Monday, August 17, 2009

Are You Lazy?

Do you think you're lazy? If so, do you think you've paid much of a price for it?

When I think back on my 3,000+ career counseling clients and my successful and not successful friends and colleagues, it's clear to me that the #1 factor in success is focused drive: the willingness to work hard and be focused, not dabble around.

Whether in trying to land a job or succeed in one, unlike in Hollywood portrayals, the hard worker usually prevails. Of course, sometimes despite hard work, one fails, but focused drive usually is necessary.

For example, when I give talks to unemployed people and ask them to raise their hand if they're a procrastinator, 80 to 90% do. When I ask the same question of a group of successful people, for example, executives or college presidents, only 10-20% do.

So if you're a procrastinator or blame your laziness on therapist-concocted excuses like "fear of failure," "fear of rejection, "fear of success," or that you've been mistreated as a child or adult, I implore you to force yourself to prioritize work: Be aware of the moment of truth when you're deciding, usually unconsciously, whether you're going to work or play, whether you're going to dabble in something new yet again or have the discipline to become an expert in something.

If you're not motivated to work hard by the need for money or status, perhaps you'll be motivated by this: I've found, over those 3,000 clients and countless colleagues and friends, that, especially among bright people, the people who are most content with their lives, who feel they've lived the life well-led, are usually not people who have prioritized fun or family over work. They are people who work hard and focused so they can become to be the go-to guy or go-to women in their career--whether it's clerk or CEO.


PCD said...

I agree completely with your points about successful people being focused and hard working, but two things I wanted to mention:

1.) What if focus and drive are genetic traits that we can't significatnly change (as Bryan Caplan suggests If so, one would likely be worse off spending their lives beating themselves up to about their laziness.

2.) Regarding this statement:

"On average, the people who are most content with their lives, who feel they've lived the life well led, are NOT people who have striven for balance let alone prioritized fun or family over work."

I believe meaningful, flow state work is a big factor in determining a person's happiness and contentment, but relationships play just as big a role if not bigger (in my opinion). Examine the interesting Harvard study described in George Vaillant's book "Aging Well" (or the Atlantic article on it here

My personal experience has led me to believe that many people who don't find work/life balance end up resembling the character Sammy Glick, the model of discontentment (or perhaps it's their inner dicontentment that lead them to work so hard to begin with).

Marty Nemko said...

Worthy points all, PCD. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"On average, the people who are most content with their lives, who feel they've lived the life well led, are not people who have prioritized fun or family over work."

I'm really curious: is there a study you're citing here? It really does sound like there is, and I apologize if you've cited the study before.

Marty Nemko said...

Thanks for asking, Anonymous. It's merely anecdotal but borne of a lifetime of clients and my, in social situations, asking people about their worklives, etc. Of course, there are exceptions, but in my experience though, it's clearly valid. Politicians when leaving public office may claim they're doing so to spend more time with their family but it's usually disingenuous. They only say that because they know it plays in Peoria.


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