Are You Lazy?

I know many people who are lazy. Yes, lazy. That’s not a word we’re supposed to use these days. The supposedly more insightful terms include, “fearful,” “stuck,” and “procrastinating,”

Yes, sometimes, fears are so severe as to be paralyzing, but often with reasonable effort, a person can feel the fear and do it anyway. Those who don’t make that effort are lazy.

Are you like any of these people?

The Professional Student. School is fun: You’re always learning new things and doing so on a pleasant college campus. Plus, you’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. So, professional students, after finishing their bachelor’s degree (usually taking more than four years) decide to get a graduate degree, often in an impractical but fun field of study. And if they do choose a practical field, they don’t do what non-lazy people do to ensure future employment: do papers and theses that would enhance their employability and build relationships with potential employers. Instead, a few years after finishing their second degree, many professional students contemplate pursuing a third. Thus, they take, take, take from society, but never contribute.

The Slacker. They take sick days when they’re not sick, take family leave using a bogus excuse, or play on the Internet or chat with friends during the workday. I had a client who bragged that she has managed, for 10 years, to hang on to a 70K a year job at BART while working less than one hour a day! Slackers don’t think of the above as stealing from their employers, but that’s precisely what they’re doing. In addition, slackers force their already hard-working co-workers to do the slacker’s work.

The Workers Comp Fraud. This is a variation on The Slacker. Of course, many workers compensation claims are legitimate, but many are not. I know. In my private practice, I’ve had quite a few clients admit they were malingerers or had exaggerated their disability’s severity.

The Long-Term Stay-At-Home Parent. Even though their kids are in school all day, these people rationalize that it’s better for the kids that they not work outside the home even during the school day! This forces the other parent to have a high-paying career such as manager at a widget corporation, which is often less rewarding than the career they’d otherwise choose: for example, teacher or artist. The unvarnished reason why many long-term stay-at-home parents don’t look for a paying job is laziness.

The Phony Job Seeker. These people hide their laziness by claiming they’re holding out for a great job. They’re unemployed or employed in a too-easy or part-time job for a long time, and make little effort to find that great job, certainly not the 20 to 30 hours a week that all career experts recommend.

I find it hard to believe that such people, as they put their heads on the pillow each night, feel good about themselves

I’m hoping this column is a wakeup call. If you see yourself in any of the people above, ask yourself, “Do I really want to live my life as a lazy person? Is that the role model I want to provide to my children? When I’m looking back on my life, how will I feel that I was a lazy person?”

The irony is that work, along with love, enhances your life more than anything. And I mean anything. Whether you’re a clerk or a CEO, knowing you are contributing to making the world run will make you feel good about who you are. You will have legitimately earned good self-esteem. There is no cure for depression more potent than throwing yourself into work. And of course, there’s the money. The harder (and smarter) you work, the more money you will likely make.

Advice I’d Give My Child

Fortunately, my child is far from lazy. But if she were, I’d first ask, “Amy, compare yourself not to fellow slackers, but to the people you most admire. How much harder do they work than you do? Do they seem less or more happy than you are? Are they more or less financially successful?

Then I’d tell her to try to go cold turkey: “Amy, from this moment on, instead of using that good brain of yours to figure out ways to avoid doing work, think of all the ways you could be as productive as possible. Try it for a week, even a day. See if you’re happier or sadder.

© 2007, Marty Nemko

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Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in (NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on . 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website and is a co-editor of Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.

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