Laziness does not exist

Looks like we’ve got a regular Sherlock Holmes here! :saxophone: (that’s a Sherlock Holmes pipe)

(I was born September 1986 and it seems likely enough that the photograph is from 1988 - I don’t have the full version handy and I don’t remember if it had a timestamp)


Aha! A lazy millenial! /s


I particularly liked how she talked about how people criticize poor people for being lazy when they are just in a super hard situation trying to get by. I hate when people call poor people lazy. It’s so patronizing.


Damn straight.

I think one of the reasons (probably mentioned in the article) people castigate others as lazy is the control fallacy. If others are poor because they’re lazy, nothing bad will happen to me, the industrious moral paragon.*

  • Spoiler: something bad happens to everyone eventually

I like a lot of what they say in the article, but I don’t agree with “laziness does not exist.” I am a walking (moseying), talking (muttering) example of Grade-A laziness. I have all of the privileges and advantages a person could want, except maybe for a gross excess of financial wealth. But I’m not broke. And I’m a straight white cisgender male who was raised as a WASP in Southern California. The world’s my oyster. I should be captaining myself a pretty golden destiny.

But I usually can’t be bothered.

I have a pretty good brain for academics. I scored a 1500 on my SAT in 1987, but my grades were only so-so. (Because of laziness, I tellya, not because of anything actually standing in my way.) I didn’t bother busting my ass to get into a better college than my local community one, I didn’t bother to try to transfer to a better school, and once I started working in Hollywood I didn’t really concentrate my efforts in any one field, nor did I spend much of my spare time writing and honing my art. I’ve played guitar since I was ten, but I never practice, so I suck at it. I’m too lazy to finish the bodywork on my 1970 Cougar, so it’s been sitting there in bondo-and-primer shame for over a decade.

And y’know, I’m never so depressed that I can’t get out of bed. Even on days when I’d like to stay in bed and not face anything, I can’t ever actually bring myself to do that. I get up and take care of business, even if it’s the bare minimum to get by. But rarely do I put in a large fraction of the effort it would require for me to excel at anything.

Because, goddammit, I’m lazy. I’m not proud of it by any means, but neither am I about to try and pass off my failings as the result of anything at all getting in my way except my own damned inertia.

Sometimes I just wanna sit down and read. Or lie in a hammock. Or beat off. All too often I’ll just procrastinate. Sometimes I’ll sit down to write, look at the screen for three minutes, and realize that I’m suddenly a bit sleepy, and I might as well try again tomorrow. Or the next day.

I could fix this, all by myself in fact, if I put in the effort. At certain times in my past, I’ve done just that, and been delighted with the results.

So I should do it again, and just give up being lazy.

I should also give up the Dr Pepper habit too, because that’s probably not helping.


Dr Pepper could be your whole problem.


You can call this laziness if you like, but it could also be approached in physical or psychological terms as well.


Laziness is one of the classical virtues of a good programmer. It’s what makes you automate, simplify, or eliminate tasks so that you can do more important/interesting stuff. And usually in a way that it helps other people as well.

But that’s kind of aside from the article, which was about how there are barriers that cause people to not get things done (and others just see it as a moral failing of laziness, instead of trying to understand/remove the barriers). It’s written particularly in the context of college setting, so made me think of my time there and before.

In high school, I skipped a lot of classes and a lot of the homework. I could still ace the tests, but all the repetitive busywork seemed pointless. Some teachers didn’t like that. They didn’t care whether we’d learned the material, only how many pencil leads we went through. I’ve never really wrapped my head around that mentality.

After, I wanted to get through college, but needed to work to support myself and my mom. So I planned to do it by working night shift, taking some evening courses before work and early morning classes after work. However, colleges have a habit of rescheduling classes and demanding prerequisites/corequisites (which weren’t all in those time frames) so I had some classes in the middle of the day too. Trying to work all day and all night was a recipe for laziness.

Later in my professional career, I still worry that I might be seen as lazy. I oversleep a lot and am often late to things. And some days I just don’t have it in me to get much done. (A recent example I was considering clocking out at 5 or 6 when a bunch of other people were, even though I’d been late that morning and had not gotten a full 8 hours in. I looked at the clock and realized I’d worked 24 of the previous 48 hours, so I decided I was ok with ‘being lazy’ by not doing a full 8 that day.) But on the flipside I often need to work late, and have ended up with a rep as a hard worker who gets a lot done while at the same time being seen as awfully lazy by people who only care about punctuality and how many pencil leads you use.

I don’t really know where I was going with that. I guess I think the author has a good point but that it may not be the whole story.


Sure. Any number of different diagnoses might be applied. But a classical definition of laziness is also a perfect fit. Hence my disagreement with the argument that laziness does not exist.


At least in Ontario, it’s baked into the criteria for passing by the government. A student has to miss no more than X amount of classes (depends on how many hours each class is) and complete Y% of the assignments. You can’t just swoop in and do the exam, which is more of a test of what you remembered than what you learned. You’re getting credit for the whole course, not just the exam.

In the context of the public education system being set up to train the working class for 19c factories, maybe that makes more sense.


This. I mean, are you me?

In Gr. 11 Math, homework was 10% of the grade. I did the math and figured I could afford to sacrifice it and still pass (it was a mandatory class for graduation). That I was right did not endear me to that teacher, who told me in front of the entire class thst I was “too stupid to be in this class.” 80% of the students he had failed the provincially standardised (and not marked by him) final. I got 80% on that and 100% on my provincial Chem final (which I will admit that I got lucky on).

But in my mind, I either understood it, which meant doing it over and over again was a waste of time, or I didn’t, at which point staring at it wasn’t going to help me, and frankly the Chem and Physics teachers were better at teaching it (see 80% fail rate above). I know now that a large chunk of that attitude is attention deficit related. Even so, I still think most of the homework was a waste of time. At least with the humanities classes a lot of it was productive, or not covered in class.

This me, too. Which is not playing well with my insomnia (who’s on the BBS at 5 am on a Saturday?) or my extreme night owl tendencies (12 to 8 is my dream shift… By which I mean midnight to 8 am). Fortunately, the people back East I am working with are scheduling afternoon meetings, which means that I don’t have to be there promptly at 8 in the morning, and as long as I am dialled in by 10, it’s all good. I also tend to lunch at my desk, so am seen as more industrious than I really am.


I guess it depends on how you want to approach the root cause analysis and solving the issue – assuming you want to solve it in the first place.

The solution for laziness is “get off your butt and do X”. If that works for you (and doesn’t cause a collapse later), then cool.

But if that advice leads to back pain, exhaustion, mood swings, illness, and on and on, it’s not the observable behaviour that’s the problem.

Then there’s the issue that laziness is considered a moral failing, whereas the rest are physical and mental illnesses. If the root cause is laziness, there’s nothing else to research and resolve. If the root cause is something else, getting called lazy and being berated to “get off your butt” can exacerbate the root issue.

Speaking as someone whose weight issues started during the years of little to no sleep – but lots of berating and scolding about how lazy I was.


That’s a 100% accurate summation of the whole issue, AFAIC. I know people with different issues that prevent them from accomplishing what they’d like to accomplish, and many of these issues are invisible to the outside observer. I’ve had to struggle a bit to appreciate that they can’t just get their shit together and get stuff done, in part because of my own experience which has never felt insurmountable to me, if only I’d just get off my ass and do it. Some days it’s harder than others to gin up the appropriate degree of will to get my intended goal accomplished, but it has never felt impossible; rather it’s more like that pillow looks cool and inviting, or my sweaty shirt really needs changing, or I’d really rather know what I’m going to type before I try to sit down and type it. Or maybe just that tomorrow looks like it has a better chance to be productive than today does.

For me, speaking only for myself, these are, much more often than not, bullshit excuses. I could do whatever I set my mind to do, if the immediate consequences for laziness were less pleasant than a comfy nap, a clean shirt, or maybe another hour spent playing Destiny.

I don’t accuse others of laziness; not anymore. But I certainly accuse myself of it, and often in the terms of a moral failing. I want to be better than I am, and in service of that goal, I want to do more than I do. To a certain extent, I think we all do. I don’t think it would help me toward that goal if I sought avenues to forgive myself for being lazy. Again, I don’t accuse others of it. Only you can know what you’re capable of in any given circumstance. But when I know I could do something, and I choose not to against my better judgment, then that’s entirely on me.


Putting this here because laziness figures at least twice in the story: once when the woman mopped from the bed, probably because she was too ill to stand, and the guard put it down to laziness, and the second time when the officer’s apathy left her dead body in the cell for hours – I guess so someone else would be stuck with the paperwork.


Laziness, assumed or otherwise, doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Fuckin’ Murka, man.


The original description of your laziness 99% describes me too. However, over the years I’ve deduced ( :saxophone: ) several specific reasons for my behavior. (That doesn’t necessarily mean that the behavior is actually changed, for the most part, or that in the moment it doesn’t feel like a moral failure.)

Perhaps everyone has been too polite to call this out but to an outside observer your case sounds exactly like what was discussed in the article, and I think it’s within reason to suggest that it’s not straight-up moral failure, and that there’s room to analyze what’s happening beyond just calling it laziness. This…

…is exactly the point of the article and the discussion here, except instead of teachers/professors or bosses thinking you’re just lazy and not considering what the reasons might be, you’re doing it to yourself.

Now, of course the underlying reason doesn’t have to be mental-health-related. It’s evidently possible that one might just not care enough to bother doing something, even if they like the idea of doing it. That’s me with a lot of hobbies, and sounds like maybe that’s you with your car paint.

For a hypothetical example, I have nothing against people who don’t care to keep their house tidy (within reason - I don’t mean living in filth). I wouldn’t call them lazy, they just don’t care about that. There’s certainly a grey area there because not caring - or put another way, “letting yourself go” - becomes self-destructive if one stops caring about outside pressures. They may not care about the actual thing, like personal hygiene, but hopefully do care about not being offensive to others in public (and thus e.g. maintaining their employability).

I was very impressionable growing up and ended up over-caring about a lot of things it seemed like I was supposed to care about. I realized over time that in most cases I really didn’t care. It’s still hard to let some of that stuff go, but it’s freeing.

I’m perhaps contradicting myself (and the article) now but I’d suggest that laziness does exist, but the definition is different than how we normally think of it. Perhaps it’s a measure of how much one cares about things - separate from one’s track record of actually doing things they do care about (that’s what the article is about). You’ve basically really got to have a passion for something to do it and follow through all the way, and some people are more passionate than others (and passions change over time for a variety of reasons - obviously this is all very fluid).


Oh, yes. I got a ton of this from my mom, who always worried about what other people might think.


There’s an interesting point not directly tackled here that could also have an effect on perceptions of laziness: Chronotype

I am an extreme owl. Left to my own devices, I will be optimum on a 12-8:30 shift… That is, midnight to 8:30 in the morning. I kill on the nightshift, when most people merely feel dead. Currently, this is classified as a sleep disorder, because I do not function well on normal society time. So, because I am chronically underslept or on drugs to get a decent night’s sleep (because all you normals think it’s weird to talk about a decent day’s sleep), I often appear lazy. My body (including brain) would literally rather be asleep. The few occasions where I have worked my ultimate shift… Let’s just say I scared my coworkers, because they were (like I normally am) fighting to stay awake, and they’d never seen me so productive (I wasn’t normally a slouch, but damn at 3 AM if I am not amazing). Problem is, decent jobs are generally daytime. Even if I had time off, cleaning and (especially) running a vacuum at 3AM is considered rude to the neighbours (let alone any actual housemates).

I have a theory that it’s not a “disorder” but a trait that enabled species survival. You only need one or two of us for a village or small clan, but the advantage of one person who could keep watch at night, before the advent of caffeine, seems pretty obvious. Only, now, when we claim to be a 24 hour society, we can’t seem to adapt business to truly fit people in the right timeslot. Imagine if you didn’t have to change what you do, but could fully choose when you did it.

Some of the lazy people might not turn out so lazy after all.


What an interesting theory! I wonder if anyone has ever studied this?


It has been my observation that business is run by extroverted larks, who create an environment best suited for them. And since that helps other extroverted larks to succeed, they think it’s the best thing for business.

Among all the other reasons it’s interesting times now is that we’re realising how many opportunities business leaves on the table because they’re not convenient to the status quo.