An Entrepreneur Must Be Maniacally Lazy

Maniacally lazy guy working fervently on a laptop

There is a misconception that entrepreneurs work hard because they’re not lazy in the slightest. My experience tells me that’s entirely wrong. The most successful entrepreneurs I know work insanely hard just because they’re lazy.

This observation, that entrepreneurs work hard because they’re lazy, can be broken down to three aspects:

First, transforming boring work into fun work. The quicker you can finish automating a boring kind of work, the better off you are. Case in point: bookkeeping. I absolutely, positively hate all kinds of paperwork. The Swedish Pirate Party had 19,600 lines of bookkeeping last year. Because I am manically lazy, I had coded functionality into our admin system that registered well over 99.9% of those automatically as people all over the organization made donations, filed expense reports, sent invoices, etc. No human hand entered them.

Normally, bookkeeping is done as a manual, labor-intensive afterthought with all that paperwork as input. By automatically creating the bookkeeping transactions at the same time as their underlying causes happen, that step can be entirely eliminated.

I like coding. No, scratch that; I love coding and I’m still fascinated by the stuff it can get off my desk. On the other hand, I fanatically detest paperwork and particularly economic paperwork. Therefore, the faster I finished the fun work of coding, the sooner I would never have to do boring bookkeeping again.

By the way (shameless entrepreneurial plug), this admin system will soon be available to other organizations outside of the Pirate Party domain. I will be back when that happens; we are in the process of adapting it for hosting other organizations. We would never have been able to organize as efficiently as we did and save our activists’ hours for activism if we hadn’t had it. Which brings me to the next point.

Second, recognizing that other people are usually also lazy, and some of them probably share your lazinesses. If you can help them work less, or at least work less with boring tasks, then you have a use case for your service or product. In the end, this is a matter of empathy.

True, some rare products and services bring genuine new capabilities to humankind. But to some extent, they too are anchored in laziness. Powered flight was a quantum leap — but the key drivers were faster travel and more efficient warfare. The internal combustion engine was a leap in efficiency, but also a leap in not having to use human- (or animal-) powered vehicles.

Laziness.

Third, recognition that some of the lazy people will pay you to avoid work. In a world where most people want to work in order to get paid for it, there are also enough people who will pay you for not having to work. If they don’t have to work in some labor-intensive dull tasks, that translates into free time that they can use for fun tasks. (As in point one on this list.) Or even for leisure. People will pay for leisure time. Here’s your business case in many cases.

Summarizing this, what sets a typical entrepreneur apart is not that they work more because they’re not lazy. They work more¬†because they are lazy, but at the same time, disciplined enough to spend insane amounts of labor on work avoidance.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot.

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Discussion

  1. gaqzi

    This is why I cite me being lazy as my best quality as a programmer. :)

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      I do the same as a sysadmin. I keep telling people the best reason why I do good work is because I’m so lazy I go to any length to ensure that problems i fix remain fixed for as long as possible.

      You toss something over in five minutes it’s a given you’ll be logging six hours more trying to fix the fallout of your patch job every week five weeks in a row, two months down the line.

  2. Travis McCrea

    I do it so I can work on my own schedule and only have to work when I need to. Which I would also say is lazy

  3. Patrick

    Exactly the foundation for many of the services that I will provide in the near future. :)

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