Fear of a Lazy Planet – A Book Review of Dr. Devon Price’s “Laziness Does Not Exist”

I was provided this copy in advance by Dr. Price themself and as such my page citations may differ from your own. As well, any errors in quotes or differences from your copy of the book should be seen as my own error or due to my different version and not the fault of Dr. Price, thanks!

Taken from: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Laziness-Does-Not-Exist/Devon-Price/9781982140106

In preparing for this book review I dedicated myself to reading for an hour while also taking notes. There were multiple sessions of reading where I either went over this hour, shamed myself for not pushing myself harder when I didn’t do that, or otherwise thought I wasn’t doing enough.

Originally, this book review was supposed to debut in early January, but due to my constant daily schedule of meditating, exercise and preparing for the two D&D sessions that I dungeon master every week, I often made underwhelming weekly progress towards this review.

It was frustrating and I felt like I was letting Dr. Price down for not having the review out sooner and my audience who I hadn’t written anything for in a long time, not to mention my few loyal patrons who are still donating money to me on a monthly basis.

If it’s not clear already: I am not immune from The Laziness Lie, as Dr. Price calls it:

Deep down I’m lazy and worthless.

I must work incredibly hard, all the time, to overcome my inner laziness.

My worth is earned through my productivity.

Work is the center of life.

Anyone who isn’t accomplished and driven is immoral.


These are the myths The Laziness Lie tells us and they’re ones I’ve absorbed over the course of my life just like everyone else. Some of these I am better at rejecting consciously while still reinforcing unconsciously and others I’ve shrugged off, as Dr. Price suggests in their book to do.

For instance, I do have self-esteem issues and some of that comes from my lack of interest in working. But most of it comes from my past relationships and the mistakes I made in them. On the other hand I don’t think I have an “inner laziness”, I have an outer laziness that I’m, at times, proud of and, other times, frustrates me. There are days where I want to exercise because I think I weigh too much (230 pounds at 5’10) but I just don’t have the energy and feel bad.

Let’s look at these others myths then, one at a time.

Recently, I did a speedrun of Kingdom Hearts 2, one of my favorite video games of all time. It took me approximately 5 1/2 hours to beat on Beginner (the easiest mode) in game time. I felt a swell of pride in this accomplishment as I hadn’t run the game in a long time and felt good about that time. It also felt odd to have serious pride about something I’ve done as it’s not a sensation I feel a lot. I do feel good about the sessions I dungeon master, but I can’t ever say it rises to full-on pride.

The third part of The Laziness Lie is perhaps one of the most damaging, dangerous and hard to ignore. I try to tell myself that I’ve largely shrugged off the idea that my worth is tied up in how productive I am in a day. But if that’s the case why do I make a schedule for myself every day? And why does it always revolve around getting meditating, writing and exercise done before video games, TV and other “lazy” activities where I’m not actively producing anything?

That said, I can feel confident about the last two myths. I do not think work is the center of my life, the center of my life is those around me who love me and support me. It is my friends, my loved ones, my hobbies, my interests and those who are kind enough to stick with me, despite my flaws and problems. The center of my life hasn’t been work in a long time, if it ever was.

There’s a problem with this argument however: I certainly view schoolwork as a major part of my life and I remember pushing myself so hard last semester with my senior thesis. To the point that I hit burnout and then kept going because I knew it needed to be done. I often try to segment my work (as Dr. Price suggests) but in some cases it seemed impossible, especially as the semester came to an end. This isn’t counting all of the other papers I had to work on either.

In this context, I do see schoolwork as closer to the center of my life, but usually I don’t push myself to the extent I did with my senior thesis last semester. Even when I lost my job back in September of 2020 (a story for another time), I cried not because I thought I was  worthless but because I knew I would miss the dogs I worked with. I was scared of financial insecurity and the future suddenly seemed even more uncertain than it already did thanks to the pandemic.

And that brings us to the last lie that our culture tells us. That we should judge addicts, homeless people, or the unemployed more harshly than those who have part-time and especially full-time jobs. I can safely say I’ve rejected this myth but at the same time my comfort levels around the homeless are not what they would be for someone who was dressed in a suit and tie.

All of this is to say what I said at the beginning: I’m not immune to The Laziness Lie and furthermore, neither is anyone reading this. We are all flawed, imperfect beings to varying extents and we all would like to think we have (consciously and subconsciously) rejected the harmful ideas this society has tried to instill in us about work. But Dr. Price’s book proves to us that this isn’t as easy as we wish it was, it’s never going to be that easy, unfortunately.

But there are ways to make it better! There are ways to resist The Laziness Lie at every turn of your life whether that is relationships, school, work, or just about anything else. That doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect once you start resisting it. Learning is a long road formed often from the mistakes you’ve made along the way, that’s something I’ve had to accept as I get older.

This doesn’t mean we can’t get better though and accept ourselves more and more, practicing self-compassion along the way as Dr. Price advocates.

At this point it’s worth explicitly stating that I recommend this book to any anti-work advocate who wants to take better care of themselves in this messed up capitalist society we are forced to live under. I will warn my readers it is largely a self-help book and Dr. Price is themself a psychologist who uses accessible but scientific language and citations to get their point across.

Personally, I appreciated and enjoyed those aspects of Laziness Does Not Exist, but some may be expecting a political manifesto and wind up disappointed. I will admit that my “major” criticism is that the book moves so tangentially from what I’d consider The Laziness Lie majorly affecting that I started to long for the conclusion, which thankfully soon came.

Not because this book is poorly written (far from it!) but because at that point in the book (nearly 150 pages in) I had said to myself, “OK, I understand your thesis and I think you’ve argued it well, I don’t think these last couple of chapters are strictly speaking necessary.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or that I didn’t appreciate them! But I could definitely see some trimming in this book to knock it down closer to the 150 page mark instead of the 180ish mark it reaches.

Again, this is a weak criticism on my part. Even the sections where I squinted and wasn’t sure how directly related it was to The Laziness Lie were well-written, helpful and agreeable. Dr. Price has written a masterful book on a subject that all anti-work advocates should bring their attention to.

I just hope Dr. Price took some time for themselves while writing it.

Oh hey, it’s been a while!

Feel free to check out my older posts and keep in mind this book review is a one-off before I head back for my final semester at (online) school, so I won’t be writing again till May, if not later. As you may be able to tell a lot has happened in my life since my last post but thanks to the (paltry and sporadic) stimulus checks and upcoming tax return I’m hanging in there.

Stay safe and happy slacking!

“Laziness” is Context, not Content

Coming in early 2021!

I could have written this post yesterday. Instead, after reading an excellent article by Devon Price about how Laziness Does Not Exist, I chose not to. Instead, I decided to go play video games for nearly 3 hours, then have dinner, play video games with friends (Fall Guys) and then play more video games from 11 PM to nearly 3 AM (It’s Ghost of Tsushima , if you’re curious).

Am I lazy? Why didn’t I just write this article instead of slacking off? What does it say about my character that even though I had hours of opportunities to write this I didn’t?

According to Price? Nothing.

…[W\hen I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness,” I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?

Taking Price’s line of reasoning here what were my barriers to action that others may not see?

Well, I’d already done some organizing for a D&D session during my birthday in a couple of weeks. I read some other articles before that and generally didn’t feel like overwhelming myself. I felt a strong urge to do something to just relax and get lost in and I felt video games fit that need of mine better than writing did. I was also aware that this site is completely run by me (even if it’s just an unconscious recognition at this point) and that I make my own deadlines.

But do all these barriers say something about my character? Nope. They’re just circumstances I find myself in and I react however I feel best able to in the moment. My ability to “recognize those barriers—and viewing them as legitimate” is key in me still finding enjoyment in writing.

Consider an alternative scenario: I shame myself heavily for not writing. I tell myself I’m a failure and that this just further proves I can’t commit to anything without messing it up. What would that do for me? According to Price it would do the opposite of helping:

It has nothing to do with desire, motivation, or moral upstandingness. Procastinators can will themselves to work for hours; they can sit in front of a blank word document, doing nothing else, and torture themselves; they can pile on the guilt again and again — none of it makes initiating the task any easier. In fact, their desire to get the damn thing done may worsen their stress and make starting the task harder.

The solution, instead, is to look for what is holding the procrastinator back. If anxiety is the major barrier, the procrastinator actually needs to walk away from the computer/book/word document and engage in a relaxing activity. Being branded “lazy” by other people is likely to lead to the exact opposite behavior.

I can shout, hurl insults, negative self-talk and curse myself out for existing all I want but what good will it do me? And even if it got me to write the damn thing, what would it accomplish? I’d likely still see myself as a failure or that the article suffered because I guilt myself so feverishly. This would only keep the cycle of self-hatred going and affect my writing even more!

No, there’s no point in self-shaming yourself over what you can’t find in yourself to accomplish. Ask yourself this question: Even if shaming got you to where you needed to be: Would it be worth it? Would it be worth constantly denigrating, belittling and emotionally harming yourself just to check something off on a checklist for the day? How much is the assignment you’re berating yourself really worth? Is it worth your self-esteem or your sense of well-being? I doubt it.

Shame is a powerful social tool but it’s often too strong for what we think is necessary. Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing to feel. Feeling remorse for past wrongs isn’t a fault and telling yourself you should have and need to do better isn’t either! But shame doesn’t work like that, as we’ve been talking about in the last couple of articles. Shame builds secrecy, it makes people take out their anger on themselves instead of focusing that energy on progress for themselves.

So OK, you get it, self-shaming doesn’t work.

Well, Price thinks their so smart so what is the solution then?

The class & I talked about the unfair judgments people levy against those with mental illness; how depression is interpreted as laziness, how mood swings are framed as manipulative, how people with “severe” mental illnesses are assumed incompetent or dangerous.

The quiet, occasionally-class-skipping student watched this discussion with keen interest. After class, as people filtered out of the room, she hung back and asked to talk to me. And then she disclosed that she had a mental illness and was actively working to treat it. She was busy with therapy and switching medications, and all the side effects that entails. Sometimes, she was not able to leave the house or sit still in a classroom for hours. She didn’t dare tell her other professors that this was why she was missing classes and late, sometimes, on assignments; they’d think she was using her illness as an excuse. But she trusted me to understand.

Support! As I talked about in the previous article with regards to addiction (and of course mental health issues and addiction often go hand and hand), support from your peers is one of the most important things people can have. If I didn’t have my loving and supportive partner, my close friends or my online communities, I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. I’d still probably be just as preoccupied with hating myself and wishing I could’ve done X or Y over again.

But just like with “laziness” these things don’t help me. They make me feel worse while helping no one around me. It makes me spiral into the pits of despair and self-hatred and eventually those emotions need to be let out somehow and often they’ll be on people I love and care about. I don’t want to be that person anymore and so I have to strive to do better, not wallow in self-pity.

And what happens when this kind of support is given?

Price explains:

These students all came to me willingly, and shared what was bothering them. Because I discussed mental illness, trauma, and stigma in my class, they knew I would be understanding. And with some accommodations, they blossomed academically. They gained confidence, made attempts at assignments that intimidated them, raised their grades, started considering graduate school and internships.

Success! Support leads to success! It’s almost like making folks feel ashamed of themselves by forcing them to go to work camps or go to prison is a bad idea! It’s almost like manipulatively hosting summer field picking jobs is a way to reinforce to people that they need to be productive or else they’re not leading a “full” life, even in retirement!

As Price says, y’all aren’t lazy. And even if you were, it’s OK to be lazy and take care of yourself when you need to do so. There’s a need that you feel isn’t being met at that time and that’s valid and so important to listen to. It should be better respective and legitimized in today’s society. But sadly, we live under a capitalist regime so that kind of legitimacy won’t be afforded anytime soon.

If I had one quibble with Price’s (excellent) piece, it’s that while laziness as a moral status doesn’t exist, I think it’s very much the case that laziness as a neutral status does. Yeah, maybe I was being lazy yesterday when I didn’t want to write immediately after reading an article that mentions mental health, sexual assault, and trauma, but you know what?

That’s OK, because I’m here now and I wrote it, didn’t I?

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