Sam Holstein

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How a Lazy Attitude Can Make You Incredibly Successful

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

― Abraham Lincoln

You already know how important hard work is if you want to succeed. The most successful people are those who outwork and outcompete the competition. You don’t need me to tell you that.

But not all incredible success stories come from incredibly hard workers. Sometimes, breakthrough success comes from laziness. A kid you went to high school with drops out and started a million-dollar business. Your old class clown became a world-famous artist. Meanwhile, you’re still flipping burgers at McDonald’s, wondering why the hell they get to enjoy wild success while you’re busting your ass for minimum wage.

It’s not because they worked harder than you. Clearly not, since working bad service jobs catering to the rich for minimum wage is much tougher than many six-figure jobs. You’d much rather be a Certified Project Manager than a Sunoco attendant. So what gives?

This One Thing Determines How Much You Make

Only one thing determines your income level in capitalist America: How much value you create for the economy.

People often misunderstand this simple rule. They think it means “How valuable your work is to humanity.” But worthwhile, meaningful work is not always the most valuable in the western economy. First responders don’t make minimum wage, but they aren’t doing much better — meanwhile, corporate fat cats who play with stocks all day get paid millions.

It also doesn’t mean “You get paid based on how hard you work.” People labor at losing business ideas for decades and end up with nothing. People who have demanding careers in the service industry don’t end up wealthy either.

Sometimes the value your job creates for the economy is high, while the value your job creates for humanity is low. There are a lot of highly paid useless executives. They make their corporate employers feel good, so they create value for the economy despite the uselessness of their jobs.

Sometimes the value you create for the economy in an easy job is high. Thanks to the racist patriarchy, rich white men are perceived as more valuable, so they get paid more than others for the same level of work. Many six-figure content creators don’t work hard because they’ve figured out ways to create real value for many people.

If you can figure out a way to create enormous economic value without doing much hard work, you have a golden ticket for an easy life in the west.

Lazy People Are Willing to Look for Easier Methods

I went to a wealthy school system in a wealthy suburb of wealthy America. Some people think rich kids are lazy and entitled, but my peers were hardworking and kind. Many of my classmates got straight A’s, academic awards, and scholarships for prestigious universities. They have advanced degrees and great careers in medicine and technology. Reunions with my high school friends make me feel like an idiot.

Thanks to a head start in life and a hardworking attitude, they are doing well for themselves. But they also work very hard. They have demanding careers and come home from work exhausted every day. They need their jobs to pay off their crushing student debt. They live for the weekends and their vacation days.

They are proud of themselves, as they should be. But they are also trapped.

Me? I was a lazy kid. I got straight A’s without studying until college, then my grades dropped to straight C’s because I still wouldn’t study. I played tons of video games and loafed around with my friends a lot. I had a good time.

I was also the most “successful” of the lot. I started a company called Pufferfish Software when I was 15. While they struggled to balance their job at Wendys and their AP Science classes, I made twice as much while playing video games five hours a day.

For years, people asked me why I started Pufferfish. Was it because I was super ambitious and wanted to be a millionaire? No. Was it because I was on a personal mission to help autistic people like my brother? Also, no (sorry, bro). I started Pufferfish Software because I was lazy.

I didn’t want a real job. Many of my friends were getting jobs at Wendy’s, which sounded like it sucked. I didn’t want to work at Wendy’s. I wanted to keep loafing around. I needed money to do that.

When you take a cold hard look at the world, it’s clear that people with “real jobs” and “real careers” end up stuck in the middle class. The only people who make big money while working easy hours were entrepreneurs. So I became an entrepreneur.

Being a tech entrepreneur didn’t work out for me. I switched to being a content entrepreneur. Now I enjoy being self-employed, doing high-quality work while limiting my hours. I make money while I sit on my butt, and I love it.

Laziness continues to drive my career decisions positively. Laziness inspired me to master writing entire blog articles in an hour or less so I can get back to loafing around. Laziness inspired me to master AI-powered writing tools to improve my writing quality and speed even further still. Laziness inspires me to produce scalable books and online courses instead of trading my hours for dollars like a sucker.

Sure, it takes a lot of hard work and five years to create a passive income online business from nothing. But it takes much more hard work, a lifetime of commitment, and an eye-popping amount of debt to build a career in a demanding field like medicine or technology. Spending five years and a few thousand dollars on online courses to teach myself the ropes is a bargain.

Why Most People Don’t Take the Lazy Way

If becoming an entrepreneur is so easy compared to how most people live, why aren’t more people entrepreneurs? Why are so many people slaving away at an American dream that will never get any easier?

And no, it isn’t because of privilege. In my privileged upbringing, most of my peers still opted for a traditional career. I’ve met many wealthy people who won’t consider becoming entrepreneurs, despite having enough money to take the risk. Money makes it easier to become an entrepreneur, but people who want to become entrepreneurs often find a way to do so with or without money.

After a lifetime spent as an entrepreneur, I think most people avoid entrepreneurship because entrepreneurship doesn’t come with social approval. You can’t put a failed startup on your resume. A failed startup is a better educational opportunity than an Ivy-league education, but nobody acknowledges that. Everyone forces the status quo on everyone else, leaving everyone too frightened to break out and try.

The funny thing is, traditional careers don’t have any guarantees either. You can bust your ass for an expensive degree and still fail to find a lucrative job. I know people who chose “safe” careers and ended up with nothing.

Do This, and You’ll Always Be Successful

You can break through social conditioning and learn to spot easier ways for yourself by doing one thing. It’s hard, this one thing, but it’s easier than being a victim of social conditioning.

Educate yourself.

Study how the world works. Read business books, economics books, and books by successful people. Stay eyes wide open about the world instead of buying into one ideology or the other. Learn how to interpret data and come to evidence-backed conclusions instead of following your feelings or pretending the world is different than how it is.

If you’re oppressed, educating yourself will show you how you can overcome your oppression and be successful anyways. If you’re privileged, educating yourself will show you how you can use your privilege to make the world more equitable for everyone.

I don’t mean going to school and getting an education. That’s just another way the system indoctrinates you into its way of thinking. I mean learning to think for yourself. Learning how to think critically about what you learn and how the pieces fit together. Combining things people already know into new knowledge and insights nobody’s ever thought of before. Coming up with ways to create more economic value with less work will be easy as heck once you can do that.

Educating yourself will take time to pay off. It will be five to ten years before you start seeing significant returns on your investment.

You’ll spend the first five years simply learning stuff other people already know. If you don’t realize this, you may wonder if all this learning is worth the effort in the third or fourth year. But those returns will come, and they will be enormous.

You will start to see opportunities to which other people are simply blind. Challenges that are so complicated for other people will seem simple and obvious to you. Then, five to ten years later, you’ll have your “overnight success,” and people will gossip about how unfair it is that you got lucky and they didn’t.

That sounds like a lot of hard work, but it isn’t. Not when you consider the alternative — getting kicked around by your circumstances and leaving your success up to chance.

In Conclusion

The real secret to being successful in our economy isn’t hard work but creating the most value for the most people. The key to doing this isn’t working the hardest; it’s coming up with the most efficient way of turning your hard work into economic value. The more value you can create with one hour of work, the more you’ll earn, and the more financially successful you’ll be.

You can’t trust parents, adults, or educational facilities to teach you this skill. The best way to develop this skill is to educate yourself. Read books about business and entrepreneurship, learn about the arts and sciences, and carefully observe the world around you. Watch what people do and how it works out for them.

It takes bravery to bet on yourself when everyone is spending big money to attend university and “get a real job.” But once you’ve decided to do so, it doesn’t always take a lot of hard work. The years of work it takes to educate yourself can get boring, but it beats working at the same career for decades with no chance of ever becoming a millionaire.

Close this article and head to your local library. Borrow a few books about entrepreneurship for your favorite type of product or service, and kick back. Take time to find the easy way now, so you don’t have to make money the hard way for the rest of your life.