she finds the Dylan reference.

Sydney said...

And so stressed-out, busy-busyness is the atmosphere that prevails.

Heh. Now I finally have an explanation for the busy atmosphere that prevailed in a very small rural town where I once lived. People were always rushing around and saying how busy they were, and I always thought to myself, "Busy doing what? Watching the grass grow?"

traditionalguy said...

Gasconade is back again, and his name name is Trump.

virgil xenophon said...

The basis for all of this is a 1933 quote by German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord who broke personnel down into four basic types: (1) Clever and lazy--the most desirable as they will be sure to find the most efficient/effective way to accomplish any task. (2) the next most desirable, the bright and energetic. One makes these types staff officers to type 1 officers; (3) the stupid and lazy which can be used for menial tasks as they are too lazy to do much organizational damage, and (4) the most dangerous of all which must be got rid of asap, the stupid and energetic, there being no end of organizational trouble they can accomplish.

Paco Wové said...

"Study Says Lazy People Are Smarter."

I suspect that's not what the study says, but whoever wrote up that little news itemlet is too thick to realize it.

Then again, given how correlations are abused in most social and medical research, maybe the study does say that. (Of course, being an Althouse commenter in the purest vein, I'm not going to actually deign to read the linked piece.)

It seems much more likely that smart people don't waste time with unproductive busyness. I see this sort of thing at work with depressing regularity – people doing lots and lots of work, which they could do just as well, or better, and much faster and with less effort if they would only alter the processes slightly and automate them. But they won't, unless forced by external circumstance.

"the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class" ... what a great phrase. I must try to work it into conversation this weekend.

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Re: "Looking busy" my Father, in coaching two collegiate team sports (football and basketball) over a 30 year period believed in intense, but short practices, rather than dragging affairs out as most practices do. This approach is also one advanced by some critics of Army training who advocate letting lower ranks participate in leadership planning and conducting high-tempo training exercises followed by lots of free time off--as opposed to the day-by-day, drip, drip, drip training that currently characterizes much of Army life.

buwaya puti said...

The value of laziness is a very class-determined thing.
A man of property, of independent means, a gentleman, the sort of fellow S.Johnson spoke of, thats one thing. It is a right and proper thing to be a man of leisure, especially so if the means are inherited, and there was no scrabbling for wealth involved.
Arguably government was meant for such fellows as a hobby. All these lean and hungry careerists spoil it, especially so those who intend to get rich thereby. A country-gentleman with no stake in most matters brought before him has the freedom to come to dispassionate judgement, the liberty to be educated by other than "professionals", the amour-propre to value his own common-sense above fashions, and the security to be generous to all.
A man of leisure without means, however, is nearly a criminal, an inconvenient character who bears watching.

Paco Wové said...

The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
  — Larry Wall

virgil xenophon said...

Paco Wove, as usual, doesn't disappoint..

David Smith said...

Paco Wové beat me to posting the Larry Wall quote, but having expended the effort to scan the comments I'll just say, roger that.

virgil xenophon said...

"A man of leisure without means..." i.e., a "ne'er do well" to use a slightly now archaic term..

Big Mike said...

Gasconade... There's a word you haven't used in a sentence recently, I'll bet.

You'd win your bet.

How many of us have read Cheaper by the Dozen? By that I mean the 1948 book centered on life in the home of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, two of the first efficiency experts in the United States, if not the world. I explicitly do not mean the 2003 Steve Martin film abomination. As an efficiency expert one of Frank Gilbreth's tricks when he came to a factory under a contract to study ways to improve its efficiency was to ask the managers for the identity of the laziest employee at the plant. He would then film that person extensively because the laziest person was often the person who put the least effort into and did the fewest motions to accomplish a task.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Laziness indeed is underrated. But it depends on what I am thinking about.

When writing my logic book, what matters is not so much at first not believing in wrong definition (say by looking at things in the wrong generality or in a second-rate manner), but using the wrong definition in later thoughts and arguments so much that I get in the habit of doing things the wrong way. Once one gets in the habit of thinking of things in the wrong way, especially in a fundamental subject such as logic, it can be very difficult to later think clearly about how to do things the right way. For instance, parsing, like everything else, I wanted to do in almost exactly the right way as much as I can see. But basically at first I tried to do things in terms of operators defined at all terms, when I should have used operators that are not defined on all terms. Because I wanted to be exact, I did the subject precisely but in wrong way I ultimately decided. And so I find now it is very difficult and laborious to with ease expound upon parsing done the right way. I wasn't lazy enough at the beginning, and now I have to pay the price (to encourage forgetfulness I am leaving off that part of my book for near the last). I'm glad, though, that when trying to get my doctorate in math I didn't concentrate on logic, notwithstanding that's probably what I was best at in math. So much is done in terms of semantics, the foundations of which are so totally messed up I am hesitant to say that subject even deserves a word, if I had ever (like someone striving to be not lazy) gotten into the habit of thinking about all that the wrong way, it would have greatly reduced my ability to think about the foundations of logic coherently. It takes time to examine one's feelings properly, and I am glad both that I trusted my feelings that there were better ways of proceeding and that I mostly didn't try to come at understanding those feelings too rashly.

Something that occurred to me a few weeks ago is that it might be preferable to define things so that there there might should be a distinction or some sort between what seems right and what seems beautiful. What is right perhaps should be defined so it doesn't depend on whether it feels right, whereas what is beautiful seems to depend on it feeling beautiful. It's easy to just forget that feeling something is beautiful is beautiful in itself (e.g., as developing a better intuition about the beautiful), yet those consequences of a behavior that exist outside of one's head are at times useful to be considered in isolation. At least for me, it feels mostly better to concentrate on behaving beautifully--I'm more afraid of being too robotic and removed from my feelings about what is beautiful.

People of course should be very lazy when in cat mode.

When seeking justice, slowness and lack of enthusiasm are good, especially when dealing with cold cases. But I have decided it's a fair amount different from laziness, though. When I am chasing after serial killer(s), trying to figure out what happened, I try to be without enthusiasm and slow that way, but I can be very (I suppose non-lazily) relentless and methodical about it, and that seems quite right, yep. A little like a bear galloping slowly mile after mile after mile chasing down whatever. Or perhaps like a coyote or wolf. Or perhaps more accurately, (ideally) slow-looking like a bear yet with a canid pointed bouncelessness. Or something like that.

When solving heinous crime, I feel it wise to concentrate on the haunting and to embrace the virtue of being haunted by it.

Best as I see it now and can describe in one sentence, cats tend to be pouncers because if unpleasant surprises are pleasant surprises, with pouncing the females can better protect themselves from males (very wrongly) forcing them to kill things.

Love of laziness or part of laziness should not mean that one shouldn't be careful to avoid addiction or its effects, using a will, enthusiasm, or a determination to be very rational if necessary

tim in vermont said...

Throw in an idea every so often that your boss can sell for real money, and that keeps the worker bees humming along, and you would be amazed at how much insolent idleness will be tolerated. The trick is to work for people who know a good idea when they see it.

tim in vermont said...

The biggest problem with communism is that it really doesn't have a way to reward smart lazy people. "To each according to his 'needs'? Who decides what people need? "From each according to his ability." If you are going to pay a smart person the same, he's going to take a street sweeping job so he has time to think and maybe make art. The people who rise will be the ones motivated by power.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Duh.

And it just illustrates the sheer stupidity of right-wingers who actually believe that a CEO who makes 204 times, on average, his median worker rate is actually working 204 times harder.

Humperdink said...

What a relief, I thought maybe "Fat, dumb and happy" might no longer be an operative phrase.

Fernandinande said...

Rhythm and Balls said...
And it just illustrates the sheer stupidity of right-wingers who actually believe that a CEO who makes 204 times, on average, his median worker rate is actually working 204 times harder.


Nobody believes that. Well, maybe those stupid right-wingers in your head.

Fernandinande said...

Idiotic MSM article says "We already know about the benefits of exercise, but now there may be an upside to being lazy" implying being lazy will make you smarter. Based on that sentence I'd bet the writer is a real busy-bee.

Here's the paper: "The physical sacrifice of thinking: Investigating the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life"

Take a wild guess which word does not appear in the paper?

"We examined whether the trait of “need for cognition” was associated with daily physical activity levels. We recruited individuals who were high or low in need for cognition and measured their physical activity level in 30-second epochs over a 1-week period. The overall findings showed that low-need-for-cognition individuals were more physically active, but this difference was most pronounced during the 5-day work week and lessened during the weekend.
...
All participants were undergraduate students at Appalachian State University."

Which mostly invalidates any findings: "They found that people from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies — who represent as much as 80 percent of study participants, but only 12 percent of the world’s population — are not only unrepresentative of humans as a species, but on many measures they’re outliers."

Yancey Ward said...

Yes, the smart people you have heard of are not lazy. It takes great intellectual feats to become known, and hard effort will always be a part of those kinds of achievements. However, your everyday unknown geniuses are almost surely going to be those who have found a way achieve the things they need and want with the absolute minimum of effort.

I think, to state this better- there are smart, ambitious people and smart, unambitious people- the latter only seem lazy to those who have no choice but to strive hard for the same level of success.

Humperdink said...

Rhythm and Balls said...
And it just illustrates the sheer stupidity of right-wingers who actually believe that a CEO who makes 204 times, on average, his median worker rate is actually working 204 times harder.

Frenadidnande responded: "Nobody believes that. Well, maybe those stupid right-wingers in your head."

Just shake my head at R&B's drivel. Who believes this? No one. Who said this? No one. Who thinks this? No one. Prolly read it the Nation ragazine.

Fernandinande said...

Yancey Ward said...
Yes, the smart people you have heard of are not lazy.


The actual article, not the MSM trash, doesn't address or measure intelligence or cognitive ability.

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Paco Wové said...
"Study Says Lazy People Are Smarter."
I suspect that's not what the study says, but whoever wrote up that little news itemlet is too thick to realize it.


You are 100% correct. Unfortunately it's quite typical of the MSM, whose purpose is to sell advertising, so I try to find the original papers.

Freeman Hunt said...

One very smart person who claimed laziness was Admiral Spruance:

"I think that what success I may have achieved through life is largely due to the fact that I am a good judge of men. I am lazy, and I never have done things myself that I could get someone to do for me. I can thank heredity for a sound constitution, and myself for taking care of that constitution."

On his intellectual reputation: "Some people believe that when I am quiet that I am thinking some deep and important thoughts, when the fact is that I am thinking of nothing at all. My mind is blank."


On the sole basis of these quotes, I instantly like this person.

tim maguire said...

Hi Prof., thank you for throwing me into the piece. What I had in in mind are the achievers--the people who change things, create things, leave the word different than they found it. Most or all are smart, and I'd be surprised if more than a few (or none) are lazy.

I picture the smart lazy people as drifting along, doing enough to not get fired, but not enough to accomplishing anything worth noting. They are the ones who are not missed when they are gone.

MayBee said...

The Idler. One of my favorite (favorite) places in London.

Harold said...

In my previous job, there were a number of things that had to be done on a regular basis, some time consuming. For example, changing all the v-belts on outside fans took 2 man days of work. When I got there, it was being done 4 times a year, winter, spring, summer, and fall. I convinced the purchasing agent to buy v-belts that cost twice as much, but lasted slightly more then 12 months rather then about 3. Cut out 6 man days of work per year. Cut total belt cost in half, by buying more expensive belts. And stopped climbing ladders in snow and ice to change belts. Did that to a number of other maintenance items, bringing total cost down and reducing my workload by buying more expensive items that lasted longer; in some cases- much longer. I was accused of being lazy because I didn't work as hard as the previous job holder. My reply was: "My goal is to get equipment reliability to the point that all I need to do is walk around once a day and check on it."

Huge amounts of time and reasonable amounts of money can be saved by using better materials. There's a saying in construction that applies to a lot of life activities. "Fast, good, cheap. Pick any two."

Freeman Hunt said...

I picture the smart lazy people as drifting along, doing enough to not get fired, but not enough to accomplishing anything worth noting. They are the ones who are not missed when they are gone.

I bet the people they knew, friends and family they probably had time for, miss them a lot!

Big Mike said...

And it just illustrates the sheer stupidity of right-wingers who actually believe that a CEO who makes 204 times, on average, his median worker rate is actually working 204 times harder.

Considering that a good CEO adds much more than 200 times as much value to his firm than an average worker, I'd say that his salary is a bargain.

I picture the smart lazy people as drifting along, doing enough to not get fired, but not enough to accomplishing anything worth noting. They are the ones who are not missed when they are gone.

And other smart "lazy" people actually accomplish a lot because they live a more balanced life and get more rest. Some of the hardest-working people I've ever worked with were also among the least productive, partly because they were forever reinventing wheels ("not invented here") and partly, I surmise, because they were perpetually tired.

Big Mike said...

FWIW, good bosses out in the real world understand that measuring how hard a subordinate works is easy to do, but a huge mistake. What one has to measure is how much each person accomplishes, and that isn't always a simple matter.

Ambrose said...

Of course the lazy aren't going to comment...

tim maguire said...

Freeman, but that has nothing to do with whether they are smart or lazy. It also assumes that, by "gone," I mean dead. Which is not the case.

tim maguire said...

Big Mike, name me one lazy person who accomplished "a lot."

walter said...

Jeff said...
I was going to write a long comment about this, but decided it wasn't worth the effort.
__
Brilliant! At least via deductive reasoning..
I think using professors or the public sector generally is a bad place to start with this discussion.
Although..I have a niece who is a newly minted physics prof asked to teach her class with no guidelines or passed down curriculum. She appears to be quite busy now. It ain't always easy constructing a dominion from scratch.

The Gold Digger said...

That is something I learned in the Navy aboard ship. Whenever I would come up from the engine room to have a smoke on deck some chief would yell at me to get to work.

Hence the sign on the USS Missouri, "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

Big Mike said...

@tim, Albert Einstein. He was so lazy he refused to use shave cream because it would mean keeping track of two different kinds of soap. (True story; you could look it up.)

Freeman Hunt said...

Freeman, but that has nothing to do with whether they are smart or lazy. It also assumes that, by "gone," I mean dead. Which is not the case.

I'm sorry, Tim. I thought you meant that they were not missed because they didn't do anything memorable or world changing. My mistake.

Martin said...

In the German Army from about 1900 until WW2, it was understood that:

Smart and energetic people made good staff officers; they would work intelligently and hard to get the details right.

Stupid and lazy people were useful for many things, if you could motivate and direct them.

Smart and lazy people were often the pool from which came the top commanders--they were used to thinking fast, with limited information, and had good people skills.

Stupid and energetic people were a menace and had to be removed before they did great damage.

See the last paragraph in:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord