Turning a negative into a positive by knowing your strengths.

When we think about job search, drafting C.A.R. statements, and finding ways to turn negatives into positives, I offer this food for thought: lazy as a strength.

Often, the things we like least about ourselves turn out to be the things that make us unique or are actually our greatest strengths. Being a smart, lazy person could be one of them.

Bill Gates is often quoted as saying, “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

A Google Images search turns up lots of these quote memes, usually with a photo, despite the lack of a verifiable source for the quote.

Evidence for the quote is dubious, but do you get the point? Occam’s Razor says that simplest solutions are usually the best. Therefore a smart lazy person will eliminate the unnecessary to achieve the goal.

QuoteInvestigator.com researched the quote, also attributed to Frank B. Gilbreth Sr., and found this excerpt from Popular Science Monthly in 1920:

Gilbreth studied the methods of various bricklayers—the poor workmen and the best ones, and he stumbled upon an astonishing fact of great importance and significance. He found that he could learn most from the lazy man!

Most of the chance improvements in human motions that eliminate unnecessary movement and reduce fatigue have been hit upon, Gilbreth thinks, by men who were lazy—so lazy that every needless step counted.”

Another important thing Gilbreth noted was that the so-called expert factory workers are often the most wasteful of their motions and strength. Because of their energy and ability to work at high speed, such men may be able to produce a large quantity of good work, and thus qualify as experts, but they tire themselves out of all proportion to the amount of work done.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bunker_Gilbreth_Sr.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Health Psychology found similar results.

Critical thinkers who engage in activities perceived as idleness are more bothered about wasting their efforts on solving a task and would rather look for an easy way around it. Which may be good in a sense, if it doesn’t result in a collapse of the system at some point in the future. A lazy person may actually have many quick-fix solutions to problems that the active person will take days to figure out. These shortcuts can save a company a lot of time and may also turn out to be the innovative solution that the company was actually in search of.


The final analysis of this broadly defined term ‘lazy’ is that what one may perceive as laziness in another may be something truly exceptional that we don’t understand. We base our judgments on the exterior evidence before us and not what lies within. Evidence from the study suggests that we need to be more aware of the qualities in a person that cause us to fit tags onto them and be more careful about how we use the word ‘lazy.’

Source: https://www.bigperspectives.com/2019/05/science-says-lazy-people-are-likely-to.html

As an INTJ, this resonates with me. INTJ is often referred to as the Scientist, Architect, or Mastermind profile. We love designing systems. And nothing irks me more than laboring with an inefficient system or process, which is wasteful of time and effort.

I wouldn’t suggest crowing about your laziness in an interview. But if you have taken a personality or strengths assessment, you know some of the strengths might carry negative connotations.

I know my experience with GallupStrengths (aka CliftonStrengths née StrengthsFinder2.0) helped me realize I really was a strategic thinker when I saw that 4 of my top 5 strengths fall into the Strategic category!

My top 5 strengths from StrengthsFinder2.0 helped me see in myself what others see in me.

So I encourage everyone to take strengths and personality assessments, do some reflecting on what is important to you, and think about what you have done and do well. Dig a little deeper and find ways to turn those negatives into positives. Some counter-intuitive insight demonstrates continuous learning (see the research I did just putting this post together?) and creative thinking. It can help you re-conceptualize your self-image in a positive way. And it can help you showcase your experience and abilities in the best possible light.