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


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

  1. 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


  2. 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.”


  3. 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…



  4. 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,



  5. 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….




    Thank you for the reminder.


  6. 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


  7. 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.


  8. 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?