Two examples of men at the very top of success in their fields, who talk about goofing off and laziness playing a role in their work lives. This goes against the grain of what we imagine work life to be when you’re at the top of your game, but doesn’t it sound nicer than the alternative of your nose constantly to a grindstone??
In a Malcom Gladwell Revisionist History podcast, Cliff Asness, a billionaire hedge fund manager, talks about not working hard: “This is not a secret. I don’t work as hard as people think. I goof off a lot.” Malcom Gladwell describes him as liking “puzzles, games, problems that engage the imagination.” And Asness confesses “I have been caught several times playing internet chess in my office…”
In a Freakonomics interview, behavioral economics and novel prize winner Richard Thaler discusses his reputation for being lazy:
DUBNAR: You’ve you’ve been accused – or really, praised – by your collaborator and mentor and friend Danny Kahneman as being extremely lazy, and furthermore, he argues that laziness has in fact been a big part of your success. What does he mean by that, and should we all try to be a bit lazier?
THALER: Well, I don’t know if I can recommend laziness… I have little patience for working on things that aren’t, at least to me, both interesting and somewhat important. And so compared to many economists or academics, I haven’t written a super large number of papers, and I don’t follow the habit of writing 20 versions of the same paper, or on the same topic, because I get bored. And the fourth paper on some topic is not nearly as interesting as the first one…
DUBNER: And the mechanism of that benefit is what? Because you’re lazy you just don’t want to waste time on things that aren’t going to be potentially important and/or interesting?
THALER: Yeah, that’s that idea. [emphasis added]