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January 5, 2017

The Benefits of Lazy Intelligence

Lazy Intelligence: Does it Exist?

lazy intelligence
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Next time someone calls you lazy realize they may be paying you a compliment. There is something called lazy intelligence which seems like such an oxymoron. If you doubt the existence of lazy intelligence perhaps this quote from General Erich von Manstein who served as a German commander during the Second World War will convince you otherwise.

There are only four types of officers. First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm ….. Second, there are the hard-working intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered. Third, there are the hard-working stupid ones. These people are a menace and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody. Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office. 

Von Manstein’s quote has been simplified into the Von Manstein Matrix seen here below.

the benefits of lazy intelligence

Different Types of Laziness

Laziness gets a bad rap. There are actually benefits to being lazy. There are different type of laziness, too. There is lazy lazy or what might be called couch potato lazy. And, there is what I call industrious laziness which would be akin to von Manstein’s lazy intelligence.

Are you lazy? I am. For as motivated and achievement driven as I am, I am actually quite lazy – both lazy lazy and industrious lazy.

Lazy Lazy

I am lazy lazy when it comes to small mundane things that have no bearing on the outcome of my life. For instance, I avoid doing things that seem to return little for my effort – like cooking. I’m glad others like to cook, but to spend 30 plus minutes preparing a meal that is eaten in 10 minutes seems unproductive to me.

The few times I have cooked I’ve been known to prepare a three course meal just using one pot or pan and one fork or spoon because I don’t want to have to wash a bunch of dishes, pots, and pans.

If I were single I would eat out for every meal (even though that would take more time – driving to the restaurant and waiting to be served) with the exception of perhaps breakfast. I can pour a mean bowl of cereal, and if out of milk, I am content to eat it dry using my fingers, but sometimes using a spoon if I want to feel sophisticated.

There is no way I’m driving to the store just for milk. And, by the way, there is a reason you pour milk over cereal. Water, orange juice, Coke, and beer don’t work. I have tried them. Carbonation, though, does give an extra snap, crackle, and pop to Rice Krispies.

But, here is what does work in a pinch if you find yourself out of jelly. A peanut butter with lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich. It’s not as bad as it might sound. And, that is what laziness does – it gets you thinking outside the (cereal) box and be creative by making do with what you have.

I have never made a pot of coffee. I don’t know how, because I don’t drink the stuff so I never learned. I have never had a cup of coffee. (Though recently at an A4M conference I did sample – about 4 sips – some Bullet Proof coffee which is supposed to curb your appetite and on which I will be writing an article.)

And, quite honestly my wife has never asked me to do it, either. She knows I probably would do a half-ass job of making it. And, she would be right. That’s my way of getting out of doing things I don’t want to do – do it poorly.

I don’t even know where to find somethings in the kitchen, yet.

I just assume wear slightly damp clothes than put them in the dryer – because putting them in the dryer actually takes a little effort and patience. I figure damp clothes will dry on my body in as much time as at will take to dry adequately in the dryer so why spend (waste) time waiting for dryer to dry them?

And, by the way. A clothes dryer seems to be the least useful appliance we use. I never met a pair of jeans that would not dry given enough time. Things won’t get washed on their own – dishes or clothes. But, everything will eventually dry on its own. And, how much of this clothing that you just spent drying and folding are you going to immediately wear that it requires rapid drying? If you are on a budget – a clothes dryer you can do without. But, I regress.

Rarely do I move anything off my side of the bed when I sleep – too much effort unless it’s my son’s tuba – which surprisingly has yet to happen. But if I am really honest, and if I were to find his tuba on our bed, I would just sleep on the floor. Doing so would take less effort.

I just sleep around the object on the bed whether it be a book, gym bag, clothes hanger, my wife’s reading glasses, or her cell phone with some Danish Netflix movie playing on it. I might nudge it slightly out of my way, though.

And, I don’t take time to get pillows, sheets, and blankets in order. I like a messy nest. Getting everything in order takes too much time. I don’t go to bed until I’m tired. And, when I’m tired I am tired and I want to fall asleep as fast as possible. I’m usually asleep in less than five minutes and usually much sooner. And, I can sleep in any position I can contort by body into.

I will use pillows for blankets and blankets for pillows – whatever is more convenient at the time and feels most comfortable that night. If a blanket is near my head, it becomes a pillow. When I wake up it looks like a tornado hit the bed. Everything is catiwompass or discombobulated. For me that’s a sign of a good night’s sleep.

And, while this may be TMI. I don’t have one pair of pajamas. Wearing pajamas seems like such an old man thing, or a Mike Brady thing. Gym shorts and t-shirts ae my usual attire (you were probably thinking something else, weren’t you?) as it saves me time getting dressed on those days I workout in the morning. I will drag a wet comb through my hair and brush my teeth, but that is the extent of any grooming before a workout. I’m just going to get all sweaty anyway. Why spend time going through the bathing and grooming thing twice?

I think all this lazy laziness has made me a more malleable “go with the flow” type person.

Let’s move away from lazy and move towards industrious lazy.

Industrious Lazy

BUT, I am industrious lazy when it comes to bigger issues that matter and that affect the quality of my life and career. In that regard much of my day operates around efficiency – getting the most done and done well in the least amount of time. Some people may call that “taking short cuts.” I call it being smart. Work smarter, not harder. If I see something taking four steps to complete I will try to figure a way to do it well in three. Better yet, I will try to find someone to do it for me.

Early in my residency training one of my attending (supervising) physicians said “a doctor should only do those things that only a doctor can do.” This may have been one of the best pieces of advice I received.

By this he meant a doctor should never do a task that another person in the office can legally and ethically perform … that a doctor should perform only those tasks that only a doctor can perform. It is very good advice that applies to all fields and occupationsThat right there is a key component of lazy intelligence – delegating tasks. And, that is what good generals do.

Unfortunately, all these electronic health record systems (EHR) have turned doctors into clerical workers. We spend much of our time now ordering labs and tests and coding things – tasks that office staff can do. An increasing amount of a doctor’s time is now spent doing non-doctor tasks – which does not improve patient care. How inefficient.

Industrious laziness is the type of laziness that says, “There has to be a better way of doing this.” It is the laziness that looks for more efficient methods for doing something. It’s the type of laziness that leads to invention and innovation and is the energy behind much of the technology we all enjoy today.

I’m waiting for the day where you take what is in your head and blink … and poof … it shows up on the computer screen. And, one day that will probably happen.

But, enough of me. What do studies show?

Qualities of Lazy People

Let’s now look at some qualities of lazy people.

Industrious Laziness or Lazy Intelligence

People with industrious laziness have several beneficial qualities. Among them are the following:

  • Creativity
  • More productive and efficient
  • Forced focused focus
  • Better sense of the bigger issues of life

Recently, I read a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. Creativity is intelligence having fun. 

Mental downtime stimulates creativity. We experience the eureka moments when our minds are idle. Newton did not discover gravity standing at a blackboard, assuming he even had on in those days, solving mathematical equations. He discovered it daydreaming under an apple tree.

Many of my eureka moments happen right before waking up. In fact, they tend to wake me up. Or, they occur on walks, but rarely during strenuous exercise.

Ingenuity encompasses creativity. Ingenuity is frequently described as the quality of being clever, inventive, or resourceful. I think it is far more important to be ingenious than a genius. Ingenuity and genius are not mutually exclusive. One can be or have both. But, ingenuity leads to progress and development. Genius many times is stagnant. We all know people who know nearly everything, yet struggle in life.

Lazy people tend to be more focused when they do act. Their minds are not cluttered and they can be more attentive when called into action.

Laziness many times leads to reflection –  a necessary act that enables us to put a situation into proper perspective allowing us to see the big picture. It is impossible to reflect and ponder when your mind is actively engaged on other tasks.

Laziness also can make us more productive which seem counter intuitive. But, it is actually possible to do more by doing less. How you might ask? But tapping into the skills and knowledge of those around you. Each of us is only person and there is a finite number things any of one of us can do by ourselves. We discussed this in Help Me Do This All By Myself.  Having the ability to tap into the skills of others is why C students many times do well in life. This skill – to tap into the skills of others – requires delegation. Delegation is a quality of lazy intelligence.

Lazy Laziness

Lazy laziness or couch potato laziness can also beneficial. Couch potato lazy people tend to have the following:

  • Less anxiety
  • Tendency to be clever

Lazy lazy people tend to have less anxiety. Anxiety leads to stress which can be unhealthy when it becomes chronic. And, occasionally problems solve themselves when left alone or at least left alone long enough. Cleverness sometimes carries a negative connotation, but I equate cleverness to inventive and resourcefulness.

Outwitting someone is another form of cleverness. Let the other guy buy the pretty girl the drinks and when he starts getting obnoxious rescue her and save the day. And ……

Listen and let others render their opinions first. Then say something brief, all-encompassing, and thought provoking that gets to the core of an issue. Put all of their answers or solutions into proper perspective and try to do it in a sentence or two stating the big picture as in the following.

“I think what everybody has been trying to say the past two years is …. we need a new offensive coordinator – someone creative, knows how to use the whole field, not afraid to take chances in big games, and who can develop young quarterbacks.” Bingo. You will look like the genius in the room. You simply articulated the situation better, got to the heart of the issue, and provide a viable solution. You just outwitted the others.

Wit and Lazy Intelligence

Speaking of wit, witty people tend to have a healthy dose of lazy intelligence. Here’s a question to ponder. Can someone be witty without being intelligent?

Driving home one Friday night after covering a high school football game while living in Dallas (see Memories: My Experiences with Dallas High School Football). in the fall of 2000 during the presidential campaign I was listening to a radio talk show and the host, Dennis Prager was discussing George W. Bush’s intelligence, or lack thereof, with his guest. He argued that Mr. Bush was more intelligent than he was given credit for. He did go to Yale, after all.

He said, there is a fool-proof way to know if someone is intelligent or not. Are they witty?  He said one can be intelligent without being witty (Al Gore), but one cannot be witty without being intelligent. And, Prager felt Bush was very witty.

Now good decisions do not necessarily follow intelligence. Making good decisions is called judgement and is a separate quality from intelligence. We all met smart people who do dumb things…and on a regular basis. But, I think in general his conclusion about wit and intelligence is accurate. What do think?

Put Your Lazy Intelligence to Work

Laziness has its advantages and can be healthy.

Don’t be afraid of being lazy. Take advantage of it. Laziness is like your brain. You don’t want to waste either. It helps the brain, too, stimulating creativity. For laziness to be productive and advantageous, at some point it has to be put to work.

You have to put your laziness into action.

And, that may be the greatest oxymoron.




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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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