Why We’re Lazy

We all get lazy sometimes. It’s okay: there’s a perfectly good reason for it, and it’s not always a bad thing. But it’s important to know where it comes from, and important to know when to fight it, and why.

Laziness is tied to some of our very deepest survival behaviors. “This thing works, and I understand it, and it at least isn’t harming me; trying something new or doing something else could put me at risk.”

For example, if you’re the type of person who’s satisfied with “basic” foods when you eat out, you might not enjoy going to a “fancier” restaurant that has foods you’re either not sure about, or know you don’t like. Some of your friends might mock you (sadly, I probably would, as I love food), but look: you worked hard for your money and your time, and you want to spend them both on something you know is risk-free. Fine.

But you have to be careful about applying that same kind of thinking to other aspects of your life. For example, if you’ve decided to go to the gym and make some kind of change in your body – whether for appearance or health or both – you have to stare the laziness in the face and conquer it. And you’ll probably have to do it every day for a long time before your deep-brain stops fighting you.

Sometimes, just acknowledging the fact of the matter can help. “I’m being lazy about this, and I know I need to stop,” said aloud, can at least give you the opening to look for solutions. Or even for tricks, or other motivations, or whatever. Knowing what you’re up against can give you the opportunity to be thoughtful and deliberate about dealing with it.

Finding the Time

Changing your life. That’s what we’re here for, right? That’s a big deal. We’re talking about making YOU successful, and still somehow finding the time to help pass that success on to others. Finding others to pass it on to. Teaching and sharing. It’s going to be pretty hard to find the time to do that, right?

Except… it shouldn’t be.

When I I’ve my full-day “Be the Master” workshop, we spend a lot of time discussing this. Thing is, for MOST people, “finding your success and teaching others” doesn’t mean abandoning your career, starting a new one, and also being a college professor in your spare time. It’s kind of like all those studies that say a glass of red wine can be healthy for you — the first thing half the readers do is rush out and drink a case of the stuff. It’s all about MODERATION, and that’s true with “Be the Master” as well.

If you sit a six-year old down and say, “I want you to become a United States Senator!” They might smile and say, “sure!” But they can’t really grasp what that MEANS. What will be INVOLVED. It’s too big; to them, you just maybe apply for the job one day and either get it or not. Well, that’s true with big, far-reaching life goals, too: they’re usually too big to grasp. Intellectually, you and I as adults could break it down, though. To be a Senator, you usually need to start as a lawyer someplace. That means law school — three years of education — as well as an internship as well as some working experience. You could probably take those things and break them down further: law school means first passing the LSAT, and it means first having a 4-year degree. You could keep going, breaking each requirement down into single steps, all the way down to “Pass English 101 in Freshman year” and so on.

That’s what you need to do with your path to mastery. BREAK IT DOWN. Even if you are defining your success to require a new career and a professorship, BREAK THAT DOWN. On a WEEKLY basis, you can only accomplish small, incremental things, so you need to break it down into those small, incremental steps. And no, there’s no point in charting out a ten-year plan in 520 weekly steps! No plan will survive that long, anyway. So it’s great to have that 10-year goal in mind, if you can think of one, but you need to have something a lot closer to focus on.

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Do You Unite? Do You do it Well?

One of the biggest ways that you can help a lot of individuals, over the long haul, is to unite. Sadly, a lot of people who take a stab at that get it wrong. But there’s no reason to not keep trying!

One of the “Aspect of Mastery” presented in Be the Master is simple: Masters Unite.

In the old days, that meant – in practical terms – that Masters often joined together to form Guilds, which took the jobs of preserving their trade’s practices, bringing new apprentices into the fold, setting standards that customers could rely on, and providing a collective bargaining voice when needed.

Think about that value that a Guild offered its members at the time, and remember that the “value” of anything is defined by its recipients. Masters worked with Guilds because the Guilds provided something that the Masters found valuable; if enough of them felt the Guilds were valueless, the Guild would have eventually ceased to exist.

There’s a lesson there about modern Mastery and uniting.

For example, a lot of well-meaning and industrious folks will start user groups, only to struggle to get people to attend, and many times to have them fizzle. In most cases, that’s because the Guild user group members didn’t find value in the effort.

In fact, it can be hard to bring together a group of people and continue providing value to them over the long haul. That’s why “Masters Unite” is only one of the aspects of Mastery. To really provide continuing long-term value to a group, you’ve got to do more than just help them learn new technology tricks. They might find that valuable now and then, but not always.

Think instead about the whole person that you’re trying to draw into your effort at uniting. They have a family. They have a career. They probably want to find ways to help people, just as you do. They probably work on a variety of things. How can you speak to that whole person? How can you help them understand how they could help the group?

Remember: lots of us have Imposter Syndrome, and lots of us are basically lazy inside (it’s our brains’ fault). It’s easy to sit back and let someone else do the work. To let someone else lead. But remember, the real power of a movement is not in its leader, its from the people who show other people how to follow the movement.

Maybe your group could use some public speaking sessions, to get people comfortable with the idea. Maybe career-development sessions are a good idea. Guilds, in the old days, did more than just pass along “tricks of the trade;” they served as the binding force for the members’ entire lives. Uniting people means uniting the whole person, which is a substantially more challenging task. A task that is infinitely more valuable, too.

You’re even free to use Be the Master (you can get a free Special Edition copy) to help. When you bring your group together, occasionally read a chapter the book aloud, and then discuss it as a group. Talk about what actions you might each take in your lives based on that chapter, and what you might expect from it. This kind of “take a break from the routine” exercise can help freshen a group, broaden its perspective, and get you thinking of each other as whole people. That’s the key to unity.

Are You in the Rat Race?

Are you a participant in that thing called the “Rat Race?” I certainly was, and I look around and suspect a lot of people are. It’s where you kind of just race to the next, bigger-better job, bigger-better salary, or bigger-better whatever, without really wondering why you’re doing it, or what the finish like looks like.

It’s because a lot of us just succumb to what our culture tells us we “should” be doing. We “should” go to university. We “should” get a job. We “should” get married and have kids. Should, should, should.

But why?

There was a point in my life when I got really depressed about it. I mean, I had a great job that I enjoyed. My family and I went on great vacations. We had a nice apartment at the time, and a good number of friends. What was there to be depressed about?

It’s because all I knew about work is that I needed to keep “moving up.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but it felt like a better salary, a better title, that kind of thing. And the idea of just doing it without knowing why started to gnaw at me.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s where Be the Master was born. I sat down with my family and defined success. Money is a part of it, of course; you need money to have things like housing and food. But how much did I need? And what else did I want in my career that would make me happy and feeling fulfilled? It’s how I realized I was closer to success than I’d realized, but that I wasn’t lining up my daily actions toward what I really wanted. It’s when I broke out of the rat race and started to do my own thing.

It really does work.

Drivers and Passengers

I’m sure you’ve been in a taxi or a ride share at some point, right? Think about what that felt like.

You were a passenger. Yes, you got to express a strong opinion about where you wanted to go, but really, if you think about it, you were just being aspirational. The destination was a thing you wanted.

The driver decided if you got it or not. True, if they didn’t you might complain, give them a one-star rating, or not pay – all valid outcomes. But you weren’t actually in control. At most, you had a potential for after-the-fact revenge, but that’s not the same as control.

The driver also decided how you got there. They chose the roads. They decided whether or not they’d hit another car, or a pedestrian, or a street light. They had an immense amount of control over what has happening, and what the outcomes were.

In day to day life, a lot of us are passengers. We kind of make a vague statement about where we’d like life to take us – maybe – and then we kind of just sit in the passenger seat and see what happens. Sure, if something goes horribly wrong, like running into a streetlight, we might slide into a different car, but we’re not exerting a lot of day to day control.

We know where we want to go, but we’re not really focused on how we get there.

If I could sum up Be the Master in just one concept, it’s this: the book helps you slide out of the passenger seat, get behind the wheel, and take control over whether and how you get to your destination.

It starts by teaching you how to enter that destination into your Life GPS by defining your success. It forces you to think about the tradeoffs you’re willing to make by defining yourself (am I in a rush, or am I willing to take in some scenery along the way?). And it lays out a system that forces you to make weekly decisions about the drive, so that each decision is active. Maybe some weeks you’re not working toward your success – fine, but you made a decision about that, rather than just letting it happen.

Give it a shot. It costs zero to try. And, if you like it, I’d love a review on Amazon, to help other people understand what the book’s all about.

Do Not “Believe.”

I’ve been trying to make a change to the way I think and speak. It’s an important one, for me. It’s a subject I’ve written about before elsewhere, but I’m trying to apply it to my daily life: I do not believe.

That can sound pretty weird, so let me explain.

I have opinions, of course, just like everyone else. I have reasons behind them, but my opinions are not objectively right or wrong; they’re simply opinions. They’re subject to change based on new information, and I’m often happy to share them if asked, as well as explain what led me to them. I might say, “in my opinion, this government policy is a bad idea.” I try not to say, “I believe the policy is bad idea.”

Beliefs are, for the most part, things that are held forth as facts, but which cannot be substantiated or proven. I might believe in a particular deity, for example, but that doesn’t usually have a place in my professional life. I don’t want to argue about that belief, and I have no intention of trying to prove or disprove it, and it’s probably not something I’m really open to changing. See, that’s the difference between belief and opinion, and it’s why I try to use the correct word for what I really mean.

Most importantly, especially in my professional life, is the theory. I might theorize that our customers are behaving in a certain way for a certain reason; I would never state that I believe they are doing something for one reason or another. A theory can, given time and data, be proven or disproven; a belief cannot. My clearly stating that my statement is a theory, I let my colleagues know that I’m open to proving or disproving it, discussing it, and so on. Were I to express a belief, my intentions are perhaps less clear.

Outside of perhaps my religious beliefs, I try not to have any beliefs. I try to have opinions and theories. I try to be clear about which is which. And most especially at work, I try to stick with theories and proofs as much as possible. My opinions, by and large, have little place in the business; what’s good for the business are for me to state my theories, and then either prove or disprove those based on objective facts. Or, in some cases, fail to conclusively prove or disprove them, showing that I had a poorly-formulated theory.

Expertise != Omniscience

One of the problems I think we all have, in almost every field, is a good definition of expert. Experts don’t necessarily know everything, right? Take a neurosurgeon – definitely an “expert” by anyone’s reckoning, but they’d likely be the first to tell you that they’re always learning new things, too. So, being an expert doesn’t mean “I know all the things.” Go read “Timothy the Blacksmith” if you need a different perspective on that.

So if knowing nothing makes you definitely not-an-expert, but expertise exists somewhere short of knowing everything, then what, exactly, makes an expert?

I’ll offer a taxonomy for you to consider. This is based on Part 4 of Be the Master (which you can get for free by signing up below).

A beginner is someone who is just getting started, as the name implies. Someone who doesn’t yet know enough to work in a field on their own, but is still learning the basics. Call this an “apprentice.”

A practitioner is someone who can operate independently in their field. A practitioner in one topic, in one organization, will be different than one in that same topic in another organization, right? That’s because their two jobs probably have slightly different demands, which they have evolved to meet. But they’re both holding down a job, so they’re both practitioners. Call them “journeymen.”

An expert is someone who can help someone else learn. Perhaps a beginner. An expert isn’t necessarily someone who can impress other experts; they’re someone capable of helping a beginner, and likely a practitioner. Experts often create improvements in their field, perhaps through a streamlined process, an innovation, or something else. Experts never stop learning, but they’re also able to teach. Call them “Masters.”

Where do you find yourself on that scale? Are you “merely” a practitioner? I doubt it. If you’ve learned enough to hold down a job in your field, then you can certainly teach some of those things to other people. And that, I would argue, makes you an “expert.”

“Success” Doesn’t Have to Mean a Rat Race

I had a fantastic conversation with some folks last week around the idea of “success.” One gentleman said something to the effect of, “I’m fine where I’m at. I make enough. I don’t need success, and I frankly don’t want the rat race that goes along with it.” I thought it was an especially pithy comment, but I disagreed. In the end, I brought him around to a different perspective.

I do agree that the rate race sucks. I agree that “growth for the sake of growth” sucks. When Greg Shields and I owned Concentrated Technology together, we were both working really hard, almost all the time. That’s not a complaint: we made good money, we could take the time we wanted to take for vacations and such, and we enjoyed the lifestyle the company let us live. People would occasionally ask us, “when are you guys going to hire someone?” We’d ask why we should, and they’d say, “well, it’s probably the only way you can grow, right?”

Sure. Except we didn’t want to grow. We were fine right where we were, and we didn’t see the point in growing just for the sake of growth.

You see, growth ≠ success.

Promotion ≠ success. Payraise ≠ success. Job title ≠ success.

I know what growth means. I know what promotion means, and payraise and job title. What I can’t define is “success.” At least, I can’t create some universal definition of success that everyone will agree on. Sure, our culture pushes us toward a better job, a bigger paycheck, and so on. People who are “passengers” in their lives will often take those, much as you might tae a free upgrade on a plane. But the upgrade isn’t necessarily getting you anyplace. Drivers look at promotion opportunities and ask themselves, “how is this getting me a step closer to my success?”

Key word: my.

Only you can decide what “success” means for you. In the case of the gent I was speaking with, he’d already achieved much of what he needed to be successful. He was making as much as he needed, he was getting the time he wanted with his friends and family, and he wasn’t “paying” any more in job stress than he was okay with. He’d never actually written those things down, though, so he was still thinking of “success” as some thing he hadn’t reached and didn’t want, when in reality, he’d already come really close to it.

So define your success. It’s the first step in The Grind™ for a reason. And if you don’t know what that means, I’ve got a book you should download.