An Overachieving Slacker

My friend recently called himself an ‘Overachieving Introvert’. I hadn’t heard that epithet before, though maybe it was merely an adjectival phrase, but it got me to thinking about myself. While I also consider myself an overachieving introvert, I think a different moniker better applies to me: Overachieving Slacker. As in, “did you read what that Overachieving Slacker just wrote?” Or, “that Overachieving Slacker sure is incredibly lazy, but somehow he still manages to accomplish more than one would ever expect.”

I’ve always tried to subscribe to the words of wisdom: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And the next part that comes after it makes my heart sing: “And it’s all small stuff!”  This proverb appears to give my natural inclinations full license to slack off, and I find this delightful. Were it not for other people, and their pesky insistence on tending to minutia, I’d blissfully take care of only the broad strokes of life, and leave ‘grinding out the details’ to the accountants; and there are an astounding number of ‘accountants’ in our world. They like to focus on all the ways things can be done better, more precisely, more completely, more perfectly, and God bless every one of them! But I prefer to focus on getting things done pretty nearly fine, and good enough, and that’ll do!

Weeds don’t bother me, rounding up or down is a joy, a little food stain on my sleeve? Fine, I can suck on it as a snack later this afternoon. Even so, I do actually like doing the laundry, and cooking meals. But in moderation, everything in moderation. My mother-in-law recently told me that her husband only cooked two times for them in their entire forty plus years of marriage. Now that is a bar that is set low enough that I could crawl over it. And I’m thinking this has to give me a little leverage with my wife, that man’s daughter. She can’t expect much from me, having grown up seeing the level of domestic engagement that her own dad performed. I cooked for us twice, maybe more, in just this past week. I’m wondering if this gives me a pass for the rest of our marriage.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? There’s a bit more to it, but it basically says that twenty percent of your effort will yield about eighty percent of your results. That’s a great ratio, I like it! But that means that the other eighty percent of your effort is only getting you another twenty percent. That’s a horrible return on investment! Think about how much more one could get done if they only apply twenty percent of their effort to everything they do, while they still get about eighty percent completion. The other eighty percent that one might still devote towards that same project, which may only yield a twenty percent improvement on that project, one can divert to other new projects instead. Eighty percent, that’s a B average, nothing to be ashamed of there.

Admittedly, I tended towards getting A’s in most of my classes, and certainly some things in life I want to spend a bit more time on to get just right. I once heard that the author Ursula K. LeGuin would spend years, perhaps decades, reworking her writing and she never considered it finished, she believed it could always be made better. My goodness, that sounds like my definition of living in hell. Let me write, as fast as I possibly can get the thoughts out of my head, and then maybe jostle them around on the page a bit to get them orientated a bit better, and then ship it out, and move on to the next project. I’m sure Ursula would call me a ‘slacker’, or maybe she’d find a different word for me, maybe a ‘hack’. But then she probably wouldn’t be settled on that word either, and would have to change it for a different one next year. God bless her!

There are few words that have more power to give me peace and joy than the word ‘No’. I love saying no when I’m asked to do things. As a child and young man I always tended to say ‘yes’ to nearly everything, in hopes that people would like me, and admire how much I could do, and respect how they could rely on me. I was the proverbial underachieving workaholic. I set the 80/20 rule on its head; I worked eighty percent to achieve twenty percent results. And was I stressed? You bet I was stressed! And I just kept grinding it out. But it dawned on me, fairly early in life that this is no way to actually live; doing all of this just so that people would consider me an accomplished hard-worker. I wondered, would it be so bad if I became a slacker? It turns out that it isn’t so bad at all. In fact it is pretty terrific! And by slacking in these special and specific ways, I am actually able to get a ton of things done, maybe not perfectly, but well enough. And that’s good enough for me!


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