The Advantage of Laziness

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California - February, 2003

Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired (Jules Renard)

Ever considered laziness an asset? Some of us may have! And rightfully so. In a recent conversation with a friend the subject of laziness came up. He stated that the only obstacle toward implementing a certain action right away could be the lack of finances. And I immediately added, "Or laziness." That's when he shifted my paradigm back into the positive perception of laziness I had carried with me for so long. He did that by pointing out that laziness could sometimes be an asset. He claimed that this very attribute was his main reason for continuously finding shorter, simpler ways to get things done. And I could not else but agree.

I suddenly remembered how often I had made the same statement before. Whenever someone complimented me for my aptitude in improving a process or procedure, I brushed it off with the truth: it happened because I was lazy.

And isn't this a wonderful way of making positive use of a trait that is usually perceived as negative? Have you ever thought of the fact that most inventions may have been credited to laziness? It's simple to picture: Someone has to do perform a task, but dreads the long, complicated process. He or she starts wondering if there is no easier way to get this baby fixed in a shorter time and with less effort. Next thing you know: and invention is born. A new, revolutionary device is developed, and the lazy body produced a creative solution to his problem. Conclusion: lazy people are creative.

Einsteinís math professor once called him a lazy dog; Edison was said to be lazy in dressing and in his personal life, but not in his thinking. And that may be the clue here. As Benjamin Franklin stated it: "There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies." And yes, there is a clear difference! The creative ones are the people who use their minds to accommodate their bodies. But then there are some people who use neither: they are too lazy to act and too lazy to think. They prefer to accept everything that's presented to them, as long as they don't have to think about it. These are the elements that prefer to lie around and have everything done for them, not worrying how, when or where it will happen. Those people may perhaps better be categorized as lethargic instead of simply lazy. However, elaborating on the issue of lazy thinkers could cause this article to descend into a culmination affecting some of the solid foundations of our society, from the long control of certain institutions, to the blind acceptance of existing theories until someone gets up and proves the opposite. But that would impinge on the lighthearted drift of this review, and perhaps infuriate some of the readers.

So, let's get back to the essence of our little topic. A website about great inventions that I recently visited was titled, "Have you ever heard the old saying; "Some people are so lazy that they will put out a tremendous effort just to have a machine or device that will do something automatically for them"? Curiosity, Fun, Laziness and Necessity are the main motivators of Invention." Another site generalizes this issue further by claiming, "Inventors are so lazy that instead of doing things in the usual manner, they come up with a way to achieve the most by doing the minimum." Well, that's exactly the point!

It is like one of the greatest writers of the 20th century expressed it: In her autobiography Agatha Christy, the mother of crime stories, exclaimed, "I don't think necessity is the mother of invention - invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble." Was she right!