I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t the best student Durham University ever had. I it all got off onto rather a poor start from the moment I turned up to register. The reason I was even at Durham was that I’d discovered that I couldn’t study just French at either Oxford or Cambridge – I’d have to study “Modern Languages” – with French as my major, and another language as my minor. A rather unwise selection of A Level subjects meant that my only real option for my minor was going to be … Russian! No thanks, I said, I’m off to Durham.
Except when got to Durham, it turned out that I needed to do a subsidiary language –and with my A-level choices, I bet you can guess what my options were? Yes – Russian or Russian!
Fast forward to year two. I’m having a whale of a time. I’ve been booted off the Honours French course – apparently they are kind of fussy about people actually attending lectures and that sort of stuff.
But I’m still hanging in there, and now I’m into the delight that is 2nd Year Undergad – no big exams to worry about, and an expectation to get *properly* involved in college social life.
So, I got myself on the bar committee, and I’m a stalwart of the “roadies” who dismantle the dining hall on Friday afternoons and replace it with the stage for the bands we had most weeks. And of course, a challenge with being on roadie or bar duty most Fridays, was the Friday 3pm History of Science lecture, something had to give …
All this 2nd year hedonism came to a head when I received my now-famous letter from my Russian tutor:
“Mr Horder”, it began, “I have on my desk your two latest Russian prose submissions. Which, of course, means that you have not attended the relevant tutorials, to receive them back – along with my ‘guidance’. I feel I should point out that Durham does not offer a correspondence course in Russian.”
Fortunately for me, at that time, once they’d allowed you in Durham were loath to let you go without some sort of letters after your name, so I ended up the not-so-proud holder of a Bachelor of Arts (General), Class III – but at least it’s from a decent University!
So what’s all that got to do with “Only Lazy People Work”?
Well, my rather more assiduous contemporaries went off to their assorted corporate sinecures, with secretaries and expense accounts and company cars (this was the early 80’s) – while I had to struggle my way up the ranks in retail. And I found myself having to make good on my missed education at nearly 40 years of age, studying 10-20 hours a week – on top of a demanding job – to get my MBA, and catch up at least some of the ground I’d lost in my twenties.
I first heard the phrase “Only Lazy People Work”* from a successful stock trader. He maintained that, because he had put in the research, and had got himself a slick system set up, he only needed to pop into the office for a couple of hours a day, check the reports from the system, make a few tweaks to his positions, and then he was off to the beaches (well, he’s an Aussie).
And that’s the same for us – we can have an relatively easy life right now … and still find ourselves slogging away at the same boring, frustrating, unfulfilling, unrewarding work in 5, 10, 15 years from now. Or, we can put in the effort now, to understand what it really is that we are brilliant at, that we love doing, and that people will pay handsomely for. So that, in a year or so – maybe less – we really are loving what we do for a living, and making a living doing what we love – getting nicely paid for stuff that hardly feels like work at all!
Here’s an exercise I often get my private clients to do (copy and print out the image, or create your own):
- In the top left box, enter the things that you have already done the hard work to be able to do well.
- In the bottom left, enter those areas where you have been trying to take the easy way, trying to take short cuts.
- In the top right, identify how you are currently getting paid for the things you have done the hard work for (plus how else that could happen)
- Now here comes the hard part – in the bottom right, what are you going to do about the areas where you have (so far!) been a bit lazy?
Let me know how you get on in the comments below!
* I have since learned it was C.S. Lewis who first said “only lazy people work hard”.