What is the space that I’d like to work in? Or what is the space that I should be working in, that I’m uniquely qualified to work in? For me, the market is productivity/procrastination. I don’t have a clear solution yet. I don’t even have a super clear description of the problem yet. (I guess that will be my first challenge). But before that I can tell you why this matters to me. (Which reminds me, somebody did once describe me on Hacker News as having the unique gift of understanding well and being able to describe it well, too.)
I don’t think anybody is solving the problem the way it ought to be solved. I think other people relate to this, which is why my blogpost “productivity should be about lighting fires” went as viral as it did. I don’t think many people care about this as much as I do. I don’t think people who make these apps and systems suffer from my affliction as badly as I do. I have yet to encounter a self-help guru type who has an origin story similar to mine, yet I know that there are hundreds of thousands of kids (Reddit, Tumblr) who suffer from similar conditions.
Why do I care? When I was a kid I did really well without putting in any effort. This always seems like a brag but it’s not- it’s a curse that turns you into a procrastinating underachiever. I did well because I had read broadly. This got me into the gifted education program but it also got me repeating a year in junior college. I never learned to focus my energies. I was used to being told that I was a whiz kid who just needed to apply himself, to work harder… I was just lazy, some of my teachers said.
The term lazy fills me with rage today because it is such a copout. At the time of writing I have written over 700 blogposts on visakanv.com. I’ve done over 120 word vomits, which means 120,000 words of purely voluntary writing. I’ve written tens of posts on poached magazine and fever avenue and campus magazine.
When I played in a band I personally friended over 1000 people on MySpace and maintained regular relationships with many of them. I played almost 100 shows, mostly unpaid. I was never super rigorous or deliberate in my practice but I did teach myself music to some degree. I read hundreds if not thousands of books.
I remember researching and downloading multiple gamefaqs. I wrote two faqs myself for street fighter ex2, ensuring that every paragraph was justified- through my word choices! I built a personal website from scratch and I participated in hundreds if not thousands of Internet arguments. I’m Quora top writer 2 years in a row, with over 800 answers.
So no, I don’t think I’m “lazy”. I think that’s a stupid copout term we use to say “I don’t know or understand this person’s pattern of behaviour”.
Etmyonline says that lazy means “averse to work”. I think aversion to work is a much better term to use than lazy, because it’s describes reality without labelling it as much. “Why are you so averse to work” is a much more interesting and answerable question than “why are you so lazy”.
So why was I so averse to work? We like to describe this condition as though it’s a failing of the individual, as if it were a moral defect or character flaw of some sort. This makes it harder to fix the problem. I prefer to think of it as something more akin to a malaise, or even a mental condition- and no, I do not think medication is the solution except in incredibly extreme cases. Venkatesh wrote a blogpost about well – adjustedness vs arrested development. Groups of people, or “society” primarily cares that you’re well-adjusted. This is why they ask you to be yourself and then they judge you, and why “first they laugh at you then they fight you then you win”, etc etc.
Anyway. Aversion to work.
I think this is a function of perceived payoffs and penalties. Not actual payoffs and penalties, but perceived. A lazy person systematically overestimates the payoff of immediate gratification and underestimates the compounded payoff of delayed gratification. (Similarly, she may also overestimate the pain or cost of taking steps towards something- getting out of bed, leaving home for the gym, doing homework), and in the short run underestimate how bad it’s going to be when the shit hits the fan (failing out of school, lung cancer, etc).
Even this isn’t the full picture. When I was in school I didn’t really care if I failed. I was convinced that I’d find a way to survive. I’d work as banquet staff at a hotel, which I did for a while and enjoyed. I enjoyed working at the singapore air show- the hours were long, but the work somehow felt important, relevant, fulfilling.