You are lazy. We all are. And understanding why might help avoid an ever-growing threat to both your personal and business success. I’m talking about…zombies.
Humans are naturally slothful creatures. Evolution programmed us to seek the easiest path as a simple survival mechanism. It is thought that, in our primal past, this was an energy conservation solution.
That Lion Looks Hungry
Since brain functions account for 20% or more of the average person’s energy spend, nature found ways to economize. For instance, our brains are excellent at pattern recognition and pattern memory as a substitute for ‘hard data’ from sensory stimuli (what we see and hear).
We developed these abilities to, for example, better recognize that lion stalking us. The energy we conserved could be used to make a quicker decision, and for a burst of speed as we ran away from the lion. The goal was simple: survive to be hungry another day (we were all on the keto diet back then).
But our modern world does not require the same sort of selective efficiencies. We once needed to maximize our senses and conserve resources for body processes. But we are no longer at risk of starving or being eaten as we trek across the modern tundra (the local shopping mall).
Many of us have turned our attention away from the beauty, opportunities and risks of the world around us and surrendered to the hand-held addictions we carry in our pockets. Lazy used to be a survival strategy; now it is our default state.
You’ve Got Tech-Enabled Laziness
The simple, mindless scrolling and tapping that so many do for so many hours each day is, no doubt, a distraction. But of even greater consequence is how (for those that stop and actually read or listen) this fire-hose of infotainment is so readily accepted as a reliable and complete source of knowledge.
Seeing an Instagram post is not knowing a thing. Liking a Facebook page is not learning. Watching a YouTube video does not constitute mastery of a topic. Liking doesn’t require understanding.
Comprehensive knowledge and mastering a topic usually requires thorough research, critical analysis and action (actually applying what is being learned). Yet, we are programmed for lazy.
So, these days we routinely outsource many tasks in life, big and small. And thanks to the (not) intimate relationship we have with our “friends” on social media, we also plug and play decisions on important topics like medical treatment, who to vote for or what school our children should attend. This also extends to life-changing career and business decisions. It is intellectual laziness with serious potential consequences.
The real tragedy is that, in the past, doing additional research or getting more opinions was often not possible. We now have mountains of information freely available yet many choose to ignore it. But if you have read this far you are, at least, aware of the risk.
Zombie Opinions Are Eating Your Brain
The first and (for some) greatest test of a person’s ability to navigate complex and high-impact life decisions is that of young adults planning for their university years.
These would-be college students (and their parents) can be forgiven for seeking outside help with the challenge of balancing personal passions, financial aspirations and budget realities. They must juggle all this while the many ‘experts’ and the education industrial complex runs them through the meat grinder of entrance admissions and student loans applications.
Most just get overwhelmed and simply follow decisions made by others around them (who followed others still). This, or they resign themselves to whatever school choices they ultimately qualified for after carefully checking the boxes of education gurus and admissions experts.
Business leaders, from solopreneurs to management teams and board members also exhibit this type of intellectual laziness. A typical business case is when a company makes critical decisions based on the guidance of one purported expert or consulting firm.
There is a natural tendency to think that, because such outside experts charge a lot of money for their knowledge, it must have value. This often happens with online business gurus and their “‘high ticket” courses. And, once it is paid for, there is psychological (or political) pressure to implement the recommendations, regardless of their quality.
These consensus opinions, ‘guaranteed methods’ and (so-called) best practices wander the thoughtscape like zombie ideas, eating the brains of everyone interested in learning or exploring a new discipline. And it’s hard to kill zombies.
By the way, a similar phenomenon exists with off-the-shelf tools and metrics. For example, in digital marketing and especially the SEO world, individuals, agencies and corporates love and live by their tools. Many accept as gospel the data they provide, sometimes making costly mistakes as a result. Even experienced practitioners are sometimes over-dependent on tools, but that’s a topic for another article.
The Problem Is The Solution
Sadly, whole industries are built on the intellectual laziness of us humans. Thought ‘leaders’ and gurus have been selling shortcuts to basic human problems for centuries. Now, the ocean of information that is the internet has made it even easier for such people to copy-paste a ’secret sauce’ formula to a problem, stamp it with a logo and find willing buyers. Not all of these people are outright frauds; some are just opportunists that re-package the work of others and slap a price tag on it.
We need to ignore the frauds and the phonies, and start solving our own problems. We can be our own gurus.
Fortunately, the same rising tide of freely available information can empower the rest of us with the knowledge we need to look past the fakes. We need to ignore the frauds and the phonies, and start solving our own problems. We can be our own gurus.
We simply need to fight off our lazier impulses and jump into that ocean of knowledge ourselves. And don’t just doggy-paddle around. Swim with purpose and a plan. Reconfirm you goal, plot a general direction to get there, note the required, logical steps you’ll need to take, and start learning how you will take them.
Research how things work and don’t ignore what others before you have done. But, once you have a basic understanding, don’t wait. Take action and execute. Document your results and iterate if needed. If not, start on the next step. Doing is an essential part of mastery.
Of course, modelling and learning from others also plays a part in education but no one can take action for us. The first and most critical step for any new business effort is to take action. We must own our outcomes, which starts at the very beginning with self-led learning, critical thinking and action.
Also, with each successful step, as we climb higher up the mountain let’s reach back down and help others do the same. And if you meet any fake gurus on the way up, you’ll know what to say.