The Art of Strategic Laziness

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David Heinemeier Hansson ("DHH")

David Heinemeier Hansson (“DHH”)

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, a frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company.  Last year, he wrote about his two-week Soylent experiment, which went viral and racked up 500+ comments.

This post is adapted from his new book, SMARTCUTSand it will teach you a few things:

  • How to use strategic “laziness” to dramatically accelerate progress
  • How “DHH” became a world-class car racer in record time, and how he revolutionized programming (they’re related)
  • A basic intro to computer programming abstraction

Note: the technical aspects of programming have been simplified for a lay audience.  If you’d like to point out clarifications or subtleties, please share your thoughts in the comments!   I’d love to read them, as I’m thinking of experimenting with programming soon.

Enter Shane Snow

The team was in third place by the time David Heinemeier Hansson leapt into the cockpit of the black-and-pink Le Mans Prototype 2 and accelerated to 120 miles per hour. A dozen drivers jostled for position at his tail. The lead car was pulling away from the pack—a full lap ahead.

This was the 6 Hours of Silverstone, a six-hour timed race held each year in Northamptonshire, UK, part of the World Endurance Championship. Heinemeier Hansson’s team, Oak Racing, hoped to place well enough here to keep them competitive in the standings for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Tour de France of automobile racing.

Heinemeier Hansson was the least experienced driver among his teammates, but the Oak team had placed a third of this important race in his hands.

Determined to close the gap left by his teammate, Heinemeier Hansson put pedal to floor, hugging the curves of the 3.7-mile track that would be his singular focus for the next two hours. But as three g’s of acceleration slammed into his body, he began to slide around the open cockpit. Left, then right, then left. Something was wrong with his seat.

In endurance racing, a first place car can win a six- or 12-hour race by five seconds or less. Winning comes down to two factors: the equipment and the driver. However, rules are established to ensure that every car is relatively matched, which means outcomes are determined almost entirely by the drivers’ ability to focus and optimize thousands of tiny decisions.

Shifting attention from the road to, say, a maladjusted driver’s seat for even a second could give another car the opportunity to pass. But at 120 miles per hour, a wrong move might mean worse than losing the trophy.  As Heinemeier Hansson put it, “Either you think about the task at hand or you die.”

Turn by turn, he fought centrifugal force, attempting to keep from flying out while creeping up on the ADR-Delta car in front of him.

And then it started to rain…

***

When Heinemeier Hansson walked onto the racing scene in his early 30s, he was a virtual unknown, both older and less experienced than almost anyone in the leagues. A native of Denmark, he’s tall, with a defined jaw and dark spikey hair. At the time he raced 6 Hours of Silverstone, it had been about five years since he first drove any car at all.

That makes him one of the fastest risers in championship racing.

Despite that, Heinemeier Hansson is far better known among computer programmers—where he goes by the moniker DHH— than car enthusiasts. Though most of his fellow racers don’t know it, he’s indirectly responsible for the development of Twitter. And Hulu and Airbnb. And a host of other transformative technologies for which he receives no royalties. His work has contributed to revolutions, and lowered the barrier for thousands of tech companies to launch products.

All because David Heinemeier Hansson hates to do work he doesn’t have to do.

DHH lives and works by a philosophy that helps him do dramatically more with his time and effort. It’s a principle that’s fueled his underdog climbs in both racing and programming, and just might deliver a win for him as the cars slide around the rainslicked Silverstone course.

But to understand his smartcut, we must first learn a little bit about how computers work.

grass

Think of the way a stretch of grass becomes a road. At first, the stretch is bumpy and difficult to drive over. A crew comes along and flattens the surface, making it easier to navigate. Then, someone pours gravel. Then tar. Then a layer of asphalt. A steamroller smooths it; someone paints lines. The final surface is something an automobile can traverse quickly. Gravel stabilizes, tar solidifies, asphalt reinforces, and now we don’t need to build our cars to drive over bumpy grass. And we can get from Philadelphia to Chicago in a single day.

That’s what computer programming is like. Like a highway, computers are layers on layers of code that make them increasingly easy to use. Computer scientists call this abstraction.

A microchip—the brain of a computer, if you will—is made of millions of little transistors, each of whose job is to turn on or off, either letting electricity flow or not. Like tiny light switches, a bunch of transistors in a computer might combine to say, “add these two numbers,” or “make this part of the screen glow.”

In the early days, scientists built giant boards of transistors, and manually switched them on and off as they experimented with making computers do interesting things. It was hard work (and one of the reasons early computers were enormous).

Eventually, scientists got sick of flipping switches and poured a layer of virtual gravel that let them control the transistors by typing in 1s and 0s. 1 meant “on” and 0 meant “off.” This abstracted the scientists from the physical switches. They called the 1s and 0s machine language.

Still, the work was agonizing. It took lots of 1s and 0s to do just about anything. And strings of numbers are really hard to stare at for hours. So, scientists created another abstraction layer, one that could translate more scrutable instructions into a lot of 1s and 0s.

This was called assembly language and it made it possible that a machine language instruction that looks like this:

10110000 01100001

could be written more like this:

MOV AL, 61h

which looks a little less robotic. Scientists could write this code more easily.

Though if you’re like me, it still doesn’t look fun. Soon, scientists engineered more layers, including a popular language called C, on top of assembly language, so they could type in instructions like this:

printf(“Hello World”);

C translates that into assembly language, which translates into 1s and 0s, which translates into little transistors popping open and closed, which eventually turn on little dots on a computer screen to display the words, “Hello World.”

With abstraction, scientists built layers of road which made computer travel faster. It made the act of using computers faster. And new generations of computer programmers didn’t need to be actual scientists. They could use high-level language to make computers do interesting things.

When you fire up a computer, open up a web browser, and buy a copy of my book online for a friend (please do!), you’re working within a program, a layer that translates your actions into code that another layer, called an operating system (like Windows or Linux or MacOS), can interpret. That operating system is a probably built on something like C, which translates to Assembly, which translates to machine language (1s and 0s), which flips on and off a gaggle of transistors.

(Phew.)

So, why am I telling you this? 
In the same way that driving on pavement makes a road trip faster, and layers of code let you work on a computer faster, hackers like DHH find and build layers of abstraction in business and life that allows them to multiply their effort.

I call these layers platforms.

***

At college in the early aughts, DHH was bored. Not that he couldn’t handle school intellectually. He just didn’t find very much of it useful.

He practiced the art of selective slacking. “Some of my proudest grades were my lowest grades,” he tells me.

We all know people in school and work with a masterful ability to maintain the status quo (John Bender on The Breakfast Club or the bald, coffee-swilling coworker from Dilbert), but there’s a difference between treading water and methodically searching for the least wasteful way to learn something or level up, which is what DHH did.

“My whole thing was, if I can put in 5 percent of the effort of somebody getting an A, and I can get a C minus, that’s amazing,” he explains. “It’s certainly good enough, right? [Then] I can take the other 95 percent of the time and invest it in something I really care about.”

DHH used this concept to breeze through the classes that bored him, so he could double his effort on things that mattered to him, like learning to build websites. With the time saved, he wrote code on the side.

One day, a small American web-design agency called 37signals asked DHH to build a project management tool to help organize its work. Hoping to save some time on this new project, he decided to try a relatively new programming language called Ruby, developed by a guy in Japan who liked simplicity. DHH started coding in earnest.

Despite several layers of abstraction, Ruby (and all other code languages) forces programmers to make countless unimportant decisions. What do you name your databases? How do you want to configure your server? Those little things added up. And many programs required repetitive coding of the same basic components every time.

That didn’t jibe with DHH’s selective slacking habit. “I hate repeating myself.” He almost spits on me when he says it.

But conventional coders considered such repetition a rite of passage, a barrier to entry for newbies who hadn’t paid their dues in programming.  “A lot of programmers took pride in the Protestant work ethic, like it has to be hard otherwise it’s not right,” DHH says.

He thought that was stupid. “I could do a lot of other interesting things with my life,” he decided. “So if programming has to be it, it has to be awesome.”

So DHH built a layer on top of Ruby to automate all the repetitive tasks and arbitrary decisions he didn’t want taking up his time. (It didn’t really matter what he named his databases.) His new layer on top of programming’s pavement became a set of railroad tracks that made creating a Ruby application faster. He called it Ruby on Rails.

Rails helped DHH build his project—which 37signals named Basecamp—faster than he could have otherwise. But he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

When he shared Ruby on Rails on the Internet, programmers fell in love with it. Rails was easier than regular programming, but just as powerful, so amateurs downloaded it by the thousands. Veteran coders murmured about “real programming,” but many made the switch because Rails allowed them to build their projects faster.

The mentality behind Rails caught on. People started building add-ons, so that others wouldn’t have to reinvent the process of coding common things like website sign-up forms or search tools. They called these gems and shared them around. Each contribution saved the next programmer work.

Suddenly, people were using Ruby on Rails to solve all sorts of problems they hadn’t previously tackled with programming. A toilet company in Minnesota revamped its accounting system with it. A couple in New Jersey built a social network for yarn enthusiasts. Rails was so nice that more people became programmers.

In 2006 a couple of guys at a podcasting startup had an idea for a side project. With Rails, they were able to build it in a few days—as an experiment—while running their business. They launched it to see what would happen. By spring 2007 the app had gotten popular enough that the team sold off the old company to pursue the side project full time. It was called Twitter.

A traditional software company might have built Twitter on a lower layer like C and taken months or years to polish it before even knowing if people would use it. Twitter—and many other successful companies—used the Rails platform to launch and validate a business idea in days. Rails translated what Twitter’s programmers wanted to tell all those computer transistors to do—with relatively little effort. And that allowed them to build a company fast. In the world of high tech—like in racing—a tiny time advantage can mean the difference between winning and getting passed.

Isaac Newton attributed his success as a scientist to “standing on the shoulders of giants”—building off of the work of great thinkers before him.

Platforms are tools and environments that let us do just that. It’s clear how using platforms applies in computer programming, but what if we wanted to apply platform thinking to something outside of tech startups?

Say, driving race cars?

***

David Heinemeier Hansson was in a deep hole. Halfway through his stint, the sprinkling rain had become a downpour. Curve after curve, he fishtailed at high speed, still in third place, pack of hungry competitors at his rear bumper.

LMP cars run on slick tires—with no tread—for speed. The maximum surface area of the tire is gripping the road at any moment. But there’s a reason street vehicles have grooves in them. Water on the road will send a slick tire drifting, as the smooth rubber can’t channel it away. Grooved tires push water between the tread, giving some rubber grip and preventing hydroplaning. The slicker the tires—and the faster the speed—the more likely a little water will cause a car to drift.

That’s exactly what was happening to the LMP racers. As the rain worsened, DHH found himself sliding around the inside of a car that was sliding all over the race track. Nearby, one driver lost grip, slamming into the wall.

Cars darted for the pits at the side of the track, so their teams could tear off the slick tires and attach rain tires. Rain tires are safer, but slower. And they take a precious 13-plus seconds to install. By the time the car has driven into the pits, stopped, replaced the tires, and started moving again, more than a minute can be lost.

DHH screamed into his radio to his engineer, Should I pit in for new tires?

Like I said, DHH wasn’t the most experienced racer. He had gotten into this race because he was skilled at hacking the ladder. A few years into 37signals’s success, and with Rails taking a life of its own, Hansson had started racing GT4—essentially souped-up street cars—in his spare time.

Initially, he finished in the middle of the pack with the other novices. But after studying videos of master drivers, he started placing higher. High enough that after six races, he was allowed to enter into GT3 races (the next level up), despite zero first-place wins. In GT3, he raced another six times, placing first once, third another time. He immediately parlayed up to GTE (the “E” is for “endurance”). While other racers duked it out the traditional way, spending a year in each league, and only advancing after becoming league champion, DHH “would spend exactly the shortest amount of time in any given series that I could before it was good enough to move up to the next thing.”

There’s no rule that says you have to win the championship to advance from GT4 to GT3. Nor is there a rule saying you have to spend a year in a given league before moving up. That’s just the way people did it. Instead, DHH compressed what normally takes five to seven years of hard work into 18 months of smart work. “Once you stop thinking you have to follow the path that’s laid out,” he says, “you can really turn up the speed.”

On the rainy Silverstone course, however, parlays couldn’t help him anymore, and slacking was not an option. DHH had to drive as fast as safely possible, and every microsecond counted. In such tight competition, the only edge a racer had was raw driving skill.

Or, as it turned out, a better platform.

dhhontrack

SHOULD I PIT IN? The man who hates repeating himself repeated over the radio. I’m going to end up in the wall!

His engineer told him to tough it out. The rain is about to clear up.

G-force pounding his body, DHH cautiously hugged the curves for another lap, and sure enough, the downpour began to subside. By two laps the course was dry. Heinemeier Hansson’s slick tires gripped the track with more friction than his competitors’ newly fitted rain tires and he sped ahead. The other drivers now had to pit back in for slick tires, for a total of nearly two minutes’ delay that DHH entirely avoided.

At the end of his leg of the relay, DHH jumped from the car, having demolished the competition.

The slick tires provided DHH a platform advantage, more leverage to drive faster with the same pedal-to-floor effort. And though driving slick in the rain had been risky, his skill learned by imitating master racers kept him alive.

Reflecting on his rapid ascent in racing, DHH says, “You can accelerate your training if you know how to train properly, but you still don’t need to be that special. I don’t think I’m that special of a programmer or a businessperson or a race car driver. I just know how to train.”

DHH had proven he had the skill to race. Videos of master drivers had helped him to learn quickly. His tire advantage had pushed him ahead of equally skilled drivers, and propelled him to the next level. And the advanced racing leagues themselves became a platform that forced him to master the basics—and faster—than he would have at a lower level.

When DHH returned to visit his home race track in Chicago, the same set of drivers still dominated the lower leagues.

He came back and effortlessly beat them.

***

dhhwins

Effort for the sake of effort is as foolish a tradition as paying dues. How much better is hard work when it’s amplified by a lever? Platforms teach us skills and allow us to focus on being great, rather than reinventing wheels or repeating ourselves.

“You can build on top of a lot of things that exist in this world,” David Heinemeier Hansson told me. “Somebody goes in and does that hard, ground level science-based work…”

“And then on top of that,” he smiles, “you build the art.”

###

Question of the day (QOD):  What other selectively “lazy” innovators can you think of?  People who’ve looked at problems in novel ways, or solved them in non-obvious ways? People who’ve opted for simplicity when most “experts” are choosing complexity?

Please share in the comments.

Posted on: August 25, 2014.

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91 comments on “The Art of Strategic Laziness

  1. Love this analogy between coding, racing, and business!
    Being a web designer myself, I know how time-saving layers of abstractions, or platforms as you call them, are. They’re leveraging my time every single day!

    Coming to business, I’d translate those platforms into leveraging more successful people, who already achieved what you want to achieve. I try to build relationships with people and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Found that this is a good way to speed up learning and grow a business faster.

    Great stuff!
    Jan

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As for your QOD: There is actually a company in The Netherlands called Strategically Lazy (Strategisch Lui). It’s run by one smart guy who helps people to use time wisely and have loads of free time, just like him, and he is good at it!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Awesome post! But I am going to use up this space to ask an unrelated question:

    Tim, is there any way you could share the Q&A of August 11?

    I can present an argument about how I am in need to hear your profound and entertaining answers again. But the real truth is: you say my name in it. And it might be a once in a lifetime thing. .

    Like

    • Hi Viyan,

      Thank you for the comment and kind words. No worries on the Q&A. If you signed up for the emails and attended, just see the email that came right *after* the Q&A. It contains a link to the recording of the Q&A :)

      All the best,

      Tim

      Like

      • Tim, unfortunately the Q&A is no longer available in Spreecast.

        I get this message: This Spreecast has expired
        Spreecasts created with a Basic account expire after 7 days.

        Could you please enable it or upload it? I could only listen to a part of it and it was very interesting. I hope you or someone has a copy!

        Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Tim,

        Thank you for your kind response. Like Alberto says, I forgot to mention that the video on Spreecast expired after 7 days. I hope you can do something about it!

        You are amazing.Take good care of yourself now you have Lyme disease :).

        Love,

        Viyan

        Like

  4. Great. Really love that the guy was able to progress in Motor racing by using videos of professionals, really inspirational story, also didn’t know Ruby on Rails’ back story which was great to learn.

    However, and this is my biggest problem with all hacking of what are traditionally time served skills, how do I know what are the fundamental lessons to learn?

    I have no issue with the basis of the concept, but if I could have chosen between an A and a C at school / college, based on the 95 / 5% indicated, what do you think I would have chosen. The issue is, I needed to do my best each and every time, to make sure the work I did was up to spec (the difference between any A’s and C’s was my comprehension of the subject, achieved through time served work)

    The A’s to C’s variation above sounds more like knowing the requirements of the test and learning the C stuff, without achieving the comprehension for the higher grades, but, and where this falls down, most stuff in life doesn’t have specific answers for specific questions like a course exam, they are more fluid and move able subjects, or subjects where the requirements aren’t written down.

    Knowing the fundamental lessons means knowing what you are learning. An example in my eyes is I have no clue about Quantum mechanics, so I will make up a few principles and learn those.

    When you don’t know anything about a subject, how do you know what are the right things to learn?

    Whilst I don’t want to push the point on this, because who doesn’t want to use this technique to save time learning what I need to know, to be able to get to the juicy bits of what comes after, The question to the pit crew about what he should do, was at minimum lack of knowledge from time served, and at most blatant luck. The weather reports that come back can be a little off, and as such, the same decision in a different race would have had disastrous consequences, and you wouldn’t be singing his praises. This was a poor example of skill hacking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To synthesize and echo Tim’s comments throughout the books; Knowing what to study is the result of taking the time necessary to Deconstruct.
      There is time involved in this, of course, but as we’ve seen time and time again, front-loading the work needed to work smarter allows you to then focus on what’s really important.

      Instead of spending 40 hours from beginning to end, spending 5 hours to deconstruct, then 20 on sequencing, learning and practice.

      From the beginning, this can feel like “it’s going to be 5 + 40; so much extra work!”, but in reality the effectiveness of the work is what’s going to propel someone to higher levels.

      Like

  5. best laziness trick I learned – naps. Instead of slogging through the rest of my day, I take a 15-30 minute nap when I get home from work (1 hour on weekends) and I feel more alert for the rest of the evening. And that might mean the difference cooking a healthy meal vs ordering a pizza, or going to the gym vs watching TV.

    Like

  6. This article was a great read, thank you. But it’s also left me a little bit puzzled because I am not sure what I am supposed to learn from it.

    I get the strategic laziness idea, and that’s how I got through school too. But I’m not sure how the racing or development of rails is supposed to fit into this. The racing example seems like a lucky break to me. DHH and his crew took a gamble that the weather would clear up, and they were right. This doesn’t sound like strategic laziness, this sounds like a top performer who was willing to take extra risks to win, and who lucked out with the weather in the process. Look up the story of Niki Lauda to see how that could have ended. I worry the wrong lesson is being imparted here.

    The Rails example also didn’t sit right with me. It’s an awesome story, but it takes way more programming effort to write a framework than it does to use inferior tools. It just happens to be a hell of a lot more rewarding, and in the case of DHH it was well well worth it because of where Rails went. Lots of good lessons here, like DHH saw a market need and filled it. But I don’t really see how he took a shortcut.

    I don’t mean to knock the article (and big props to DHH on all his accomplishments). But I’d really like to know what the author of this article thinks in response.

    Like

    • What I got from this is looking at tasks where I am repeating myself. And see if I can do everything in a smarter, more evolved way. And maybe even change the ways things are being done in my industry. So thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Tim, learning your first programing language is like learning math for the first time, most people get the hang of it within one or two semesters. For best results, work on a project you find interesting, ie a game or vanity website, and you’ll learning ability will dramatically accelerate, it will even be fun.

    Programing, similar to Spoken languages, once you learn one, you can quickly learn all others with only a fraction of the effort, sometimes as little as a couple weekends. have fun.

    Like

  8. Blown away by the serendipitous timing of this post. Just made a major decision this morning, before finding this article in my inbox, to reengineer my life based on smarter-not-harder, efficiency focused thinking. Such an inspiring read. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Really interesting story! David’s approach, being smart by being lazy, has without a doubt been a big inspiration for many techies. Not only in programming, but also as an approach to business.

    My latest piece of art, built on top of “ground level science-based work” is Screenmailer.com – the fastest way to record your screen and send it to a colleague or client.

    Apple’s talented developers consistently releases great API’s that programmers can built on top of. In my case, this meant that I could spend more time focusing on user experience and less time developing algorithms.

    Like

  10. I fully support the principles in the blog and would further suggest the use of checklists for faster project execution to avoid ‘re inventing work, and take a look at ray dalio’ s five behaviours. Use of these will get you to your desired results super fast.

    Like

  11. I just saw a startup on TechCrunch today that makes investing strategically lazy. The idea is like Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” where all of your transactions are rounded to the nearest dollar and invested. Except that they invest it in a balanced fund of ETFs instead of a pitifully low earning savings account.
    It takes a few minutes to set up and it’s always a pain to find your account/routing numbers and enter bank passwords on a mobile device. But once you’ve done that, you can set it on “Auto” mode, and every time you spend money on your credit card, it’ll round that amount up to the nearest dollar, deduct it from your checking account, and invest it in your portfolio.

    Michael

    Like

  12. I use something along those lines at the office; I have the “keep the lights on” work that is boring but (mostly) necessary* and the stuff that’s fun and helps drive the business forward. I spend as little time as possible on the former – the C grade; enough to get the job done but not enough that anyone will look at it and say “he’s so good at that he should be doing it full time” – and reserve the vast majority of my day/week to absolutely rock on the stuff I enjoy doing that I think has the best impact on the business.

    The result over the last year (since I started doing that) has been incredible: the “keep the lights on” stuff slowly gets pushed to others, the fun projects head my way and I have people from other organizations coming to me asking me how I am as effective as I am (along with a couple of job offers).

    Obviously it’s a little different in a corporate environment than in the personal life or as a sole proprietor, but the concepts still apply (just substitute “virtual assistant” or “kids” or “temp agency” or whatever for co-workers).

    Like

  13. This post hit at just the right time. A friend challenged me to add ninjutsu to my martial arts wheelhouse. Sure, I could move to Japan and spend a decade learning from a master…or maybe I can add platforms and hack it.

    Like

  14. Hi Tim and Shane,

    David gets that effective acts count.

    Example; in the past 7 weeks I’ve been featured on over 20 blogs. I’ve split my work days in half, yet and seeing greater success at an exponential rate.

    How? I’m posting long, thoughtful, insightful, guest post-sized comments on authority blogs like your Tim. Because tons of people read your blog, and because I’m simply wanting to create value for your blog, to help you out, folks click through to learn more about me, or to interview me, or to offer a guest post to that Blogging from Paradise guy.

    Effective acts count. I feel, that if you’re going to be somewhere, be all there. Be present. Make an impact. When present, and totally in the moment, you can make an impact in 5 minutes that reverberates through the Universe and then, either take a break for the next half hour, or simply continue making little impacts, 5 minute/comments at a time on authority blogs from your niche, then you can take off the next 6 hours.

    I need to, too. I have to walk at least 2 hours on some days from the jungle into town here in Fiji. I know, tragedy. But I need to work intelligently, and to be lazy on some level, to free up time to get food, and to see pretty neat stuff here in Savusavu.

    The trick, as noted above, is doing the mental legwork. I plan meticulously, and did so before I started my blog, but once it came down to work I spent less time getting much better results. It’s all about making those massive impacts through focusing your energies, and then, bumping up your time taken off.

    Thanks Tim, awesomeness dude.

    Tweeting in a bit.

    Have a fun week.

    Ryan

    Like

  15. Tim I’d love for you to take our courses on programming. Ive based the course off the many skill acquisition techniques learned by following you and have had great success. Many say its the best course they’ve ever taken and schools have used it in their ESE and under-privileged programs to help level-1 students learn to code.

    If you choose to take it I’d be honored and it would be free of course.

    Like

  16. I really enjoy reading these stories and this one was no different. The correlation between programming and racing is interesting, as I’m not a tech guy.

    Sure DHH might have a little bit of skill behind the wheel, but this is hardly an example of how DHH hacked motorsport – more so how DHH used his bank account to excel him in motorsport.

    It’s exactly the same all around the world, in motorsport money talks… from club racing all the way through to F1. There a hundreds of examples of this and DHH’s example is no different to any other CEO racer out there.

    This type of story is a massive kick in the face to anyone that is passionate about motorsport and seeking to become a professional driver, because without the large bank account it is very difficult to make it happen.

    Like

  17. You should check out John Perry’s essay on “Structured Procrastination.” John is a Stanford Professor, and the essay won an Ig Nobel. It’s very related.

    Like

  18. My favorite example of a “lazy” person who was able to simplify and dominate the competition is Ivan “The Butcher” Abadjiev, the famed Bulgarian Weightlifting coach. Everyone in the Eastern Block at the time was using the Soviet system of training in weightlifting and Abadjiev came along and threw it all out, dropping the number of exercises used in training down to 5 (snatch, clean&jerk, power snatch, power clean, front squat, and back squat) and dropping the use of meticulously planned percentages over a series of months to opt for just working up to a daily max and auto-regulating training. The result was destroying all competition and dominating the sport until the Bulgarian government got into financial trouble and stopped funding the team.

    Tim – If you decide to learn to write code, and go the Ruby on Rails route, I would love to read about your process. I’ve been learning web development and have certainly run into some stumbling blocks along the way and would love to see how I could have been (and can be) more efficient in developing my skill set.

    Nice article.

    Like

  19. Hey Tim, cool stuff man. I am an anesthesiologist and love your content. As life goes on and you get married and you have your first child, I do try to get to do, especially after reading the 4 hour work week, the most effective/efficient things, so I can still be an “above average” doctor AND a healthy man, good dad, husband, etc.

    In anesthesia for instance (I really don’t know how this is useful to you…) I found that (1) actively asking for feedback from the recovery room nurses about que quality of my anesthetics, (2) using a videolaryngoscope (as opposed to a regular laryngoscope) to intubate pregnant ladies and neonates and (3) using ultrasound before epidurals are the three things that put me ahead.

    Thanks for the post,

    Bruno (dr. Bruno C. R. Borges)

    Like

  20. The best lazy innovators that I can think of would be Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. They’ve successfully trained themselves to say no more often than the rest of society, giving them a huge advantage in being able to select better investments.

    Going deeper, they also have developed a wonderful ability to say no because something is not within their circle of competence, thus making them better at what they are good at and staying away from fields where they have no natural advantage.

    And finally, they’ve trained themselves to look for investment opportunities that require only one transactional decision. Rather than the average investor who aims to buy low and then is forever haunted by market psychology tendencies about the ‘right’ time to sell, Munger and Buffett have trained themselves to look only for businesses that they can buy and sit on ‘forever’ – making a rather complex field quite simple.

    Like

  21. Inspiring story and great post. made me think about how we plan our lives. The way in which we organize our time during the day, week, month, etc., is the ultimate layer, the level on which everything is built. For example, an efficient way to improve your fitness, you schedule from 6 am to 7 am daily one hour of exercises.
    If you do not program the basic level then, and that is our time, we often end up skipping meals, do not workout, not improve coding, wasting time, etc.
    I guess is an obvious thing, but I had never learned the importance and power up to this moment, due to the analogy with the levels of code. First thing I will do today, is to program the human machine language and organize my day and week. Thanks again for the great post!

    Like

  22. Hey Tim,

    If you decide to learn programming you should think carefully about the language you decide to learn. I would actually recommend learning more than one language. The languages you pick should also be as different as possible. Often people learn one language and then think that’s how all languages are.

    Which language you should learn also depends on your purpose. If you just want to learn how to be productive on the web you should learn Javascript (anything you do on the web requires it). You could also learn a separate server side language (like ruby, php etc). If you only learn one web framework it should be a reactive one (as awesome as Rails is It’s nearing the top of it’s adoption curve, learning it now is a little too late) I would recommend meteor.js, it’s extremely impressive.

    If on the other hand you want to learn programming as a means to stretch your mind and develop new ways of thinking I would recommend a purely functional language like Haskell, ML or Scheme. A good way to learn them would be to work through the problems on https://projecteuler.net/. Be warned you will feel pretty dumb for a while. It’s worth the effort though.

    Regardless of which language you learn you should also learn the fundamental Object Oriented Design principles:

    Single Responsibility
    Open/Closed principle
    Liskov Substitution Principle
    Interface Segregation
    Dependency Inversion
    Law of Demeter

    You should also know the packaging principles:
    Reuse-Release Equivalence Principle
    Common-Reuse Principle
    Common-Closure Principle
    Cyclic-Dependencies Principle
    Stable-Dependencies Principle
    Stable-Abstractions Principle

    Since most popular languages today are hybrid OO and functional languages you should also learn the basics of Functional Programming:
    Closures
    Higher Order Functions
    Function Composition
    Side Effects
    Monads
    Algebraic Datatypes and Typeclasses

    On top of this there are a few ways you should learn to think when writing a program. It’s way too long for me to explain in a comment but if you are interested please get in touch.

    I have a bunch of blog posts that lay it out. I’m hesitant to post links to my own blog on here as I don’t want to come across like I am trying to hijack your audience to send traffic to my blog (if you are interested you should find links to my blog on my gravatar profile). Your content has been extremely helpful in shaping my world view over the last few years and I have spent the last 8 years thinking very hard about how to teach programming to the developers that report to me so I would love to return the favour in some small way.

    Good luck on your programming journey and please get in touch if you would like some advice.

    Regards,
    Stephen

    Like

  23. Awesome example of effectiveness! A really great read! ^_^

    As a follow up, I’d like to read about how to apply this concept to learning/doing in general. For example, how do we go about determining the MED before “leveling up” or what sort of conventions we should ignore?

    Like

  24. Great story and some very interesting connections. Thanks for sharing.

    As for super-achievers who used “laziness” to their advantage, Shawn Johnson, 2008 Olympic balance beam gold medalist was known as an anomaly for attaining super human gymnastic abilities with only 25 hours of training a week (as opposed to her competitors putting in 40 hours+). She also won the 2009 Dancing With The Stars competition giving her extra badass points. Looking forward to digging into the book.

    Many thanks, many cheers -George

    Like

  25. Dear Tim, A book on learning programming, your style, would certainly be a next best seller. I think you would do a lot of people a huge favour. I totally agree that we have come to an age where programming is a basic required skill, but I have had several failed attempts at understanding the basics (how you get from a string (or whatever) to a user controlled bouncing ball). Best, Johann

    Like

  26. Great story Tim but should we not view this in the sense that luck had a lot to do with this race i.e. had it continued to rain the idea would have been totally different. We see this all the time in F1 racing where race are one and lost based on pit decisions. “Fooled by Randomness” also comes to mind here

    Like

    • I’d love to know to code in Ruby on Rails. I’m a Basecamp customer for several years, I’ve read 2 of Tim’s books, used to race motorcycles in motocross tracks: so I’ve “qualified” as an ideal reader for this article but I feel some deception. To relate DHH’s platform oriented manners with the luck he had with the rain is confusing. In racing you bet lots of times, and sometimes you win. His strategy was the best one, but it has nothing to do with any platform. This kind of decision is made each time it rains in any race in the whole world, and the outcome is the same described here as “platform based”. Then, the way the story was evolving made me think he would use his platform method to solve his sliding in the seat problem, but that tension about the seat never got solved, simply vanished from the story. I’ve started reading the text seeking info on which method DHH used to improve his riding skills, but I’ve found only explanation about him cutting times and nothing else. In general, I see this article as a mixup of several concepts that are tried to be glued together by an imaginary theory on platforms (what Rails really is, for sure).

      Like

  27. I did enjoy the read – but I seem to have missed the point – if the triumph of the race that bookends the story is sticking with the wet tyres, how does this link to the concept of Strategic Laziness in a fundamental or strong anecdotal way?

    Like

  28. Do not understand what this has to do with selective laziness.

    But i guess this title got me reading the article.

    Layers and platforms for accelerated learning and executing, interesting!

    thanks

    Like

  29. In college for our senior project we had to build a business plan from ground up. Everyone struggled with the formatting along with asking the right questions. I then turned to business plan pro to which I told my professor I had downloaded to be a guide. Turns out I present in the middle of the pack first half containing of b’s and c’s then moving onto myself without letting my classmates know that I used business plan pro at the time. Receive an A . why? Instead of the professor discrediting me, the professor acknowledged that I put myself in a position to answer the right questions and I was resourceful . Every single student the next day had their presentation in business plan pro.

    Like

  30. One person that comes to mind is Markus Frind, Founder of POF.com (Plenty of Fish, dating site). He decided to set up a very basic dating website when all the other sites were doing complicated algorithms and interfaces. He’s built on the site over the years but it’s still much simpler than other sites and it’s got serious traffic – plus he’s selling adverts to other dating sites on his dating site……I clapped a little in my head when I read that. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20090101/and-the-money-comes-rolling-in.html

    Like

  31. Hey Tim, awesome read, Shane Snow did a great job!

    As for other “lazy” innovators, you’ve mentioned Richard Feynman a few times over the years. One of his greatest innovations were Feynman diagrams, where he essentially added a layer of abstraction on top of extremely tedious integral calculations. Very complex equations that described particle interactions were able to be constructed and reduced to much simpler calculations with the use of diagrammatic components (like sticking Lego pieces together), essentially revolutionizing high energy particle physics. Feynman was the man!

    Cheers,
    Puv

    Like

  32. Hey Tim, awesome read, Shane Snow did a great job!

    As for other “lazy” innovators, you’ve mentioned Richard Feynman a few times over the years. One of his greatest innovations were Feynman diagrams, where he essentially added a layer of abstraction on top of extremely tedious integral calculations. Very complex equations that described particle interactions were able to be constructed and reduced to much simpler calculations with the use of diagrammatic components (like sticking Lego pieces together), essentially revolutionizing high energy particle physics. Feynman was the man!

    Cheers,
    Puv

    Like

  33. Tim, dude, holy moly–I don’t know when and where exactly it happened, but you’ve become an *amazing* writer. This piece was riveting. Thank you!

    BTW! You once gave my cousins self-defense lessons back on LI (high school). Johnna and Georgie say thanks!

    Like

  34. I’m a stay at home mom and call myself lazy although I think I’ve just crated a system that makes my job easier. So yeah, I think you could apply this to parenting. ;-)

    Like

  35. Hi Tim,
    I want to start learning programming from scratch – almost. You said in the beginning that you also want to start experimenting with programming.
    I want to apply the 80/20 principle here, but i have no idea what that 20% should contain.

    If you could write an article about programming hacking, that would be awesome! Or recommend someone/something – but i trust you when it comes to shortcutting things.
    Yep, i am lazy.

    Like

  36. The platform that really helped DHH win the race was the engineer that told him to tough it out. DHH didn’t need to learn to read the weather himself, he was able to interface with someone in a much better position to do it.

    Like

  37. Hi Tim! I’m a stay-at-home mom who is trying to establish my own business in a creative field, so I found this post very helpful! I have to do everything after my kids go to sleep or before they get up, and I need to maximize my time and effort as much as possible (which I’m no good at). Thank you for such an inspiring post!

    Like

  38. Love the analogies! That’s what hackers do… Reuse, modify, repurpose. You certainly develop a mind for saving time. Sometimes it gives the perception of laziness because you tend to ask a lot of questions; not to avoid the doing, but to do it more effectively. That’s why computers were created to save time. Analyzing is key. I remember being ten and hearing from my dad, all the knowledge from the world has already been created, you just need to know where to gather it from. Life is certainly a search for answers…

    Like

  39. MOZART, dude. Freaking Mozart. THIS is the basis for all genius, in my opinion: people who either never knew about, or never bought into the 10,000 hours rule. I instinctively grasped this concept in high school, and I’ve been slowly forgetting it ever since— it’s like lifeblood to me! And I’m relieved I remembered. Thanks Shane and Tim.

    Like

  40. Tim – Great story. I believe I use a similar principle in handicapping the NFL and will be putting them into practice in the Las Vegas Hilton Supercontest this year. Keep those emails coming!

    Like

  41. What a great post! To be interested really makes you do your job faster. I think interest and curiosity is the key to learning a programming language. Basic concepts follow when learning a different language but syntax and all those stuff can be very tricky. Better be careful and enjoy at the same time.

    Like

  42. The only person I can think of who applies this strategic laziness and who actually coined the term ‘smartcuts’ in his own online program four years ago is me, David Patrick Green. I created a platform by which anyone can become a professional actor, or what I call a ‘hacktor’ (who’s going to steal that one, lol). [Moderator: link removed]

    Like

  43. I know of a guy, now deceased, who looked at how a certain business model worked (or didn’t work so well). He and his wife, w/ help from other colleagues, put the entire business building exercise/coaching into 6 or 7 basic steps. They called that CORE.

    The growth of the business platform seen from the simplification was as follows:
    From start-up in 1959 to 1989 – turnover was then at US$2bn.
    From 1990 to 1999 turnover was just over US$6bn.
    From 2000 to date, turnover is US$11.8bn
    Projections are turnover moving to over US$ 20 in the next 5 years.

    The couple is Jim & Nancy Dornan, from Atlanta, GA.

    Like

  44. Answer: Gary CEO @ Cliff Bar – when the company went from 11 to more than 100 he took time out (biking and hiking, and hid in back room developing new products – for more than a year) then came back and brought the ease ~ equanimity gained in that transition with him.

    Art / creating – dance of active creating and non active, collecting stuff, cleaning studio – sitting with a cup of coffee and being with piece/work – the best work comes from these moments – Agnes Martin writes about this.

    I know someone who bought a house – without seeing it – in North Philadelphia for 28k in 2005, the guy she was dating wasn’t great and didn’t want to waste money on paying rent – and that didn’t work out – still has house – got roommates and bought 2 other properties at auction – travels, meditates etc, pondering next simple option, while vacationing upper west side (free 2 bedroom apt etc 1 month).

    Effort that shifts a thing is satisfying – love that, and ..watching the sunrise, sipping coffee, a morning by wood stove. Effort that goes no where – gutting a 3 story building – only to have the owner not put a tarp over roof and watch it cave in – resent the effort and exposure to mold (though seeing the moldy pink sound room Whitehead had in the house he grew up in was cool).

    Discernment (current learning) – what is the next simple option…. .

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  45. This is a general email.
    Tim I absolutely Love all your work!
    I see you are planning to do something related to films ie a screenplay.
    I’ve been in the film and tv business all my life as an actor,producer,agent etc.
    Am retired now but would be very happy to be an advisor/sounding board for anything you want to discuss.
    I don’t want or need any financial participation just want to see you fulfill another of your dreams.
    Let me know if you are interested and maybe take a look at my Wikipedia page.
    All the very best,
    MM

    Like

  46. I recently watched a great video by advertising master Perry Marshall Interviewing Billionaire Richard Koch who wrote the book that inspired Tim Ferris 4-hour work week titled “The 80/20 Principle”… There are two strategies that we can follow for any 80/20 opportunity.

    We can do what the 80% of the group does (go to school, get a good job, have 3.5 kids) or we can do what the 20% that get 80% of the wealth do (invest and build assets).

    Check out the explanation: http://www.perrymarshall.com/28163/intro-to-8020-principle-in-marketing/

    This is the principle of least effort.

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  47. I don’t get it. Why do people call this lazy? He’s just extremely efficient, reducing the amount of time wasted on less important tasks so he can spend more time things he cares about. It’s not like he’s just sitting around procrastinating, watching tv and playing videogames.

    Instead you could call those people lazy who always stick to the standard ways cause they’re too lazy to look for ways to improve their results and safe time, who can’t be bothered to do more than necessary, which might actually lead to doing less than necessary.

    Like

  48. I’ve always assumed that laziness at it’s core made a whole lot of sense. This take it to a whole new level!! Unreal! Tim, you have a habit of bringing on the best thinkers of our time. Unreal my friend.
    Jullian

    Like

  49. As a snowboarder and former competitive big mountain rider I have always been awe struck by (and often times furiously frustrated by) the riders who can show up on the day of competition–often times with only a handful of days under their belts for the season–and destroy the field. As a snowboard bum I dedicated 6 years after college to pursuing snowboarding in the hopes of making it to the professional ranks, it had been my dream since I was ten years old. With no formal training in snowboarding I had to devour every bit of information on the sport that was available. Any an all snowboard related media became my bible.

    I destroyed VHS tapes from incessant pausing, rewinding, and replaying. In the magazines–of which I am confident I have read nearly every word of print media on the topic of snowboarding over the past 18 years—I would read interviews with my favorite riders. When it came to the topic of how to become a pro, every rider, almost to the word, would always say the same thing, “just go out and ride everyday, if you really want to go pro that’s what you’ve got to do.” Simple enough, I knew this implied more then just going through the motions, and progression was the task to be accomplished everyday out on the snow.

    When I was finally freed from my cursed institutionalization, most of which had been half-assed due to my preoccupation with standing sideways, I set forth to implement the sage advice of those legendary riders who’s words I had internalized over all my years of obsession with snowboarding. I moved out to Mount Hood, Oregon the day after receiving my Bachelors Degree in Economics. I was going to ride everyday, and I did, for six years. I set up my lifestyle in a way that provided me with the maximum on-snow time.

    Most people, when they hear that you’re a ski bum ask, “so are you an instructor?” or “do you work ski patrol?” If your goal is to spend all day everyday riding and progressing your skills there couldn’t be worse occupation choices then spending all day on snow shackled by the extreme restrictions those traditional mountain jobs like instructor, patrol, or liftie entail. You want a restaurant job and you want to work dinner. Breakfast is okay every once and while but spend more than one powder day delivering Eggs Benedict to a wealthy couple, marveled and passively complaining about the weather, and you will promptly be offering coworkers your coveted tips to cover your next morning shift. Play all day, work all night.

    (A quick note: A Server at a Fine Dining restaurant is the way to go. If you can clean-up nice enough and learn a menu inside-and-out serving fine dining will yield the highest tip-out to the fewest hours worked. Turn and burn servers work longer hours and make less tips per table though their overall volume might be pretty high and they will often walk with more cash per shift, the hourly wage breakdown is almost always lower. Bartending is the most lucrative and also one of the hardest ski town jobs to come by. In a few cases certain bartenders have the best set-up but usually they don’t close up shop until well into the early morning hours and trying to get out and ride on a few hours sleep will take its toll very fast.)

    The protestant work ethic possessed by many of the early coders mentioned in this article had also been drilled into me as a young kid growing up middle class on the East Coast. Riding everyday for three winters in Utah and then three in Lake Tahoe I quickly became a much stronger rider. The bigger mountains and vast landscapes covered in deep snow provided the novelty required to regularly get me into the zone. I prided myself on riding in all conditions, never taking days off unless absolutely necessary. Those off days were often accompanied by a debilitating guilt for not being out on the hill; ahhh, the grip of addiction. After all, if all those pros, who were already so good, were riding everyday there is no way I could afford to take days off.

    Things started to change toward the end of my second season. The progression I had experienced over my first season and most of my second had started to slow and daily aches and pains gave way to minor and not so minor injuries. I rocked a limp like a badge of honor and would often make a geriatric bridge player seem athletic when it came to picking things up off the ground or lacing up my boots. Over the counter painkillers abounded and I carried on. Despite the glaringly obvious indications that my approach to my sport and lifestyle was exceedingly unhealthy I could not reconcile rest and recovery with what my snowboard idols all provided as the secret recipe for blasting through the ranks. I carried on in this fashion for the next four seasons, certain that I would reach the tipping point with all of my accumulated hours on snow and would jettison to the top tiers of the sport.

    What you’ve never heard of me? I competed in my fifth and final big mountain competition at Squaw Valley in 2013. Shaking at the start gate despite the fact that this was my home mountain and I had ridden this very terrain countless times, I was completely gripped, in the grasp of anxiety. Having been a full-on insomniac for the past 6 months the only thing that saved me from a full on panic attack a the drop-in was Qigong style breathing that I was frantically trying harness to get my heart rate down. Over the past few seasons of backbreaking effort, riding day-in and day-out only to experience what was at best marginal progress, my mental state had started to deteriorate and bouts of depression and anxiety would come and go with the changing weather patterns. Emotional melt down averted, I dropped in executed my run and got dead last in the competition.

    How was this possible? I had been doing what all the best riders do… right? I moved to the best locations, got the most convenient jobs, I lived to ride and did, every day for 6 years. I wasn’t just going through the motions either–at least not in my mind. I knew my daily practice had to be deliberate yet sometime after my second season my mind and mental acuity of snowboarding started to far outpace my physical abilities. The rut to end all ruts; I know now thanks to the humility of hindsight that following such simple advice of all those pro’s in all those interviews only continued to dig me deeper.

    So where did I go wrong? Pro snowboarders are really good at snowboarding. It turns out that verbalizing their critical thinking and self-evaluation especially in the informal setting of a magazine interview, the material in which I based most of my life around over those years, is not necessarily the forte of many people who professionally throw their carcass down the side of the mountain. Also, and this part might be hard to believe, the protestant work ethic is not so prevalent amongst professional snowboarders. After years of exposure to the world professional riding and internalizing every small glimpse of insight I could gather from the professionals that crossed my path I learned that riding every day does not mean riding everyday. In many cases it doesn’t even mean riding every week. At best it means riding everyday that it’s good conditions, maybe 2-3 days a week, 4-5 if it’s a storm cycle, 0 if it’s dry and high pressure. Or in some cases it means ride every day you can ride at 80-100% of your physical ability, maybe just selected short burst of riding throughout the season 3 days here 5 days there. Had I limited myself to just 50% I would have been far better off and not yearning for summer at the start of April just so I could give my body a break.

    The ability to do what DHH has done and continues to do is amazing and not for its apparent ease but because of how hard it actually is. While it is fun to call it laziness because it does appear as such relative to traditional coders and racers who are his contemporaries, what DHH is doing takes a mental toughness and discipline that is far more difficult to acquire than the ability to work endlessly hard. It is easy to put your head down and tough it out hoping that enough incremental improvement over longer periods of hard work will yield world-class results. What is much harder is to buck the norm and push on into unknown territory when all traditional evidence says “you are not ready, you haven’t done it right.” In action sports training the modern ideology is when you can do it to 60% it’s time to move on. “Got that backflip to your feet 6 out of ten times, time to learn the rodeo. Nice you landed that rodeo, how about a double cork?” Seems like hyperbole but the insane progression of action sports over the past decade is a testament to its effectiveness.

    It is easy to say “work smarter not harder,” but that is vague and unspecific and frankly, wrong. Working harder is easier, we are built for it, it is embedded in our DNA, entire civilizations have been built around the human capacity for endurance and the ability to mindlessly engage in redundant work. Working smarter is harder, it involves risk and embracing what is uncomfortable and unknown and living on the edge, a place that is often inhospitable and sends more people running for the safety and predictability of hard work than it does creating DHH’s. For me it was easier to ride everyday then it was to listen to my mind and body, a level of self-awareness that I still struggle to fully embrace. Call it overtraining, most of life doesn’t have a rep scheme, it’s hard to periodize your passion and it’s much easier to go too deep. It seems as though it is learning the balance that is necessary to live on that edge and the building resilience to weather whatever storms are encountered that is the real trick to being a lazy innovator.

    Notable “lazy” innovators in snowboarding:

    • Travis Rice filmed his video part in Absinthe Films “Neverland,” in three weeks during the month of March in 2009. Despite taking only a few weeks to do what most spend over 6 months striving towards Rice was named 6th in the Snowboarder Magazines Rider Of the Year Poll.
    • Nicolas Muller is known for getting multiple shots per day while filming. Showing up and getting more work done in less time than anybody else who films snowboarding for a living. He is often able to film two full video parts a winter with no overlapping shots and examples of the sports most progressive riding in both.
    • Shaun White, love him or hate him, he is the best pipe rider in history and arguably the best park rider as well. Not bad for someone who claims to hate the mountains. Living far from the slopes in So Cal White notoriously spends more time rock banding, philandering, and promoting than he does snowboarding. He will often jet out to some desolate location for a few days to train always leaving with a handful of new tricks. Most often they are tricks that have never been done before.

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  50. Hello Tim,

    This is not related in particular to the current conversation and I am not sure you will ever even see this for yourself but I really need to take the time to thank you for everything you’ve done.
    I own a contracting company and have been severely overworking myself for a number of years, while getting nowhere fast. Your book has inspired me to restructure and pursue more productive and profitable ventures – all while giving me my life back. The amount of stress I have been dealing with has definitely had a detrimental effect on my health and family. After 2 weeks off, with one in Cuba, I am back on track and on my way to getting a life back!
    I missed most of the first 4 years of my daughters life and I will never get that back. I am however only focused on the future now! You have given me the tools I need to re-design my life and give my daughter her father and my wife her husband back.
    I am near tears as I write this my friend. I was on a path of heart-attacks, hangovers and regrets. You literally saved my life Tim. I hope this makes it to you even if you have no time to respond.

    Salud!

    Like

  51. Very well written, but I don’t really get the analogy between the race and ruby on rails. As I see it, the team was gambling with the tires. As anyone who watches racing regularly knows, the tires play a very big role in who wins in the end. Every team knows that, and tire-strategy it is not really innovative. DHH’s team was gambling on the rain to get over soon, while the other teams expected the weather to stay wet. In the end, they were just lucky.

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  52. F*ck! This is one of the best post I’ve read in 2014. Yes, that’s amazing and this is why the Law of Accelerating Returns (see Ray Kurweil) works. It’s incredible what you can do if you know how to use technology. Programming is much easier nowadays.

    What’s DHH gonna do next? Does the 10,000 hour rule still apply to become an expert? Is Robert Green’s Mastery redundant? Think about these questions guys.

    Like

  53. I have always been a car guy, and really appreciate the skills set that endurance racers have. It takes a consistent strategy to excel in endurance races. Although to know next to nothing about programming I could see how the process could translate! Awesome content, inspiring story, and as always integrating masters from all different backgrounds and professions makes for an enlightening way of learning!

    Like

  54. Tim, I deeply relate to DHH. I am currently studying my Master’s degree in computer science and have accomplished what other people do in 12 hours of presential class time and about 50+ hours of homework time per week in about 4 hours per week exercising the art of strategic laziness. Thanks for another great post.

    Like

  55. I hope Ferris try out programming as he said. He will instantly notice the current inefficiencies and unnecessary complexity in development because of excesive use of abstraction or abuse of “layers platforms”.

    For example Web Development requires you to know at least 4 programming languages(HTML,CSS,Javascript,a backend one,SQL) that has impedance mismatch between them. They also dont perform well and uses different “paradigms”. Why not using just one?. People always loved SQL and now the NoSQL movement is a trend. But if you notice by the name itself, it is because SQL shouldn’t never be the way to go, NoSQL at least allow to use your favorite programming language insted of a declarative limited one like SQL.

    Ferris is well known to be an INTJ in myers briggs/jungian psychology type communities. He will hate those complications. Their main cognitive function, Introverted Intuition, likes to dream of seeing how things must be in a optimal way with the help of his Extroverted Thinking function to execute his plans for achieving those dreams without complications.

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    • Hey Edwin,

      I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you on this one. Lets start with the 4 languages you mentioned. I’ll leave out the many different paradigms you can choose on the back end for now.

      HTML: HTML is a markup language designed to encode the semantic structure and content of your website or application. It is optimized for this purpose and makes it relatively simple to understand the meaning of a document.

      CSS; Is a declarative language that supports rule based descriptions of what your content should look like. In the early days of the web we used to mix the structure with the representation. This caused a number of problems, least of which is that it would be impossible to do things like responsive design, different print layouts etc. Representation was split from structure to make things easier to understand and change.

      SQL: SQL is a language designed to perform set based operations on relational data. It’s very well suited to it’s purpose especially for doing reporting on large sets of disparate data-sets that can be related via a common property.

      NO-SQL databases: This is a large topic, graph databases, document databases, etc. The point of NO-SQL databases is to narrow the scope of a problem and only solve a subset of the possible use cases. In general doing this allows you to make design trade offs that make your intended use case easier while making other use-cases harder if not impossible.

      On the back end you have the same situation.

      Picking the right set of technologies allows you to be hundreds of times more productive in your niche. If you had to develop one language to describe, structure, representation, data and computation you would get a Frankenstein language that is mediocre at everything and great at nothing.

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  56. I can relate to the university grade vs. effort thing: the two grades of which I am most proud are my grad-level stats which I worked my ass off for and got 84%, and my 2nd-year undergrad biochemistry in which I got 51% and didn’t go to one single class the entire semester. I went to the labs, turned in about 1/2 the class assignments, and studied old mid-terms. I got above the average grade in both mid-terms while the majority of the class flunked them.

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  57. As a fan of 4HWW, I would also *highly* recommend David Heinemeier Hansson’s (with Jason Fried) excellent book, “Remote: Office Not Required”. It goes hand in hand with much of what Tim wrote in The 4 Hour Workweek, making the case for companies to move to a remote work force, and giving the how-to for employees to make this switch. It is awesome!

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  58. Great read! Just in time for the beginning of university :)

    Tim, could you answer a quick question for me – what is the key to your success?
    I need to get an answer for a class in university and getting one from you would simply be awesome!

    I love your work.

    Cheers!

    Tomass

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  59. Thank you for sharing this! Everyone is lazy…sometimes for even the most laziest person the only way to solve a problem is on their OWN TERMS. It takes a reality check for someone to admit that they need to reevaluate how efficient they are being in their daily lives. Sometimes I wonder if I am one of those people that try too hard to find the obvious solution.

    This article was a great read for self-direction. Makes me think that I need to
    take a look at the bigger picture and see what motivates and inspires me the most.

    Thank You!

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