Laziness: The key to ingenuity?

Years ago I worked in a marina and was allowed to keep a project boat in the murky shallow water section.  The boat was a pleasure boat which served as a barge by a bridge repair company.  The interior was singed by slag and irreparably tinged with the grime of many hard days of work.  However, the boat ran strong and was priced nicely at free.

It was an extraordinarily hot summer, so I worked mainly in the early morning and from dusk onward.  With the spare middle hours of the day, I would often work on honing my battered craft into something a little better.  Since my boat was near the raised walk way which brought boaters from the land to the slips in the middle of the river, a lot of other boaters would pass while I toiled.  A lot of them would offer a few kind motivating words, some offered joking criticism, and some others offered advice.

Honestly, I don’t remember many of the conversations specifically.  However, I can remember one as though it was had this morning.  It was with sail boater who walked by several times each day, but never usually said anything.  On one particularly blistering day.  He was a middle aged man with a long forgotten accent from a European country.

“You work too hard,” he told me.

I just smiled and laughed, thinking he was ribbing me.

“No, seriously,” he said.  “You work too hard.”

Most people cajoled me into working harder each day.

“How can I expect to have a nice boat if I don’t work for it?” I asked.

The conversation went on like this for a few minutes.  He hinted that merely breaking my back in the sun wouldn’t translate into having a perfect boat at the end of the summer.  I was a teenager and was under the assumption that hard work unequivocally translated into success.  Finally, he sought to break down his arguments into a single phrase:  “Laziness is the key to ingenuity.”

Apparently, he was an engineer of sorts and he gave me some examples of successful inventions rooted in laziness.  As a teen, you often take words at their face value and don’t necessarily contemplate their undertone or context.  Earmarking that phrase in my head, I would attempt to find use for it at many points during my life.  As I’ve tried to apply it, I’ve sought to hone its meaning further and further from a blunt object into a useful tool.

To me, the man’s advice doesn’t mean that shirking hard work will transform you into a Nobel Laureate inventor.  To me, it means that a you need to be considerate and thoughtful in approaching adversity; you can’t expect blunt force to work every time.  You need to understand your objective, your priorities in reaching that objective, the resources you can devote to it, your expectations in solving the problem, and you need to be willing to devote time to finding the best solution for you.  Sometimes, the result of your consideration may reveal that you cannot fully solve the problem and you need to seek the help of others.

A project that inspires dreams too often can become an albatross to its patron.  It’s usually a single problem that causes the momentum of progress grind to a halt.  Once that momentum is lost, dust begins to collect and inspiration dissipates.  Eventually, many forlorn projects change hands to a new, rosy-eyed, owner.  Perhaps more frustrating, many people who long for the accomplishment of a finished project, will never take it on believing they will never be able to carry it to completion.

As for me and that boat, I never finished it.  I didn’t return to the river to work the next summer and never had the time to devote to finishing it; it just wasn’t a priority.  I think I probably still have some pieces of it here someplace, although most of it went on to keep other boaters dreams afloat.

The moral of this entry is that you need to figure out how “laziness” will reward you.  Perhaps you have a project, or are searching this site for one.  Each project offers its own unique challenges and rewards.  If you haven’t done so already, you should consider joining the Austin Bantam Society and the American Austin Bantam Club.  There are hundreds of other club members; many who would love to help you with their skills and many who you could perhaps help with your own skill set.




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