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Five Practical Ways to Lazy Intelligence


“There are only four types of officer.  First, there are the lazy, stupid ones.  Leave them alone – they do no harm.  Second, there are the hard-working intelligent ones.  They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered.  Third, there are the hard-working, stupid ones.  These people are a menace and must be fired at once.  They create irrelevant work for everybody.  Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones.  They are suited for the highest office.”

If you want to win the rat race, here is some advice that may surprise you, courtesy of General von Manstein, a top German commander in the Second World War.  If he had been a management consultant instead of a soldier, he could have made a fortune out of the matrix illustrated here.

This advice is what to do about other people.  But what about you?  It might be thought that intelligence and propensity to work are fixed qualities, in which case the Von Manstein Matrix, although interesting, would be useless.  But I think differently.  Even if you have the misfortune to be hard-working, you can learn to become lazy – I have done it myself.  And even if other people think you are stupid, this isn’t right – you are intelligent at something.

The key to becoming a star is to simulate, manufacture, and deploy lazy intelligence.  It can be worked at.  The way to earn more and work less is to pick the right thing to do and to do only those things with the highest value.

Five Practical Ways to Lazy Intelligence

  1. Take out your diary-calendar. Cut any activity or meeting that (a) will not raise your creativity, be enjoyable, or clearly be very useful to other people, or (b) you could delegate.  If you don’t cut half of your appointments, you’re not being honest.

Don’t worry about criticism.  It’s up to you whether you tell people you’re cutting activities because you follow the 80/20 principle, or because you must go to Great-Aunt Agatha’s funeral.

  1. Spend thirty minutes at the start of your day deciding what is the most important thing you can achieve today in less than two hours.

Do it.  Then clock off.

  1. Double the time you spend daily on one or more of the following:
  • Exercise you enjoy
  • Walking the dog
  • Talking to friends and acquaintances
  • Sitting somewhere beautiful and just thinking, meditating, or relaxing. It’s OK to doze.
  1. Make a list of everything you spend more than five hours a week doing, that you don’t enjoy or value. Stop doing them all, starting now.
  2. Read or re-read my book The 80/20 Principle once a month – take it with you on your next train or plane journey.

If you do all that, you will be much happier and more useful to the world.

Do it!