The Lazarus Philosophy: The Danger of Expectations and The Beauty of Duty

59 Comments

Here are some excellent tenets of self-interested (not self-centered) lifestyle design from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long by the inimitable Robert Heinlein:

Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.

But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad [a thief] than it is to deal with a leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please – this won’t take long”… Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time – and squawk for more!

So learn to say no – and to be rude about it when necessary.

Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.

This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.

[Hat tip to Joe Polish]

###

Odds and Ends: Help me beat Steve Jobs!

I need around 300 votes to beat Steve Jobs on Wired’s ‘best self-promoters’ list under ‘top rated’ (also check ‘new’ or other categories if you can’t find me). Please be sure to vote on the profile of me with 600+ votes and the dance photo, as there are multiple profiles of my name.

The page is great for a few laughs. Take 10 seconds to help a brother out!

[Update: I won! You guys rule! Check it out: Timothy Ferriss Takes Wired.com's Self-Promotion Prize]

If you tweet or blog it to rally troops, I’ll send you some positive karma and rainbow and kitten vibes :)

Posted on: March 26, 2008.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

59 comments on “The Lazarus Philosophy: The Danger of Expectations and The Beauty of Duty

  1. Okay okay, I won’t bug you with more stuff to do for me anymore!

    Really though, it’s a difficult balance to wanting to be helpful vs doing what’s best for onself–this quote captures it. Good stuff.

    Like

  2. Is that why my asking to meet you at SXSW was met with such a vociferous “no”?

    Kidding! Kidding! He is very, very nice, everyone!

    I tossed you a vote—hey! you were nice!!!—but I gotta say, that page creeped me out. No, WIRED, no!!

    ###

    LOL… I don’t recall any vociferous “no”s at SXSW! I do recall telling people who e-mailed me before SXSW that they’d have to find me there, though. Pure Schwarzenegger/Buffett schedule move :)

    Tim

    Like

  3. Dear Tim,

    Am a great fan of yours, check your blogs every day – and so voted for you as well. Best of Luck – I’m sure you’ll make it! :)

    2 questions –

    1) by any chance, have you written down your goals for the next 10 or 20 years?

    Looking at the amount you’ve already accomplished, I (and I’m sure many people) wonder how much you are going to accomplish in this life… its very inspiring!!

    2) Ever planning to come down to India?

    Warm regards
    Manan from India

    Like

  4. I’ve worked in an office and i’ve worked at home on the same task. I can certainly attest that working at home is more productive. Where it could take ofice workers 6-8 hours to complete a task, a home-worker could do it in 4 or less. In the office, people want to chat, people stop by looking for things, the phone keeps ringing, etc. etc.

    Like

  5. Tut tut Tim,

    You start this post by warning against people who say “just a few minutes of your time, please – this won’t take long.” and then finish it with “Take 10 seconds to help a brother out!”

    …its not compelling me to click that link! :-)

    ###

    LOL… nice catch. But, but… it’s just 10 seconds! Ha ha… If I had to sell you on voting, I’d just point out that you can end a website visit whenever you want, whereas a conversation you accept due to a “just a minute, please” request is often a black hole :)

    Tim

    Like

  6. “Triggering the Grand Irrationality?”

    Cowering in an obscure corner of the food pyramid

    somewhere between the tofu and the unflavored yogurt

    contemplating the juxtaposition of intangibles for all you are worth…..

    –klqtzzz

    Like

  7. Okay, I kinda feel like an idiot here, but I clicked on the link to vote for you and I can’t figure out how to vote! Happy to do it if someone can tell me how!

    Like

  8. Thanks for the quote. I have not thought about Heinlein in a while and I have some great memories of his work. I got hooked on Sci-fi as a teenager through his books. Here is a quote about writers.

    “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” -Robert A. Heinlein

    I bet Robert would have been one a hell of a blogger!

    Like

  9. Hey Tim-
    Voted for ya – hope it was on the right spot as there are 3 dancing photos of you. I just cast my vote where the most were.

    Also, what a kick to be in the runnings with Branson & Madonna – both of whom I’ve admired in my life. I know, it feels weird to say “admired” about Madonna – it’s just that she made her way pissing everybody off – as a kid, I thought that was “cool” – those teen feelings of wanting to get under people’s skins seemed justified by her success at nastiness. Likewise, Branson is a rebel too! All you hellraisers “get it” – Congrats, I’m sure that’s an honor for your lifetime.
    Lili

    Like

  10. I think Lazarus is one of RAH’s most memorable character’s, having traveled through time to hit on his own mother. In the same vein of Heinlein quotes to live by:

    ‘A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.’

    -Robert A. Heinlein

    I’ve always considered those word a challenge to forever improve.

    Casey

    Like

  11. I cast my vote also, looks like you have overtaken Jobs at this point. I couldn’t resist voting for Colbert, too. He is pretty far behind you and Jobs at this point, but if he calls out to the Colbert Nation on his show, you could both be in trouble …
    I couldn’t agree more with the post – having gone thru some pretty dramatic life changes over the past year, I have reshuffled my priorities and put a premium on my time. My prior life was completely dictated by my calendar and my inbox, and I am committed to not letting that happen again!

    Andy

    Like

  12. Received a MoGo Mouse yesterday. Yippee! Thank you, Tim.

    I voted for Tim and Stephen Colbert, and yes – twittered about it for what it’s worth.

    As for duty, I try my best to set boundaries and expectations up front because I do not like the mess of dealing with renegotiating them later. Sometimes I know full well that the other party is creating an alternate reality, but as long as I’ve spoken my truth I have a clean conscience. There is no discerning duty without a clean conscience. Even so, witnessing grown up tears still sucks.

    I am unfamiliar with Robert Heinlein, but will check him out.

    Persian food rocks. Fessenjan, adas polo and barley soup are my favorites.

    Like

  13. Whoa. What goes around comes around.

    O.K. I get the point which is, I think, not to sacrifice important dreams and goals and to be mindful of one’s time. But I don’t think it hurts to lend an ear on occasion to someone seeking advise. My view is that MOST people aren’t “leeches” who are out to suck me dry.

    I would think most of us on the blog, including Tim, have said the exact words, or something very similar to, ““just a few minutes of your time, please – this won’t take long.”

    I agree it’s important to set limits and to be mindful of our time — I just don’t think we should think it is good, shall we say, to shut the door completely on other’s who might benefit from our giving a few minutes of our, albeit valuable, time.

    Ciao
    EJ

    Like

  14. Tim, I just voted for you and it seems that you will win by far. I’ve also enjoyed the “Notebooks of Lazarus Long” although I don´t read much fiction (contrary to your advice, sorry!).

    Many blessings,

    Art Gonzalez

    Like

  15. Trying to spread the word, you had me at rainbows and kittens :) LOL

    As for saying no, it has been a challenge for me as there are times when I would rather listen to others needs than do for myself. Being an empath and learning that having boundaries doesn’t mean people won’t love you and most will respect you more if you respect you own needs.The ones who don’t tend to be people who just want to hear themselves talk and that isn’t productive for anybody. You find out who your real friends are or you find people who want to unconsciously use you for your “gifts.” You can tell a lot about people if you have a need and they respect your needs. It’s a fine line when respecting you own needs as well as caring for others. Disappointments can happen but its a great learning lesson on how the relationship will grow if everybody is asking and negotiating what they need. JOY!!!!

    Have a great time in the UK!

    Hugs,
    Jen

    Like

  16. Hello Mr. T,

    This is my first action item from p. 59 in your book–contacting you with a question!

    I’ve been doing well in real estate for 10 years and have done a bit of “dreamlining” along the way (1 yr trip around the world being the biggest), but it’s time for the next leap. I’m sick of my business and am looking for ideas to create a new, more automated business the likes of which you tout (and have created for yourself) in your book. It seems like the foundation for everything else, at least the way I’d like to do everything else!

    Any ideas/suggestions on where to start looking for cogent ideas and suggestions for new business ideas/models? (From Tim or any of you brilliant Tim-ites?)

    I am supremely sensitive to and appreciative of the value of your time. Thanks a million,
    Scott

    ###

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the comment. This question is very personal and requires some serious internal Q&A. I’d suggest rereading the “automation” section of the book and then visiting the forums if you have questions after that point. Those would be my starting recommendations.

    Good luck!

    Tim

    Like

  17. Dear All,

    Thanks so much for the support! A few things:

    1. Please be sure to vote for my profile with 600+ votes and me in a tank top, which is now under ‘top-rated’. There are multiple profiles of me (even with the tank top).
    Here is the page.

    2. To vote, as a few people asked, just click on the up arrow to the right of the profile. No registering or anything required. Just a click.

    Thanks again! It’d be great to beat Steve Jobs, whom Wired itself submitted ;)

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  18. First, thanks for quoting RAH. I built a rather large part of my personality and philosophy around his books. I think he’d appreciate your 4 hour work week (sounds more like Jubal Harshaw than Lazarus Long, but TIOMO.

    2nd, I voted for you (thought briefly about Branson, because of the whole space thing, but you certainly beat out S Jobs.

    3rd…drinking wine out of the bottle for breakfast. I know it saves washing a glass, but …. it loses points for couth. I liked the 3 minute breakfast though.

    *hugs*

    Like

  19. “Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time – and squawk for more!”

    is followed later by

    “Take 10 seconds to help a brother out!”

    How ironic!!

    ###

    Indeed, indeed. I like irony like my cheat days for diets — if I’m going to do irony, I do it seriously :)

    Tim

    Like

  20. Hi Tim – I voted, twice. I think Wired Magazine needs a little lesson in usability. Anyway, hopefully they will add up all the duplicate nominations. I think you clearly have this won on a lot of levels :) I will be drinking a pint vicariously with you in London! Cheers!

    ~Marcie

    Like

  21. OT:

    MAD props for the Lazurus Long post. I’m going to dust off my copy of “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” now and retire to nerd-vana.

    Heinlien! My favorite pendantic science fiction writer, and inventor of the water bed. His short story “If This Goes On” was feeling creepily prescient a couple of years ago…

    – Karl

    Like

  22. Can I substitute my rainbow & kitten vibes for a double dose of positive karma?

    ###

    Dear Jeff,

    I checked the exchange rate for rainbow/kitten to karma, and yes, it’s no problem :)

    Tim

    Like

  23. Hiya guys,

    Thanks so much again for the votes! If you are having trouble, all you need to do is click on the up arrow next to my profile with more than 1000 votes.

    @Manan:

    I don’t have business goals beyond 1 year or so, and I don’t have personal goals beyond 18 months. I have family-building and legacy-related goals that go out decades.

    Hope that helps!

    Tim

    Like

  24. For people who can’t vote — and that was me until 15 seconds ago — the profile section scrolls top-to-bottom *AND* side-to-side. You need to scroll to the right to see the arrows for voting. Not a very good interface, I have to say.

    Like

  25. Good stuff. Didn’t know you were a Heinlein fan. One of my pastimes is reading through all the quotes on Wikipedia and reveling in how alien they would be to today’s politicians. Naughty stuff :)

    Oh, and I put up the interview with Aubrey de Grey, the life extension guy. Quite interesting.

    Like

  26. I need help finding products to sell that are around 200.00 range. I’ve been searching for the past week and feel paralyzed. I’ve looked through drop shippers, products from China (although I’m concerned about supply issues), and wholesalers. Can anyone help? I’m tempted to go through network marketing, yet its something I’m not really interested in unless I can talk to someone that’s successful at it. HELP!

    ###

    Dear Chris,

    Some of the folks on the “automation” section of the forums should be able to help.

    Best,

    Tim

    Like

  27. I like, “Time is Your Total Capital.” I felt that should have been in title case..I’m going to go vote, even though it is a termite nibbling away at the foundation of my life. :)

    Like

  28. Hey Tim,

    Just thought that you would like to know that I was in Borders (Auckland, New Zealand) and they had displays of your book by every counter. You’re truly international baby!

    Natasha from NZ

    ###

    Sweeeeeet! Thanks, Natasha :)

    Tim

    Like

  29. Mr Ferris,

    I bought your book and now I have regrets the introduction was not so bad with this kind of title( it”s the best of the book) but it”s clear that did it only to win extra money. I want my money back could you do something about it? I’m an Mexican based in Paris France one advice never suggest about not traveling in specific country”s you closed the doors in all Latin America(exception of Argentina I understand why) and you are not wellcome in my beautiful country anymore.. (not make sense because you included one story about the mexican fishman in your book and in the end you suggested not travels to Mexico)..

    Very sad Mexican reader

    ###

    Dear Armando,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I don’t recommend that people go to Mexico City without being aware of the dangers, but I love Mexico as a whole. I’m sure your bookseller will gladly refund your money if you’d like, but please understand that perhaps they mistranslated my words in the book.

    All the best y que le vaya bien,

    Tim

    Like

  30. I was vote #1160 for Tim. FWIW, I had to scroll down within the iFrame to find Tim’s listing with the 1000+ votes.

    @Tim
    I’ve read where you stated that muses are very personal and you direct people to the “automation” section of the forums. Would it kill ya to dedicate a blog post to muses? Perhaps you could put together a ‘best of’ from the forums for inspiration. I think that inspiration is what a lot of us are struggling with.

    I own the book, and have access to the forums, but I am interested in seeing your blog visitors/fans have a crack at the subject. I don’t believe I am being selfish, as I have read a number of comments asking for help with their muse(s).

    Finally, I’m no chicken little, but all of the news about the poor economy in the U.S. will probably make people less likely to take chances with their livelihood.

    ###

    Hi Charles,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve considered writing a muse-related post on a number of occasions, but each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have much to add outside of what I wrote in the 4HWW. I really covered exactly what I know, and I don’t want to just duplicate content on the blog, hence my suggestion about the forums.

    Here is what I believe to be the crux of the issue: people use get hung up on choosing the muse, when they would recognize that you always need to make important decisions on incomplete information. Choose a few potential muses and start micro-testing. There is a very good chance that a few will not test well, but that’s how you find the winner you can scale and roll out.

    Designing a muse takes some effort, and because of the personal nature of automation, I cannot give most people the answer to: what muse should I choose? It requires some hard introspection, and any answer I might give cannot replace that.

    I’ll see what I can do, but these are still my general feelings. Most people want me to help them identify the one muse that will work without fail from the outset, and that’s now how the world of testing works. Most fail, but the book teaches how to fail cheaply and quickly so you can find the successful tester sooner rather than later.

    As for the US economy, I think it’s a great time to look at selling to markets with stronger currencies. Why not test a UK-based Adwords campaign and double your profit per unit? Hmmm…. I think it’s a great time to start something.

    Hope that helps!

    Tim

    Like

  31. Ahhh, saying “No” is so difficult for me. I am looking at this ridiculous pattern in my life right now. I have this idea that I can please all the people all the time-HA! My astrologer is helping me to bust this dead end. It is hard for me to acknowledge that not everyone is going to dig me (sad but true) so I might as well stay true to myself and stop trying to do the impossible. My hope is to truly embrace my authenticity and to find “my people”.

    If I don’t own my power someone else will-yikes!

    Much Love

    Like

  32. @Charles:

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve considered writing a muse-related post on a number of occasions, but each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have much to add outside of what I wrote in the 4HWW. I really covered exactly what I know, and I don’t want to just duplicate content on the blog, hence my suggestion about the forums.

    Here is what I believe to be the crux of the issue: people use get hung up on choosing the muse, when they would recognize that you always need to make important decisions on incomplete information. Choose a few potential muses and start micro-testing. There is a very good chance that a few will not test well, but that’s how you find the winner you can scale and roll out.

    Designing a muse takes some effort, and because of the personal nature of automation, I cannot give most people the answer to: what muse should I choose? It requires some hard introspection, and any answer I might give cannot replace that.

    I’ll see what I can do, but these are still my general feelings. Most people want me to help them identify the one muse that will work without fail from the outset, and that’s now how the world of testing works. Most fail, but the book teaches how to fail cheaply and quickly so you can find the successful tester sooner rather than later.

    As for the US economy, I think it’s a great time to look at selling to markets with stronger currencies. Why not test a UK-based Adwords campaign and double your profit per unit? Hmmm…. I think it’s a great time to start something.

    Hope that helps!

    Tim

    Like

  33. This is funny, my friend and I were just talking about this today. I work in IT and it seems like men are natural self-promoters and women, well, we just do the work and the men take credit for it. And I know that’s not always true, but…

    Anyway, I went and voted. There was a Tim Ferriss and there was a Timothy Ferris. I gave you both up arrows, assuming you’re both the same guy. Talk about self promoters!

    Have fun,
    Cheryl

    Like

  34. You got a couple votes out of me…..I think you might be a winner, although Jesus was one hell of a self-promoter his book might be a bit more behind the times.

    Like

  35. Great Answer on the Muse Question, I must admit I had similar questions. Oh what I did want to ask was did you manage to find somewhere to stay in Beijing? I have been stumped on this. BTW, 2012 Olympics are going to be in London. If you want to stay there when the time arrives let me know, my cousins and aunt live there. I will be there for a month at that time. Anyhow, thanks for your time.

    The Nicaragua Guy from Dallas,

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

    Like

  36. @Tim
    Of course, I don’t expect you to be a muse matchmaker, and I hope that no one else does. If you were to figure out and disclose an ideal one-size-fits-all muse, it wouldn’t last long as it would quickly become a flooded market.

    How about sharing some of the successes that your readers have had with their muses? Then other folks can comment about what has worked–or not worked–for them and kick around some ideas.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I do appreciate the forums you provide–including this one.

    Have a blast in the “Motherland”. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

    Like

  37. Hmmm. I think Tim Ferris For The Win :)

    I like some of the other choices (Salvadore Dali et all) but I really do think Tim is the best. He’s achieved a lot in a very short period of time. Steve Jobs has had decades and a multimillion dollar marketing department (one of the best in the world, IMHO) to do the same thing.

    Makes me wonder what Tim could do with a multi-million dollar marketing department ;D

    Like

  38. Ralph Ellison, on the main character in Invisible Man:

    “The major flaw in the hero’s character is his unquestioning willingness to do what is required of him by others as a way to success… you have to make your own decisions; you have to think for yourself… The hero’s invisibility is not a matter of being seen, but a refusal to run the risk of his own humanity, which involves guilt.”

    Like

  39. Hi Tim,

    I am Reading your book, about 200 pages are after me.

    Now is 45 minutes after midnight on Sunday evening.

    I just felt a strong urge to send you this message an thank you for a GREAT book.

    You managed to get me going after time and time of being in between. And I mean truly got me rolling!!!

    My on line project got a whole new energy level and power thanks to you.

    I would love to have an opportunity to further talk to you and if you are ever are in Toronto, Canada, lunch would be on me. There are some fine restaurants here. :)

    Again main thanks and hope to be in touch!

    Warm regards, Wes!

    ###

    Thank you, Wes! I’ll let you know next time I’m in Toronto :) Good tango, I hear…

    Tim

    Like

  40. On the ‘protecting time’ subject:

    Tim, I realized that you managed to pinpoint my problem with this blog – —
    that most of what I have spent the last 40 years of my life doing … was what was ‘expected’ of me. What ‘others’ expected but not what I wanted …

    I never decided to step outside of other’s expectations simply because they were always ‘high’ … and therefore must be correct. Right? Because anyone that chooses to improve themself will obviously have lofty goals and expectations.
    And … well … I am successful in my own ‘area’ compared to most , but not compared to what I know I can accomplish.

    Sorry I don’ t have the skill or the time to edit this for a worthy description of what I am trying to say , but there was a need to thank you for your diligence and hard work … in helping us … those of us that are looking for a REAL life … to achieve not just a lifestyle … but rather , for those that dare take the chance – Life.

    You have made a big difference in my thinking … far more than any other author. I have managed to change the entire direction of my future based on your writings.

    Thank you Tim

    ###

    Thank you so much for this kind comment, Edward. I hope that my writings help in even some small way :)

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  41. Duty is…the balance of your soul. It is what you are commanded to do…not what others require you to do. It is not family based….it is not country based…it is personal.

    It is what you hold sacred to you.

    We all strive to appease and over achieve. Or, at least, some do. Duty demands that you hold sacred to your truths, no matter what the time or consequence.

    And to those energy vampires, stuck in their own whirlwind of chaos and immediacy…take a moment, step back….

    …and

    just…

    …breathe.

    Thank you for the reminder.
    Namaste.

    Like

  42. On the point of work, love and happiness… here’s an interesting quote:

    “One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours—all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.” —William Faulkner, interview in Writers at Work, 1958

    Like

  43. Umm… yeah… I really disagree with that dudes definition of duty. That sophmoric, dimestore philosophy doesn’t go far in the real world and I can’t agree with it even in priniciple. Egoistic simplicity. A big part of ones duty is what other people expect of you. Being philosophically opposed to this makes you an asshole, philosophically of course. I’m not saying you have to sacrifice everything for everyone else, but within reason.

    Like

  44. Hello,
    I am a student who recently stumbled upon your 4HWW Book at my loval Barnes and Noble and have recently started to follow your blog. I love most of your ideology, but do question how it can apply to my life. My main concern is quality/dept of love in your life. How do you balance your travel and business with your personal love and family life? more bluntly, do you plan to get married and have the time to get married?

    Like