Tales of Achieving Success Through Laziness

The copy of the book I read The Tale of the Man Too Lazy to Fail from.

Recently I had my yearly review at my job.

I had never had one of those before…mostly because I never stuck around long enough at a given job to get one. But in any case, I had finally gotten one and I cannot tell you how unexcited I was about this new development. I made some jokes to one of my lead managers about bribing them with food or otherwise suggesting I take shelter from their incoming barrage of professionalized insults.

Thankfully, it didn’t go like that.

The worst thing my manager said was that I needed to keep my book in my locker but good luck to her for enforcing that. My books are one of the few reasons I am still staying at the job. Being able to read books I might never be able to read otherwise (there are so many distractions at home) has been such a nice surprise for me.

I’ve finished everything from novels, to collections of writings and philosophical tomes (I recently finished 700+ pages over the course of a few months or so!). I’ve made the time to re-read some of my favorites like Dorian Gray and read interesting and challenging philosophical texts, such as The Foucault Reader, which I am currently reading.

Managers have a tough time actually enforcing this code of not reading for the person at the main register.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Perhaps most importantly there is a counter between the cashier and “the outside world” and thus perception is lessened.
  2. This also makes it rather easy to stow away your book of choice and not have it be found, while still being able to keep it near you at all times. I place mine in a box for single cigarettes that no one is using or under one of the shelves, besides a roll of paper towels.
  3. The way companies work, they have no real surveillance interest in having the camera go past the main part of the counter where transactions are made. So therefore it can never really be proved in any objective way by any of the managers that you’re slacking off. They have to rely on their eyes, which brings me to…
  4. Managers only have one pair of eyes and often these eyes are preoccupied with other tasks. They simply cannot manage everything in the store at once, least of all every single individual employee. Often I wait until a manager or two leaves so there’s only one or (at most) two managers. This heavily decreases the chances of me getting caught and often I don’t get caught at all. And if I do (which is rare at this point) then it’s sporadic.

But if 4. is correct then why is my manager noticing and calling for my book to be back in my locker? It’s likely because she knows I bring books with me everyday to work. I even showed her a few of my books a week ago (which was a huge tactical error, I now realize) just because I was so excited about what I was reading.

I also have been caught behind the counter before and it’s very much possible I am being caught more than my managers are explicitly saying. But of course that gets us into the territory of speculation and I couldn’t say for sure that managers are simply noticing me looking down for long periods of time or whatever it might be.

The fact of the matter is: I’m lazy when it comes to laziness.

Sure, I try to be vigilant about my laziness but it’s a lot of effort to avoid effort sometimes. Still, I did end up getting a 3/5 like I thought I deserved and earned. For me, it was funny, because according to my manager I undervalued myself on one set of scores, overvalued myself on another (only by a margin of 1 both times) and then got it just right.

So, in the end, my laziness has made me a complete role model…for an average employee.

I treat the customers with respect and try to figure out how to best meet their needs in a quick and friendly way (barf) but I also don’t push things like flu shots, optional surveys and I ask them if they want a bag or receipt because I think doing those things without asking is mildly rude. But my preferences don’t matter, only the company’s do.

I work well with my co-workers but sometimes I work a little too well and make jokes that maybe will be taken the wrong way. One time I yelled across the store to my favorite co-worker, “Nobody likes you!” It was obviously in jest but that’s also just obvious to me and her and perhaps our other co-workers. What about customers? That was the point my manager made and I understood it well enough…not that it stopped me from doing it later, just through whispers.

I don’t remember what the third quality was. It isn’t like it mattered. What mattered was that I passed and I assure you that I did everything I could to make sure I passed with the lowest amount of effort possible.

I “take on” busy work but very sparingly and only when it’s forced upon me. I never ask for work and when it is given to me I always try to find the quickest way to get it done. Most of the time I am taking care of customers (a necessary evil) or I am reading my book or I am (lovingly) making fun of my co-workers or getting made fun of by them.

I wish I could be as successful as David from The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail (which I just read in preparation for this) but mediocrity in retail suits me. It was really only in academia (high school, middle school, college, etc.) that I strove to be any sort of success and even then, it was largely for my own interests.

If you want another tale of success (though that’s subjective, I’m satisfied with mediocrity and being unnoticed, personally) through laziness, Robert Bell, a patent lawyer, has an interesting story here.


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