Are We Lazy by Design?
How do I prepare you to accept that you and everyone you have ever known or ever will know is a lazy person? Would you accept that your hard working mother or father is lazy? How would you feel if I told you your wonderfully brilliant Road Scholar child is lazy? Would you accept yourself as a lazy being?
I feel doomed before I start if my goal is to get you to believe a reality you think cannot possibly be real. By our design, all humans are lazy in how we think, and as such, we are lazy in action. This must be true if you accept that our thoughts drive our actions.
You may accept that there are only some lazy people. Each of us has caught ourselves saying, “so and so is so lazy.” This reaction is a product of our own impatience. There are times when we have met unusually lazy people. Like that worker, we can’t understand how they have ever kept their job. The worker with a lack of care in doing the basics of their job. The person we see fall asleep at their desk at work. That guy leaning on his broom. That woman taking another smoke break. The old man leaving early again from work. The young lady arriving late for her job the 3rd day in a row. It wouldn’t be a stretch to argue these people lack a passion for their job, have family problems to deal with, or they have some medical condition that causes them to doze off at an inappropriate time or venue.
But, the kind of laziness I’m talking about isn’t the kind used in broad terms to describe nearly everything and anything that frustrates our everyday lives.
I’m talking about a laziness of thought. The same thing that has caused a renaissance recently in the practice of thoughtfulness exercises. Please keep reading, I promise that I will not bore you with a discussion on how you need to pay attention to the things around you.
My goal and intent are to offer you an insight I have stumbled on that will help you to get along better with your fellow humans. This same insight will help you understand your own behavior better, allowing you to reach higher levels of performance and reduce the number of poor decisions you make on a daily basis. Finally, this insight will help you to coach others to higher levels of performance.
ORIGINS OF LAZY THOUGHT
Early in human development, our brains became a central design characteristic in how we survived. Our brains are more complex than any other animal known to us. The difference is not a small thing but could be thought of like the unicorn’s horn of animal development. I am not a doctor but have studied enough on the topic to know our mental abilities and raw physical difference is significant. But, with this complex design came a very high energy cost. You’ll be amazed at how much energy the brain consumes compared to all other parts of your body.
When our brain gained this advantage and the high energy cost of its design, our bodies did little to compensate for the higher energy requirement. Put differently, our body processes energy in much the same way as other mammals. So, our brain needed to come up with a way to deal with having less than enough energy all the time and still operate at full processing capability. Our environment (or our creator) designed parts of the human brain to operate on a kind of autopilot. We see this today in how we can operate a car, after the early learning phase, without thinking about how we need to apply the gas or brakes. We teach ourselves how to do something then it becomes second nature or driven by our subconscious mental processes. This same process happens in much of our decision making.
In our early development, we saved our brain power for the moment we needed it. The energy to be present and conscious wasn’t available, or the cost of fuel during our hunter-gatherer period was too high. I say this energy conservation was intended to save the energy for when a lion might unexpectedly attack us. A hundred thousand years or more ago, our friend with a slightly less developed brain wouldn’t have the same mental development to get out of the way and would have become the lion’s dinner.
IMPLICATIONS IN SALES
This laziness of thought works in our lives today. But, this isn’t something we should focus on fixing. The key thing is to understand the laziness and help others to understand it so that we can all take advantage of this quirk in our very special human design trait.
Being ignorant of this laziness trait means we allow this mechanism to operate without knowing its impacts, both good and bad. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D. (Nobel winner) https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html is a great book on the topic of how our brain uses fast (subconscious) and slow (conscious) decision-making to reach conclusions on each course of action we take in our daily lives. It also covers the many errors we make due to this very efficient but error-prone process. What I gained from Dr. Kahneman’s writing is an ability to recognize the errors (more frequently) and a way to logically discuss the possibility of error with someone who may trust me enough to accept my explanation.
If you have ever had to convince someone of your idea’s value, you will appreciate the power of seeing the listener’s error and knowing how to explain they arrived at an incorrect conclusion. This is a powerful tool in the area of influence, negotiation, advertising, sales, and marketing.
People’s hesitancy to make a change (in any decision process) is linked to this energy conservation character of how our brains work. We ask people to read something. We suggest people do something a new way. We tell people how they could save time using a new tool. And, in most cases, we are ignored and frustrated by the lack of attention we get from those around us. Would we still be frustrated if we realized that the people we talk to are energy conservation creatures? Would we approach giving suggestions differently if we assume this energy conservation principle is in action? Would we call any of these people lazy now?
To ensure we see the change we want to see we must drive a decision process in another person’s head that ensures the energy needed to make the change will be invested. This means we must engage others to invest the energy to listen consciously as well as invest the energy to actually make the change.
Two very large buckets of energy must be invested by any listener to be used before any change is made. To do this we must ensure what we are asking them to do something they believe is in their self-interest. Our ask must account for all the energy investment needed. Said differently, the listener must perceive enough pain (real or potential) to make the investment. Assuming our listener will see values in our suggestion ignores the fact they might not use their conscious mind to consider your suggestion or proposal in the first place. Waking up their consciousness is not something I will cover here but suggest you look into “pattern interrupt” theory as discussed by Colleen Stanley: https://books.google.com/books?id=e2gtj0eQKScC&pg=PA202&lpg=PA202&dq=pattern+interrupt+colleen+stanley&source=bl&ots=zaVbbPxyjc&sig=TgZbA1715tLQ7prbVpL0l4z7XfI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwitrdqalPXeAhXGrFkKHWSdCnsQ6AEwCnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=pattern%20 interrupt%20colleen%20stanley&f=false .
Just telling someone of something new, with great value from your perspective, doesn’t connect the value we see to their own self-interest. If you read my essay on making friends the quick way, you will remember that suggesting is a push behavior which doesn’t work unless some relationship power has already been developed. Push and Pull theory is one relationship building algorithm I created a few years ago to help my son make friends and later used it to improve the efficiency of my sales teams early prospect trust building needs – http://www.thinking-house.com/2018/10/16/make-friends-quickly/
What’s my point then, you probably ask yourself. If it’s so hard to convince someone then why bother? That’s a great question! My point is that it’s not easy and you shouldn’t treat with ease something that is difficult yet has the potential to make someone else’s life better. The processes are difficult. It requires you first to build some kind of relationship (=trust). Then it requires that you connect with what’s important to the other person (see: fishing behaviors in Making Friends Quickly essay link above). Lastly, you must care enough to not give up by saying the other person is too lazy to make the change. Nobody is too lazy to make a better life for themselves.
The Frictionless Sale vs The Complex Sale example – The former indicates we should ask for the order early and often while the latter seems to dictate we hold off a bit before we ask for the order. But, given the discussion, we may argue that asking for an order early is required if we’re to set the right frame of our conversation with prospective buyers to be they complex and team-based or singular and simple.
It’s our nature to conserve our mental energies for later. Since we have no idea what time these energies are best saved or spent, it’s reasonable to assume we will make errors in our decision-making. At times we will use our unconscious fast-thinking processes when a slower thoughtful process should be used. But, given our thoughtful conscious thinking is costly in terms of energy, we hesitate to decide on its use all too often.
Taking these realities in mind we can ward off our friends and associates from these mistakes. Consider the analogy of the sheep and the sheepdog. People are usually raised (sadly not always though) in a loving but directed environment. Treating our interactions as an opportunity to direct others is warranted and in many cases appreciated. Be the sheepdog, provide loving and thoughtful direction when you see others need it.