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Why “lazy and intelligent” is the optimal combination for startup business success

Published: Mon 5th December 2016
I am not the first to write about this controversial topic.  But my opinion stands strong.  I’m writing this on an 8-hour plane back from Miami without WIFI (thanks, BA), so like my other posts, it is straight from the brain.  I don’t copy or rewrite my posts.

Before I want to start that you should not find the phrases “Lazy” or “Intelligent” offensive.  They are facts of life.  Genetics can be a bitch.  Anyway….

There are two sets of opposing qualities in this subject.  You will have both ONE of a) AND b).

a) Lazy OR hardworking
b) Intelligent OR unintelligent

So, this creates four combinations:

1) Hardworking and intelligent
2) Lazy and intelligent
3) Hardworking and unintelligent
4) Lazy and unintelligent

There is, of course, a sliding scale with both attributes (I should really draw a graph to explain what I mean, but I’m too lazy to do so right now).  Neither quality is binary but everyone falls (relatively) into one of those categories.

In this post, I’ll talk about each category one by one and their chances of success in GROWTH businesses.

1) Hardworking and intelligent   Many people naturally would assume that this combination is the best for optimal business success.  But this is not always the case.  In fact, I consider this combination the most likely to climb very high up the salary ladder, but less likely to start a growth business.  Why?  Because your hardworking quality makes you so diligent in your work that, despite your intelligence, you are happy what you are doing and you don’t always seek to automate / simplify menial tasks. You make for a great employee who should (if your ability to influence people is good) earn good promotions with a corresponding great salary and a happy life.  Also, being hard working is often inversely proportional to risk appetite – so you may never start a business anyway or, if you do, be averse to the needed risks.  Despite what I write above, you may become successful in starting a growth business.  But you’re more likely to become a doctor or surgeon.  Remember, learning business is not learning history.  You can’t go to class and learn it. You’ve got to learn it on the job, maybe from others, but from my experience nothing beats being self-taught.

2) Lazy and intelligent   I believe this is the golden combination for startup success.  Your laziness will automatically become addictedness.  This may be a difficult concept to comprehend at first, even to the intelligent.  But it sure worked for me, and many other startups over the years.  So why is this the best?  I remember reading a quote one of the Ebuyer founders which inspired me.  It simply said something like “Automate everything”.  Those two simple words stuck in my head for life.  In hindsight, it’s an obvious concept.  Why hire employees when you can write code (or get code written, or maybe buy code) to do things for you, especially in the modern age?  So, my new policy, very early in the business, became this:  If you can automate it, automate it (set up an email report if it breaks) then you’ll never have to do it again.  If you can’t automate it, or it will take too long to automate right now, delegate it.  But, eventually, automate everything that can be automated with current tech.  Of course, this means busting your balls day and night (as much as you hate it as a lazy person) thinking of hundreds of innovative ideas to get automation into place before your competitors do, but it also results in a very small figure for the staff on the balance sheet whilst in growth phase - so you have cash for things such as stock.  This level of automation can be seen in big companies as Amazon/Facebook – anyone in the online business can see that their modular level of automation and robot learning is astounding.  I heard Amazon use (or used) the concept of “You built it, you run it” - so each module such as “You may also like” is built then operated by an individual unit.  This applies in most big techs –you know those Facebook “recommendations” for friends?  I imagine it was originally written by the founder himself but now behind that is likely now small team (I haven’t researched this so this is an educated guess) hardcore coders continually optimising the algorithm based on factors such as: number of visits to each other’s profiles, “stalking” behaviour, number of photos clicked on, mutual friends, location, etc.  So, you know when you go on holiday and meet people and they appear in your suggested friends?  That’s this ingenious automated algorithm at work.  That’s just one example. A lazy intelligent person will automate everything they can, including warehouse operations etc.  Don’t worry, this type of lazy person isn’t “lazy” in the natural sense – when success starts the “lazy” will automatically convert to “addicted”.

3) Hardworking and unintelligent  For clarity, this group also includes those with “average intelligence”. You work hard, you don’t switch jobs all the time, you turn up for work and don’t call in sick.  But becoming the owner of a startup?  Without the intellectual base, it’s unlikely.  This combination often makes for the perfect employee, or maybe a lifestyle business runner.  You’re the guy who works hard and diligently and is a great, loyal, employee who gets on the train or drives 90 minutes to work every day.  You deserve a good living and quality of life.  Maybe you’re in the army, but you’ll probably not become the General.  Sadly, your lack of innate intelligence makes you incapable of comprehending what it takes to succeed as a CEO/Director.  (I told you I’m blunt, right?).

4) Lazy and unintelligent  Don’t even bother attempting growth business.  I hate detractors too.  But I’m one of yours. You are unlikely to make a growth business without either of the qualities.   Your laziness also makes for a bad employee.  You are one of those guys who create the huge business failure statistics and probably wants a lot for nothing. The risk:reward ratio is highly against you, i.e. your chances of making it are extremely small.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing a normal 9 – 5.  But please get up and at least try to do it.  If you do manage to keep a job down, I’d bet you’ll be one of those complaining about how your boss is overpaid.  (if you could genuinely understand what your boss does for his dinero, you’d have his/her job yourself). Sadly your laziness and lack of intellect disables you from doing so.  Intellect is innate.

Let me clarify. I respect and know people of all four groups of people.  But I’m just talking about the chance of startup success.

Most people who know me know I’m lazy as hell.  I write in haste and post unfinished work prematurely which often gets pulled after I change my mind.  But, it’s a good thing that I wasn’t hardworking and finished it to perfection before launching it, right?

My conclusion:
Laziness and intelligence naturally create automation and delegation, which are key assets to rapid growth.

So, my flight is about to land, I’m going to post it and maybe edit it later.  This blog makes me no money.  I write for my own sanity if it helps only one single person I will be glad.

Finally, all of the above is my own perception having been there.  I don't have the numbers to support the theory.  So take it for what it is.

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