Saturday, February 2, 2008

More on Lazy & Easily Bored

I was thinking about strongest and weakest personality traits, I think partly because of the election, where someone asked it of the Dem candidates and two of the candidates gave this quintessential job interview question the quintessential job interview answers: "I work too hard and I care too much" or somesuch.

It's a dumb question, of course. I mean, I don't know why others think it is, but it seems to me that it's useless without context. My weaknesses might make me an excellent employee, even if my home life suffers. I suppose that's the idea behind "I work too hard". For example, loyalty. In a free market, I should go to whoever compensates me the best. But I tend to not want to leave people in the lurch and, on a personal level, I hate seeing projects go unfinished.

In one case, that kept me on a Death March for two-and-a-half years, at a salary one-third of what I was offered by interested other parties. Now, that's a weakness. (There was a lot of other things going on there, though. Stories for another day.)

This brings me to "lazy and easily bored". There is no doubt I am both. Not that I don't work hard and focus well--I've yet to find any other way to get stuff done--but laziness and boredom shape everything I do. In any problem, I'm looking for a way to do it easier. And once I've figured it out, I'm ready for the next problem.

My sensei once referred to me as a perfectionist, which sort of shocked me. I mean, I went through school with A minuses (and even As) where every teacher commented that I didn't seem to be applying myself.

But in martial arts, and in music, both of which I spent most of my waking hours doing at various points in my life, laziness takes practice, and no matter how much you practice something, it's never the same thing twice.

Laziness takes practice? Yes, indeed. You know how a gymnast can launch herself into the air like the law of gravity had been revoked, or how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could be criticized for being lazy (remember that joke in Airplane!?)? Or you've seen musicians--particularly classical musicians, since the pop artists tend to put on a little show--just shredding their instruments with just the barest of motion.

There's a standard you're trying to reach. When you reach it, you want to be able to reach it again, as eaily and effortlessly as possible. There's a lot of work behind that. But one of the payoffs of achieving "laziness", if you will, is that you also get past the boredom: Once you've conquered the mechanics, you're free to bring any particular action alive in a way distinctive to that particular moment in time.

That makes for good music, and it keeps you alive in a fight.

But this is why I consider these my strong points. They're weak points, as well, unfortunately, when there is hard, dull work and no way around it.

I try to avoid those situations. It's a bad sign in my business. I do have a few things that fall into that category, mind you, but I never stop looking for a better way.

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