Can you be successful (while being lazy)?

Being a beginner surfer, really sucks. Not because of the low wave count. Not because I had to awkwardly carry around one of those gigantic “Costco Boards.” And definitely not because I looked more like a doggy-paddling toddler than a shredding (and shredded) Kelly Slater.

Nope. The worst part was the lactic acid. The non-stop paddling to catch a wave. Then some more paddling to get back out. Then even more paddling to fight a current or rip tide. For an entire year, my rotator cuffs would be on fire from this non-stop paddling.

Then one day, I learned about the Cork Effect. This took me another year to grok. But when once I figured it out, it was an absolute game-changer.

My wave count exploded. I ditched the rainbow foam board. I reclaimed my shoulders. The stoke factor went through the roof.

The Cork Effect is magical. It harnesses Bernouilli’s principle, timing and anticipation to cut the effort by 90%, while quintupling the number of waves caught.

Minimize effort. Maximize stoke. I can dig that.

Yup, I was rewarded for surfing more strategically. And for being lazy.

Now let’s jump out of the ocean and onto the soccer pitch.

You can see the Cork Effect at play in one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Lionel Messi.

The 5 Ballons d’Ors, La Liga goals records and 3 Golden Shoes hide a surprising truth about Messi.

On the pitch, he’s lazy.

Yup, you read that right.

While Messi’s teammates are scrambling for headers, crosses and corner kicks, their star player is lollygagging on the field.

He’s been mocked for over-walking. His “distance covered” stats compared pale in comparison to other soccer stars like Ronaldo.

But there’s not a single person out there who will question Messi’s effectiveness. His greatness.

So whether you’re catching waves, scoring goals, launching new marketing campaigns or growing your team, consider the following question: are you spinning your wheels unnecessarily?

Could you actually get more of the right things done, by trying a bit less hard? Dare I say, maybe even being a bit lazy?

How Messi gets more done (by working smarter)

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Messi’s walking (courtesy of a @TrungTPhan tweetstorm). When Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-0 in the El Classico, Messi covered 5 miles over 90 minutes: amazingly, he walked 83% of the time (sprinted only 1%).

For the 2017-2018 season, FiveThirtyEight tracked Messi’s “distance covered” vs. other star players and he was, by far, the least active.


But let’s not confuse inputs for output or efficiency for effectiveness. Here’s FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris on how Messi strategically focuses on $10k Work while other players spin their wheels doing low-value work:

A lot of soccer players run around a lot when there’s not much they can do to improve their situation. They may even continue running after they’re in the ideal location. Or even if they’re making slight improvements, they may be burning energy that would have more value being spent on runs that are higher leverage. Further, not moving unnecessarily may make it easier to keep track of what’s going on in the play, which may help the player anticipate what’s coming next.

It’s not fair to characterize Messi as lazy. He’s strategically lazy. Bobby Gardiner (also from FiveThirtyEight) describes Messi’s $10k Work as “staying in high-value locations” so that luck finds him:

Remarkably, in about 66 percent of the moments Messi won control of valuable space, he was walking. Even while strolling, he is helping his team by holding ground in valuable areas, waiting for the ball to come to him.

Even when Messi’s doing nothing, he’s doing a ton. Now that’s leverage.

Most of us mere mortals are not Messi. We don’t command 25 Million Euro transfer fees. We don’t have the full arm and leg tattoo sleeves. And we do waste a lot of energy and time grinding through low value work.

Why struggle?

“What would this look like, if it were easy?”

This is one of the first questions we ask our students during the first lecture of Supercharge Your Productivity. It’s a $10k question that usually triggers a “red pill” moment. You see, hard-charging professionals (like you, dear reader) often have a deeply held belief that for something to be worthwhile, you must have struggled to achieve it.

This worldview can originate in many different ways. For some (like me) it comes from an immigrant upbringing, where life circumstances for our parents were actually quite hard. It can also come from various religions, in which one’s struggle is rewarded in the after-life. Or it may arise from the scarcity mindset (and the omnipresent fear that the things could always take a turn for the worse).

Regardless of the origin, this worldview ingrains struggle into all of our activities.

When something is easy, it feels indulgent. Or the reward doesn’t taste as good.

But we’re surrounded of examples of “ease” leading to great things. Whether it’s flow states, being in the zone or having the hot hand, we’ve all felt that magical alignment of things just happening. In David Allen’s productivity classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity he describes this flow state with a rowing analogy:

Recall the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing carries us; we do not
force it. We pump our legs to drive our arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature.

And at this highest level of rowing, trying harder, thrashing or struggling actually leads to a worst outcome:

Our job is simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat speed. Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself. Social climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already arrived. Swing is a state of arrival.

And you don’t have to be a rower, surfer or Messi to see countless examples of this in your life. You can’t “try harder” at yoga. You can’t “will your way” into being more creative. And you can’t “force yourself” into becoming a more empathetic listener.

To use Allen’s words, in all those examples “Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself.”

What if you invert the struggle?

I get that you’re still skeptical. You want things to be hard.

It’s just how things are; the natural order of the knowledge worker’s universe.

So instead, try this $10k question:

“Where is there unnecessary struggle in my life?”

Where are you thrashing like a beginner surfer? Or burning yourself out chasing the soccer ball all over the pitch?

Now consider: What’s behind this struggle?

Is it hard because you’ve set expectations that are beyond what’s achievable? (If so, is it your expectation – or someone else’s?)

Is it hard because you’re stuck, alone or lacking guidance? (If so, who’s in your Rad Squad?)

Is it hard because you feel the impostor syndrome in the pit of your belly? (If so, how can you reclaim your self-confidence?)

Is it hard because you can’t connect the activity to a bigger purpose? (If so, consider the $10k question “What makes me come alive?”)

I’m not making the case that you should glide through life with an enduring peaceful smile on your face. (Well, maybe I am.)

But just consider, how much of that struggle is created in your own mind? And just being open to the possibility that it could be easy might score you a few more goals. And it will def crank up that stoke factor!

On October 5-7 you’ll learn from James Clear, Rachel Rodgers and many other bad-ass entrepreneurs how they “make it easy.” Sign up for the free $10k Summit today.

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