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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 13 2013

Why Humans Like Taking the Easy Way Out

By Mark Sisson
122 Comments

Easy Way or the Hard WayWe fetishize hard work a bit, don’t we?

Toil, endless toil; gritty determination in the face of adversity; and ceaseless, relationship-rending labor are virtues to be praised. We applaud each other for working late, snicker at those who don’t, and measure our self-worth in timestamps. Meanwhile, those who “take the easy way out” are ridiculed and lambasted and passed over for promotions. Googling the term returns pages and pages of blogs explaining how to kick the habit of taking it easy. By all accounts, taking the easy way out seems harmful and counterproductive to our survival in this world. Why, then, do so many of us seem drawn to the path of least resistance? If “the hard route” leads to riches, why isn’t seeking it hard-wired in us all? Why do we tend to look for the easy way out of a situation?

Well, it’s just easier that way, for one. Physics says that the path of least resistance is generally the one taken.

Think about the evolutionary context, too – the context(s) under which we lived, evolved, adapted, and figured out how to survive. Like any other animal living in nature, we had to conserve energy when we could, because a grocery store wasn’t always right around the corner. We liked shortcuts, because those were more efficient and they used less energy and fewer resources. Toolmaking? Tools make tasks easier. An average 4-hour workday with plenty of downtime for leisure activities? That’s the easy way out. Persistence hunting? Easy way out. It just so happens that in the ancestral context, the “easy way” worked. Using persistence hunting as an example, this allowed hunters to bag an animal without burning through all their glycogen and electrolyte stores. Whereas attempting to run the animal down at a blistering-5 minute mile marathon pace would lead to pulled muscles, strained ligaments, exhausted glycogen stores, dehydration, and near-certain failure, the “easy way out” was also the most effective way forward.

Today, the situation is different. You’re not going to die (today) because you overextended yourself at work. You might be stressed out and sleep-deprived, but you’ll still have that car waiting in the garage to take you home to your refrigerator full of food and warm bed. You can overextend yourself and reap great financial rewards with minimal immediate risk to your personal safety. Survival is no longer about digging up some tubers, killing game, finding water, and avoiding the elements. Most of us have to figure out ways to obtain the slips of paper that are redeemable for goods and services, and that can take some hard, weird work. We’re paying for college tuitions, housing, transportation, smartphone data plans, vacations.

Population dynamics have changed, too. No longer are we drawing upon fertile, untouched grounds teeming with edible life and resources without much competition from others. Now we’re applying for jobs with hundreds of other applicants, or trying to make our products/businesses stand out amidst the burgeoning crowd. We stand alone as individuals against everyone else (or at least it can feel like that). The easy way out doesn’t work quite as well as it once did.

Yet the urge remains in many of us. I can relate. I grew up taking the easy way out as often as I could. Instead of walking to school, I ran. It was faster, it was more enjoyable, and it was just easier than trudging along. I’d take short cuts through wooded areas, again because it was faster, more enjoyable, and easier. When figuring out what sport to take up, I chose the easier route. Instead of working on my handle, lateral quickness, outside shot, and passing ability to overcome my size and excel at basketball, I went with cross country because it was something I was already good at. This continued in college and, really, throughout my life. I’d often choose to run fifteen miles to prep for a race instead of study extra hard for the exam because, well, running was “easier.” I coasted through with solid B’s because, well, it was good enough for what I wanted to do and because I had decided to postpone med school. All these shortcuts made sense to me, and they worked for me.

Later, when I realized that my training schedule was impeding my health and that I could improve my physique and overall fitness with less training and less endurance work, I jumped on it. I made my short, hard workouts shorter and more intense and my long, easy workouts longer and easier. Lifting weights was hard work, but packing it in to a smaller time frame somehow felt easier. Going for runs or cycling at a moderately high intensity for upwards of an hour was hard and fairly unpleasant, while extending the time and reducing the intensity was more enjoyable. It became a hike, a leisure activity. I was taking the easy way out with my workouts and getting better results.

I even designed my entire eating philosophy around taking the path of least resistancespontaneous reduction in hunger instead of calorie counting, food quality instead of quantity, avoiding the problematic foods instead of soaking/sprouting/fermenting to make them less problematic – to get the best results. So there’s definitely still a place for taking the easy way out.

It’s really only in the business world that I’ve opted not to take the easy way out. I’ve had to put in the time, the hours, the grunt work to really excel and help build the Primal community from the ground up. Even though this venture has been a huge success, there are also drawbacks. I don’t have as much free time as I might prefer. I have to deal with ample amounts of stress. Even then, my decision to take the hard route and build this business was ultimately about improving my quality of life (and that of others, I hope!) and making it easier to do what I wanted to do.

And that’s the thing: sometimes shortcuts work, sometimes they fall short. Sometimes it makes sense to take the easy way, sometimes it doesn’t. Being drawn to the easy route isn’t a fault, it’s a built-in feature from long ago that doesn’t always work so well today. It doesn’t make us weak, though, and it’s not always a mistake to listen to that urge. You just have to be selective in choosing when and where to listen depending on the situation.

Overall, I think our preference for the easy route is a good thing, because it leads to shortcuts and improved efficiency – even if we have to work really hard for awhile to get there. So while the guys at the startup putting in 20 hour days are absolutely not taking the easy way out, their ultimate goal is to streamline the business so that things are easier and more efficient later. The woman who walks an hour every day instead of driving everywhere isn’t taking the easy route, but in forty years she’ll be the one playing with her grandkids, walking up stairs without an issue, and having an overall easier life than the person who opted to drive everywhere and never exercise. In the grand scheme of things, all these people who worked hard did so to relax and enjoy things later on.

We all want to take the easy route, even if we have to take a more difficult, roundabout way to get there.

As long as you’re aware of the evolutionary underpinnings of our urge to take the easy way out and selective in your response to that urge, you should be okay. Work hard and take risks where appropriate, take shortcuts when they work without shortchanging the final result. At any rate, blanket statements like “avoid the easy way out” aren’t very helpful, and they can even get you into trouble.

What about you? How have you taken the easy way out in life? When has it ruined you? When has it paid off?

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122 thoughts on “Why Humans Like Taking the Easy Way Out”

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  1. Mark,

    The “easy way” has typically been the “best way” as it has lead me to areas where I have aptitude – the tough part has been pursing things I suck at when I deem them valuable/useful.

    …Tim

      1. Dr. Ajay Kumar did his doctorate in Medicine from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. He did his residencey in physical medicine and rehabiliatation at Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia .

    1. Very very poignant. There’s definitely something to be said about true growth arising from struggling and adversity… And putting your self in new and uncomfortable and non easy situations

    2. Too true. I’ve noticed a similarity with the way I train – when I get tired, I get more efficient because it’s just easier to move that way.

  2. The easy way is usually the smartest way–no junk to slow you down. You’re working with your head more than your hands…or so it appears.

    1. Wenchypoo

      Totally agree Allison.

      Some people like taking the hard way just because they seem to feel some kind of pride in working hard and getting what they want from it.

      … As far as I’m concerned, there’s usually a faster way, and it involves using your brain.

      My country (USA) is so into hard work, struggle, and achievement that no one seems to know anything about quality of life.

      It’s tough to fight the status quo !

      1. It’s very cultural. Reminds me of a scene in “Eat pray, love” where the Italians are discussing the art of doing nothing. He says, you Americans you work hard all week, work until you suffer burnout and need to have a holiday, and say “I’m going to have a beer, because I worked hard and I deserve it.
        Italians (or so the author would have us believe) know they deserve it inherently. They don’t need to flog themselves at work to earn enjoyment.
        I’ve noticed Australia taking a more Americanised view. I’m not a fan of this shift!! 🙂

        1. Very true, I moved to Australia over ten years ago and love it whole heartedly, but have noticed a shift. Its becoming more like the negative country we left behind but with better weather and cleaner streets. It used to be about playing cricket on the weekend and taking your kids to the beach. It was about quality of life, not about working so hard to achieve the right status and then wasting time and money at Westfield.

        2. It also depends where you are. I live in rural Australia, and although we don’t rely on the land for an income, there is a different pace than that of the big centres. We notice the seasons, which govern the production of our little farm, we walk with the sheep rather than push them fast. Although we have to drive long distances to get anywhere its not through frenetic traffic snarls. Context. 🙂

    2. A friend of mine likes to tell me about his mentor from his younger years, an old apache warrior. He always told him to be “properly lazy.” I.e. use your wit to make the job easier, but always do the job. It’s all about the quality of your actions, not the quantity.

  3. I often think about this very thing in the context of food and getting people to eat better. As a nutrition educator, it is easy for me to tell people to eat more vegetables, eat fresh meats, etc. but I also realize that people are busy & stressed, and it is a whole lot easier to feed your family by throwing a frozen pizza in the oven or by microwaving convenience foods. It is frustrating, because I feel that our American way-of-life for the typical working adult works against eating right, beacuse that does take some extra time and effort atht not all of us are willing to put in… because it is not seen as easy.

    1. Try Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute and 15 minute meals. They are easily adaptable to primal ways, and I just don’t look at the pasta ones, but they are full of flavour and written so they can be put together really quickly, with heaps of flavour. I often suggest them to friends when they simply resist at every turn 🙂

    1. yes, let us face reality, in our capitalist society sloth is heresy – those whom envision and pursue the comfort option may likely live in a day-dream and ultimately awaken in a nightmare. Aggression, conflict, and subjugation of the lesser by the greater is integral to successful survival. We best become primal warriors and thereby embrace adversity as opportunity

      1. True, but those who pursue money and career above everything else may also reach a point where they awaken in a nightmare. Their health is gone, their relationship with their spouse is gone, and they didn’t see their kids grow up.

        So you have to take a balance. Yes, work is important – but remember that you don’t live to work. You work to live.

        No tombstone ever says “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” 🙂

        1. I think, too often, we evaluate ourselves based on a product (what we produce), rather than on what impact we can have in the world and in the lives of those we cross paths with. In my life, anytime I place my value on my “product,” I find that the next “product” has to be better. I end up “striving” instead of living.

  4. I really enjoyed this post, Mark. It really resonated with me – I’ve got a fairly mind-numbing job in retail right now, because, the economy being what it is, I had to take what I could get, despite being qualified for more stimulating jobs. And yet, I come home from a full-time job and sit down to do several hours of job applications each week, because, although it’s extra work now, it’s the easiest thing in the big picture. Honestly, I don’t know how I’d manage without the other aspects of my life dialed in Primal-style (sleep, nutrition, etc.). Even taking the job I currently have was an “easiest way out” in the sense that yes, it uses up a lot of the time I could be out there doing applications and interviews, but I’d rather do a longer job search with the security of a little income than slog through it in a constant state of “how on earth will I pay my bills?” It’s so important to look at the bigger picture in evaluating what’s easier, what’s better, and so on. And not forget to take a break now and then.

  5. Posts like this are what keeps me convinced that Mark Sisson is a credible source of information, and his opinion is worth always worth considering. Love it.

  6. Well this post is one of the best by far that was almost entireliy applicable to me. I guess a lot of people share my opinion on this, as all of us seem to do little tweaks on our (any) plans to get good results while lowering the cost of it, hence increasing efficiency. I for one think that we should commend the one that acheves better results with least ressistance, not the one who toils incessasntly.

    1. In Japan, for several decades, the workers all take periodic daily exercise breaks to do wind mills, jumping jacks etc. It does take away time on the clock, but in balamce, it energizes, destresses them & oxygenates their bodies. They are sick less, more productive and happier.

      Also when one walks away from a problem or a project for a short time, to do or think about something else, it relaxes and recharges the mind to think of possible solutions along different/newer pathways. I vacilate between being a great slacker and a workaholic. It works for me.

  7. My favourite quote of mine is

    – “When people say my way is to good to be true, I answer that theirs is too bad to be the only one possible”

  8. I’ve been taking it way easier on myself than ever before, just in the past 2 months. I eat and prepare simple foods (strict paleo is remarkably easy- meat and vegetation… easy), and practice yoga and belly dancing, both gently- no pushing my body at all. I haul heavy, wet, hardwood once or twice/week, and climb a lot of stairs. I am recovering from thyroid and adrenal exhaustion. Anyway, my waist has reduced 5″ in two months, by slowing my whole life down, releasing stress and removing strains on my well-being.

    Taking it easy for me is the key to healing and becoming wholistically healthy. I have been eating strict paleo for 2.5 years. The last two months have been more positively impacting than the whole 2.5 yrs of just diet and exercise. I had to slow down, end stressful patterns/behaviours and relationships, and now I am seeing the benefits of an evolutionary diet. Finally!

    1. That is an interesting and insightful story! Especially your point that after 2.5 years, it was adding in the other primal lifestyle aspects that really changed things for you.

      For most of the “super amateur athletes” I know, the ‘slow down’ part of primal philosophy is an absolute non-starter. They’re totally wedded to harder and harder workouts as the ONLY way (plus many say “I could never give up bread!”). My husband was one of those; he went primal after reading Mark’s books first and then so many of the rest out there, and he has totally changed his athletic training. The point now is to be strong enough to enjoy the play, not always working yourself to the ragged edge. I haven’t seen a younger looking 55 year old anywhere!

  9. I don’t think shortcuts are the same thing as the easy way out.

    1. A physical short cut, as in on a trail, is usually steeper. Very rarely is the shorter trail also physically easier.

  10. My whole issue with this, and primal in general, is that it seems to be a “make it up as we go” philosophy. The images of a grok holding a spear don’t exactly have any of us going out and killing our dinner with a spear. Wouldn’t that be the way to do it?

    In fact, if there were any real enlightenment or evolution here, then why woud we eat meat at all? We have alternatives. Instead we contribute to the perpetual suffering and killing of pigs, chickens, cows, and other animals. Why? And no, I’m not a vegetarian, yet, but I’m going to head down that route instead of this now because this is all feeling like too much of a marketing fad and not of any profound teaching.

    1. @Ryan,

      By all means, pursue whatever path you feel guided to. Meat or no meat, primal is about living more naturally, more in tune with life and yourself. I don’t believe Mark is proposing a “make it up as we go” philosophy. In fact, other than updating and modifying his philosophy, he seems to stay true to the spirit of Primal. This article rings strong and true for me. And I’ll stick to the meat, fats, veggies & fruits with moderate exercising.

      1. Fair enough. I didn’t mean to attack mark at all. I just get frustrated by this overwhelming sense that not all the answers are in this thing like some people seem to feel they are. At least it has got me thinking more about all of this, which is a good thing.

    2. Make it up as you go is how everyone lives anyway (some are just more honest/obvious about it). So what’s the problem?

    3. @Ryan –

      As others have pointed out, you need to go the way you need to go. But, for my money, seeking Paleo is also a serious spiritual journey.

      A carnivore at the top of the food web has to care that the soil and water are clean, so that the grass grows, so that the herbivores and other omnivores grow. A carnivore also cannot thin the herds too much as that puts their life in danger. In other words, carnivores are highly dependent on the entire food web in a way that herbivores are not.

      In that sense, humans have stewartship of (not ownership or entire responsibility for) the whole planet, simply because we are intelligent meat-eaters. Our destiny is entwined with all life on the planet.

      One of fallacies in vegetarian type thinking is assuming that protecting and honoring life means protecting and honoring only the life forms that are like us. The plants are worthy of respect and protection as well. If you insist the butcher has a violent profession, then so must the vegetable farmer. The difference only is that the butcher is more honest in his work.

      To me, fully embracing your inner carnivore is fully accept and celebrate that life and death intertwine. And someday, this mostly carnivore will become the fertilizer that feeds the plants that feeds the animals in a cycle that never ends.

      Just my 2 cents on the bigger context, if that’s what you’re looking for.

      1. You make some interesting points but I don’t think equating killing plants with killing animals is fair since plants don’t feel pain. Also, by contributing to meat eating, most paleo people are probably still eating at places that get their meat from factory farms, where the torture of animals without pain medicine takes place and on a massive scale.

        1. How do you know that plants don’t feel pain? If my skin is cut and I bleed it hurts, so if a Massai cuts a cow to bleed it, the cow must also feel pain. But if a leaf is ripped off a plant, how do we know what the plant feels? Is it a fact that plants are not sentenet, or just something to say to feel less guilty that for you and me to eat, something has to die?

          If killing something to eat is wrong, then only plants and fungi are innocent.

        2. “You make some interesting points but I don’t think equating killing plants with killing animals is fair since plants don’t feel pain”

          It’s not fair to you, but I’m pretty sure I’m being a whole lot fairer to the plants. 😉 As Piper rightly points out, you don’t actually know if a planet feels something like pain. None of us do.

          And even if they don’t feel pain, they certainly have a will to live that matches any animal. Generally, plants deprived of enough water or nutrients will put every last remaining ounce of energy into reproduction. They want to be alive and continue the line, just like me.

          I guess to me the “But plants doesn’t feel pain” argument is only another way of saying “But plants aren’t like me, so that doesn’t count as life I need to respect”.

          “Also, by contributing to meat eating, most paleo people are probably still eating at places that get their meat from factory farms, where the torture of animals without pain medicine takes place and on a massive scale.”

          Again, how do you know this? Have you ever visited a conventional farm? Talked to a conventional farmer? Or is it just rumors floating around the Internet or from your urban/suburban buddies?

          It’s important to realize that no farmer could make a living “torturing” animals. In our era, every farmer could have had any other profession. You’d find very few, I think, that would tell you they were forced into it. And as such many/most organic and conventional farmers and farm workers like and even love their animals 🙂

          If you want a quick head check about what I’m saying, pick practically any Dirty Jobs episode that visits a farm. He mostly visited conventional, large scale farmer. I will be the first to admit the conditions are not ideal or “primal” to the animals involved. However, all of them fell into the reasonable category and very far from “torture”.

        3. You guys are making a silly point. I could just as easily ask “How do YOU know that plants DO feel pain”? They don’t have a brain. You have to do better than that before you use it as an excuse to justify hurting animals in which it is clear by seeing and hearing them when they’re hurt that they’re in pain, when the same is not true for plants.

        4. I know this from reading up and watching footage of actual factory farms and also of ‘organic’ farms and such that really don’t use standards that are much better than factory farms. At the end of the day, they brand and castrate without anesthesia, artificially inseminate over and over, and other stuff to squeeze as much out of each animal for its entire existence as possible.

        5. @Ryan – Hey, you asked. 🙂 By all means, no one is stopping you from vegetarianism if that’s how you feel.

          If the point this line of questioning was to convince me what a awful person I am because I eat meat, all I can tell you is that I’ve been down that road before and this is my conclusion whether you agree with it or not. My world view is profoundly different then “duh, animals have a brain and feel pain like I do”. *shrug*

        6. I think the biggest problem I have with your argument is that having a brain doesn’t correlate well with being able to feel pain.

          Case in point: Earthworms. They don’t have a brain. They do have ganglia, which are multiple clusters of nerve cells, found at points around the body. These are physiologically more similar to the human solar plexus than to a brain. But you bet they feel pain. Being the monster I am, I keep frogs and feed them live food from time to time. Earthworms do not appreciate being cut, or eaten. They writhe in what could be construed as pain. (Incidentally, I should note at this point that you can probably save yourself the effort of writing a long diatribe to convince me that I am a horrible human being for feeding my pets what they would eat in the wild. My little sister, a vegan for years, has made the attempt in vain for years, and she has several advantages you lack, like being someone I’ve known for her entire life, and having the ability to speak to me rather than type. Save yourself the time.)

          Other animals that lack brains include jellyfish, sponges, mussels and oysters, flatworms like planaria and sea anemones are just a few other animal groups that lack a brain. They often have nerve tissue, but no brains.

          Contrast this with the sensitive fern which immediately folds down and pulls away it’s leaves when brushed up against. It has the same ability to respond to stimuli that lower animals do…

          Another argument against this actually banks on the actual intelligence of plants. IF plants could be said to have a brain, it would reside in the roots, which are capable of sensing and responding to chemical triggers in the soil. There is also some basic documented evidence of plants engaging in “trade” with fungi in the area, forming basic symbiotic relationships with some species, but not others. This seems to imply that they can recognize and differentiate between fungal species, which requires some variety of very rudimentary intelligence. Not thought, just very basic yes/no, good/bad systems much like the invertebrates I listed above.

          In short I don’t buy into the “eating plants is better because they don’t have brains and can’t feel pain!” argument. There are just too many holes in it.

          I’m with Amy on this one. Life is life, be it mammal, fish, flatworm, fern or fungus. 😛

      2. I never said anything to try make you feel bad. You just said some stuff that I don’t see any good justification for. I haven’t heard anything profound from you. If you’re keeping it to yourself, though, then that’s fine.

        Like I said, I’m literally just now becoming a vegetarian, and hopefully vegan really, because I think we _all_ should feel a little bad about what happens to animals needlessly just so we can pig on meat and other animal products. It’s bad for us overall, it’s bad for the environment overall, and it’s bad for the animals period. Fortunately, the market is full of alternatives (vege burgers/chicken, soy/almond milk, etc). So we have no good excuses.

        Even Eintein said. “I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience.” “So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore.” “Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”

        1. @Ryan – As rare as it is to find a meat eater who can avoid the troubles and moral issues associated with conventional meat production, it is equally as rare for a vegetarian in modern soceity to avoid the troubles and moral issues associated with monoculture and conventional agriculture.

          You mention almond milk. The almond industry is wrecking havoc on honey bee populations.

          You mention soy milk. Soybeans are produced almost exclusively as GMO products in the USA. This promotes widespread use of herbicide and pesticide.

          You mention veggie burgers. Any processed frozen food will result in undue pollution.

          Further, the proper management of grasslands requires integration of grazing herds. The absence of cows and sheep would result in a major part of the life cycle of grasslands to be absent and, ultimately, result in unproductive, destroyed land. Allowing livestock to graze unmonitored and without selective slaughter for consumption would also destroy grasslands.

          A vegetarian should recognize that their actions have an equal or greater negative impact on the environment and the cycle of life as any other choice of diet.

  11. Great article. I work in sales where whatever you do, it’s not enough. Then next year, you have to somehow top what you did the year before. This pattern is both stressful depleting. Some days I go home and just want to crack a beer and chill. However, I get on my rower, grab my jump rope or get out a kettlebell and go to town. Then, i have that beer 🙂

    1. I used to work in sales and I can totally relate. But I always said that if I kept up my exercise, my life always seemed to work out OK.

    2. Yeah, in computer programming it’s the same thing, except with learning: You can never know enough. And you reach a threshold but it’s hard to know when you reach a point of diminishing returns.

    3. I’m in sales and used to think the same. But then started working less and focusing on leveraging the assets I already had. My clients. Now they find people for me and all I have to do is help them, care, and provide good service. Work less and make more yes please.

  12. I agree that today especially, a person who wants to get ahead in his or her choice of careen will have to work hard at it. Of course, that was probably true in the 1500’s, too. However, much of what we see in America today regarding not taking the easy way is the direct result of the Puritan/Protestant work ethic brought about by Luther and Calvin, espeically Calvin. To work, to keep busy, to be disciplined was to be doing God’s work on Earth. Prior to the Reformation it was not considered bad if a person did not work hard at anything just so long as he or she did not bother other people. After the Puritan work ethic took hold, idle hands were the Devil’s workshop.

    1. I have heard that philosophy. I think the secret is working smart, toward a goal that makes sense, not just moving a pile of rocks one rock at a time from one side of the yard to the other. I don’t do work for work’s sake.

    2. D.M. – interesting points about the origin of this whole protestant work ethic.

      This whole “keep busy thing” I’d imagine is behind the 40 hour work week. Let’s face it, maybe 10 hours of that work is productive and real work (at best). I guess it’s just a volume approach – even if you are horrible inefficiency, if you work 40 hours you are bound to accomplish something.

      Blahhhh

      1. I’ve always mocked the Protestant work ethic. Been laughed at and ridiculed for never having a 40 hour work week in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. Traveling around the world has allowed me to see how much more relaxed other cultures are, and by slowing down, life can be beautiful again.

        1. I don’t know. I tried sloth but it didn’t make me happy. (Seriously)

          Work saves me from myself. It only gets silly when you try to make it your church, social life, and family too.

        2. This might not makes sense, but I really don’t know how to go about working less. I’m so bound up in expenses that I can’t figure out how I could get by with less $$$. This is the real trap for me. I never meant to grow up to be a stooge.

      2. Personally think Calvin messed up big too. If you look at the parable about the talents. god rewards those who invest in their talents. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Talents
        If you invest in yourself and are smart about it. God gives you more. Says nothing about toiling away like a fool. And not working smart leaves you with empty hands. Totally believe in less is more. If you are smart about it. But those who don’t do anything end up with nothing so definitely a middle ground. At least my interpretation lol.

        1. doesn’t say anything about toiling like a fool, but it does say pretty clearly to apply your “talents”

  13. I exercise the path of least resistance when exercising. With that being said I walk everyday, do push ups and pull-ups. I have found for me personally that just doing these exercises offers such great results that when I feel good, I do more. I don’t stress trying to be a gym rat, If I feel like working out harder than normal, I do. If not, I don’t stress it. I love it, I actually enjoy exercising instead of dreading it.

  14. Great stuff, Mark. Seems that one of the big differences between our distant ancestors and us is that we work to make our mark (couldn’t resist the pun) and accumulate something to leave behind, instead of making the most of day-to-day existence. That seems to be where so much long-term angst comes from…but also where much the good stuff of civilization (music, art, stories, architecture) comes from.

  15. Four hours of ‘work’ per day is fine for primative tribes, but that’s no way to build empires or corporations. Whips can keep the slaves building pyrimids, but a cultural value system that encourages pointless toil for the benefit of Somebody Else is far more effective.

  16. Why do we need to judge this is good, this is bad all the time… Easy or not, we should all beat our own path… one that is right for us and brings us pleasure.

    I think its more about enjoyment than easy, even hard things feel easy when they are enjoyable…

    1. Yes! Different strokes for different folks. For some people work is the end of their lives… they want to work more and make more and gain prestige and assets. That is the truest expression of who they are and that’s fine. Others live to have fun and help others have fun, they are social and friendly and happy. For them working hard all day would be a drag, just as having ‘fun’ all day for the first group would feel like a waste. Other people live in their heads, thinking hard and often and reveling in new thorny problems to solve, whereas I live in my heart, using my hands to draw, paint and write about fantasies and feelings and I get the highest satisfaction when I am creating.

      None of these approaches to life are wrong, just different. Do what you’re made for. Don’t be the ant who harasses the grasshopper, be the ant who feeds the grasshopper so the two of you may dance and enjoy the sound of his fiddle together.

      -Tim

  17. There are beneficial things that are hard – and those are worth slogging through. Though there is pain, the price is validated by the results.
    And then there are those things are just “a pain.” Those pains bring stress without a justifying benefit, and should be eliminated!

    1. Mimi, you just really brought it home for me.

      I’m just starting down the Primal path and loving it so much already, but I am involved in some charity work at the moment that has me acting as Chairperson to clear up my predecessor’s mess and it’s really taking it’s toll on me. I know nothing of employing people, cracking whips or running a business (I have never wanted to be nor led anyone to believe I could be, a leader) I just want to be the stay at home mother, who loves to write and learn about being healthy and cooks for her 3 kids as I have been for two years now.

      I have been thrown in at the deep end and everyday there’s something new, something worse, that I have to sort out and deal with even though I don’t get paid for it nor have a clue how to do it, but I’m slogging through because I’m the only one who has stood up to do what’s right.

      I am going to start by stepping down from the post of acting chair and gradually work my way out the door now; I have seen that sometimes the hard work pays off and sometimes it’s just plain hard work that never ends, and I think I’ve done my share now. Time for someone else to take the reins so I can concentrate on turning my family into purebred Grokkers!

      Thank you for liberating me!

      1. It’s tough – but assuming you want the charity to succeed, focus on delegating. In some ways it’s the toughest part of management, but if you can figure out how to delegate some of the busy work and instead focus on keeping people accountable for the results, you might be well be able to get time to focus on your family and get the charity where it needs to go.
        A job needs to get done. That doestn’t mean *you* have to do it. As the chair, you don’y have to do it, you have to call people out if they don’t do it.

        I think you can reduce your workload and become more effective, but at the end of the day it’s a personal thing.

  18. Thank you, Mark! Long ago, I realized that a “take-it-easy” person will work more efficiently because they will develop quicker, easier ways to do anything. I learned to set up spreadsheets that would save me hours of work, organize my home and my office to save steps and use resistance exercise rather than hours of cardio to save my ligaments. If that’s being lazy, so be it! 🙂

  19. I don’t fold clothes. Some must be hung up but the majority are tossed/crammed in a drawer. Call me a slob if you like but I have more time with my little girls. What a timesaver!! 🙂

    1. most of my clothes never make it off the top of the dryer or from the pile in the laundry basket. Same as my bed…why make it when i’m going to mess it up again?

      1. I agree Bon.

        I used to think that way. But then I figured eventually that I’m worth a made bed and put away clothes. Much happier with what life has handed me when my stuff and I are worth taking care of.

    2. Life’s too short to fold or iron things. With the exception of work shirts. IMHO.

  20. I think it depends. Pick your battles. Then, once you are in battle, resist with all your might. During peacetime, take the path of leash resistance.

  21. There is so much complexity in our life, we have to take shortcuts if we are not to be overwhelmed. The trick is to decide which is most important, then organize and systematize as much as possible so that basics are on autopilot as much as possible. The next trick is to prioritize the most important challenges that are left and go for them HARD.

  22. totally random and not relevant to this article but i didnt know where to put it but i like the new pic on the blog 🙂 on your laptop sitting on the what looks like the most coziest couch
    that couch is primal at its finest :p any more paleolithic and you’d be sitting on a couch-shaped rock right outta the Flintstones

    1. I saw that today too and thought the same! Nice happy photo 😀

      1. The balancing acts are impressive. I saw the video. Mark is like a pro tightrope walker, especially because the band seems more unstable than a rope.

  23. Holy S$@!! People Relax and take it in a little. Alls that Mark is saying is that we can learn a bit about what forms and drives our behavior by thinking about the quality of the experience in getting through life. Sometimes it’s okay to smell the roses:) Cheers Mark! I hear ya loud and clear!!!

  24. Took me 40 years to figure this out, and I’m still working on it, but what a difference it’s made. I used to exercise for hours a day, log every calorie, + now I eat simply, and exercise hard, 20 minutes a stint a few times a week-best shape of my life (3 kids later). I eat better than ever too. The time thing is still a monster I have to tame, but I am definitely making progress, and enjoying the difference. Great read Mark!

  25. I too can really resonate with this post. I realized quite a while ago that “playing to my stengths” seemed like the easy way out…but it was actually the smart way. When I do things that seem easy or that I like, I will be happier doing them and likely to keep doing them.

    Also, he older I get, the more I realize I don’t want to do “shoulds” but will do “wants” and that is largely determined by how I feel after doing something. I used to beat myself up for not doing this or not doing that, but now I realize I am living my greatest life and it was all because I took the time to do the soul searching in what my true “wants” are.
    I will also be the first one to say that it is difficult to know what all your strengths and wants are..until you try a variety of things and realize that something are just not for you. So, get out there, live your life, try new things and it becomes more and more crystal clear 🙂

  26. Taking the easy way is great….just don’t confuse it with the half-assed way.

    1. Yes…Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance! If you’re going to do anything, use it as meditation and do it the best you can.

  27. This one resonates with me, as did 4 Hour Work Week. It is about working smarter not harder.

    I am an idea guy, so I need to team up with the one who can take my ideas and make them reality. We both win as do those I want to help.

  28. Interesting concept. I found myself identifying with “that guy” who thinks he should always be doing something to move forward instead of resting and taking it easy. You reminded me to stop and smell the roses. Thanks for that!

    1. Dr. Ajay Kumar did his doctorate in Medicine from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. He did his residencey in physical medicine and rehabiliatation at Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia .

  29. I have found that I need to be kinder to myself…which doesn’t always mean the easier way out but less can be more effective, less stressful and can cause less bodily pain and injury. So, by being kinder, I mean working out every 3 days, taking a day off to let your body rest and recover, then going back again. I wasn’t doing the recovery part and it was too taxing. Plus, that doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up for taking a day off…no, i’ve earned it. In the end, it’s about finding the BALANCE (inside and out,)knowing your limitations and working within those parameters for optimal health inside and out….not taking the easy way out! And, don’t forget to meditate 🙂

  30. I have a teacher that says “If you want something done efficiently, give it to the laziest person. They will find a way to do it efficiently.”

    Not always true, sometimes they just won’t do it but I thought it was an interesting way of thinking about people who are not the type to toil endlessly. I don’t value people by how hard they work, though. I don’t relate to applauding people just because of the toil. I mean I applaud the toil, because it’s impressive when someone does something hard and succeeds, but I also applaud if someone does something well and efficiently and doesn’t toil.

    1. Your right lazy people don’t get things done. The actual saying is ” If you want something done give it to a busy man” Busy people are generally efficient and are the ones who devise shortcuts.

  31. I used to work for a boss that continually send my work back to me because I finished it so quickly that it couldn’t possibly be “right”. I continued to work at the same pace, but set my Outlook to send the files at 9 or 10:00 at night and on weekends. Suddenly, I was the golden child and my work was highly regarded and I was held up to others as an example of hard work and a solid work ethic. What a lesson to learn. So many people value time more than intelligence. I almost view it as a misery loves company situation. “Your miserable and working on the weekends? You must be doing something right.”

  32. Nicole’s posts sums up my opinion. Pick your battle and give it your all. When you’re not in a battle, kick back and relax.

  33. You should only be working hard if it is actually IMPROVING your health, and well-being.

    Hard work is not to be encouraged. Results are to be encouraged. Only work hard when working smart and efficiently is not an option. Do what needs to be done. Know when enough is enough, ad when you are getting diminishing results.

  34. I totally live just like mark said here… I i DID choose to leave many “Things” behind and smell the roses on my hill country here in Texas.I do hunter and gathering for real. Thank you Mark!

  35. I’m reading (and highly recommend) The Longevity Project, about a landmark 8-decade study. The researchers compared those who stayed productive in their 70s and beyond with those who took it easy. The findings: those who were continually productive lived much longer than the more-laid back subjects. As the authors say, “The long-lived didn’t shy away from hard work for fear that the stress of it would lead to an early demise; the exact opposite seems true!”

    So keep working hard, Mark. I know I speak for many when I say that one result, for which I am supremely grateful, is the marked improvement in my quality of life.

  36. I didn’t think I had taken the easy route by joining the army then police until I got my pension at age 52.

  37. This is how I discovered co-sleeping when my oldest was a baby. He was very colicky and the only way I could get any rest was to lie down with him when he nursed. We’ve never had a colicky baby since, but we haven’t set up a crib since then either. I have a bed rail on my side of the bed and a stash of diapers, wipes, sleepers and a book light on the nightstand. My feet don’t touch the floor at night at all. Everyone sleeps great and it’s definitely easiest for me!

  38. Great article.
    Working smart instead of hard is more productive and healthier.
    It is also more fun and feels more like play than work.

  39. Work hard when it is an investment. When it is not one should seek a path of less resistance i.e., work smarter.

  40. Mark, I just want to say thank you so much. Until I stumbled across your site, I was confused, angry and tired of trying to “figure everything out” all the time. I have found a way to live my life so it doesn’t revolve around food; I eat so little now and feel amazing after just a week and a half; I now enjoy moving just because I can and actually taking the time to spend playing with my kids, which I’ve always shied away from because I didn’t really have much of a childhood.

    You have made me realise that my dreams of becoming a herbalist and nutritionist are just as noteworthy as any other profession and perhaps even more so, now I have REAL information to impart. I want to help you in this revolution, because here across the pond, things are as bad (if not a little worse for lack of sunshine) as they are in your neck of the woods, and people deserve to know the truth. My mother has also latched onto this site as a life-line, a breath of fresh air, and is also already feeling brand new after her second bout of breast cancer surgery. I know she would second my message to you.

    I have struggled year in and year out with my weight, working really hard to shed the post-partum blubber that crept up on me, and now I understand why it was all in vain. I want other people to know too, that you are right and it is not their fault. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for that course you’re preparing for this year.

    So thank you; for your hard work, for your willingness to share and for the candid truth you speak so freely. For changing lives and empowering people. For walking the walk and being honest about the results. Now if only we could find someone in the UN to pour truth serum into just before a big press conference…

  41. This brings to memory a time when there was a community improvement pjt. on my street. People volunteered to break up the sidewalk and were provided with sledge hammers.
    There were four massively built guys taking turns slugging away at the flat concrete – a magnificent show they were putting on for onlookers their muscles bulging and bodies covered in sweat -contrasted by their lack of progress on breaking up the concrete.
    About a hundred feet down the sidewalk was a skinny young guy. He had forced a wedge underneath the sidewalk and was easily breaking it up barely breaking a sweat just cruising along.

  42. Great Article and great lesson in life. I’ve heard it since I was a little boy. Work smarter not harder. Small victories today equal big wins tomorrow. I heard a funny quote the other day by the Host of Fast Lane Daily Derrek D. He said, “Make today count because if you don’t it wont add up.” It was funny but true. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things take time in life. Looking for shortcuts allows us to enjoy it.

  43. Hi All, it’s interesting reading this. In fact, the way you titled your post I had the impression you’d advocate in favour of exclusivity in choosing the path of least resistance. However, your words were well put and you managed to combine experiences where either options were prevalent.

    The path of least resistance in my opinion has been the reason for many people to feel hopeless after attempting to get a better happy life. Recently, I finished reading a book written by Shawn Achor who scientifically put together why happiness is the engine for success in life. For those interested in seeking happiness and improving overall life enjoyment I’d highly recommend reading Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage”

    Cheers all!

    Carlos

  44. I’ve been a workaholic a great deal of my life, putting in a lot of 14 hour days or more as a self-employed artist and writer–and I’m finally learning to work smarter, not harder. It’s a lot more enjoyable and lets me have more time to do the things I REALLY love. Many of them are straight primal, too!

  45. And here I thought me always taking the easy way out was just an example of being lazy 🙂

    Seriously, “taking the easy way out” is really just a matter of efficiency. This is true of just about anything, so all of this makes perfect sense.

  46. The first thing I could think when I read the title of this article was humans probably take the easy way out for the same reasons animals do. Because the nature of survival provides the hard work, and plenty of it. Taking the path of least resistance is hard-wired into our genetics. “Recover when you can” is a survival adaptation, and Mark has made thaqt point well. But he neglected to mention something, something hidden but very real. Humans have “advanced” into social structures created by psychopaths – the people in history who have been psychopathic enough to claw their way up over the bodies of everybody else to the top so they can use man’s nature against him to control him, enslave him in one form or another. So they are served and the common man is has no control over real resources on this planet and no control over his destiny. This should be hitting home with most of you reading this by now. Open your mind and listen to Alan Watt speak on this undeniable reality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x26Q2XUZVwE

  47. Mark,

    Some of the fittest people I know have achieved success by taking a minimalist approach and cutting out any unnecessary training in their routines and foods from their diets.

    I’ve always believed in this notion of working smarter instead of harder because if you look for shortcuts and loopholes, you can accomplish just as much, if not more, and increase your free time to improve your quality of life.

    Alykhan

  48. What you’ve raised is really interesting. I have to agree that the easy way is sometimes the best way.

  49. So true Mark.
    It´s all about going with the flow, not against it.

    I´ve been going against the flow for almost my entire life, pushing back whan I should have let go, not accepting what is. But once I started easing up on life became soooo much more enjoyable 🙂

    That goes for food, for excersize, for work, for relationships… The whole shebang.

  50. There was this touching documentary about abandoned dogs on TV that I watched decades ago. The premise was how does a family dog copes with life after it has been abandoned and is without safety and food after years of being fed and living in a house. The days after it was abandoned would be the most grueling days, starving and in constant fear. Then, the dog would slowly start forming patterns to its life, it would always go to a certain farm at a certain time where it had encountered food and return to the same place of safety that it had discovered. In the months after abandonment, it had quietly settled into a routine of scrounging the same locations and seeking shelter at the same place.

    As humans we do the same thing. We cozy up to your little routines and when they are gone, life is hard until we find another source of food and safety and then form routines around it as well.

    There are no shortcuts, doing something over and over again makes it easy to do. For some people, 10-20 miles at marathon pace is a daily routine.

  51. I couldnt agree more with everything youve said, Mark. At university, I went down the path of greater resistance — majoring in a subject because it’s what my parents, who were paying, thought I should do, instead of doing the subject I was naturally good at — and it has NOT paid off. I didnt do all that well at uni, as i preferred to party instead of reading & working at a subject that didnt come easily. For my entire working life, I’ve felt like I was on the wrong course and couldn’t get back where I wanted to be. I have also tended to take the hard way in some personal relationships, staying with someone who maybe isn’t a natural fit for me. It’s not the way to live in harmony. It just adds tremendous, terrible stress. After 15 or 20 years of this kind of living, my health is suffering. Living in constant stress can cause an overwork of the adrenal glands, to the point that they don’t work proprerly any more. Long-term stress can literally take a decade or more off your life. Hard work and persistence are good habits, and ‘taking the easy way’ in no way implies avoiding them. It just means optimising your life by doing that which you were meant to do.

    1. Wow, that is the most insightful reply of all of them. It made me think a lot. I hope I don’t end up with someone that isn’t a natural fit for me. Thanks, Turqoise Goddess.

  52. I’m very happy to hear that I’m not really lazy, I’m just smart and efficient! Thanks Mark!

  53. If primal is the right way to live, then every aspect of primal is to be considered. I am happy to explore each aspect as it comes along to see if I resonate with it. Last year it was to put more play into my life. At age 58, I was amazed at how much better it made me feel along with the primal diet and lifestyle.I never pass up a chance to play now. I have pared down many things in my life that I thought should be essential. There were so many things that I am gradually revamping my life to be simpler. I am much more happy. It makes sense to take the easy way. The easy way does not necessarily mean the lazy way. I found it much more easier to dig a 5 X 5 x 5 foot deep hole in my yard and to replace a leaking water line to my house than to pay the city $6,000 to do it for me with a back hoe. They were incredulous that I would do it by hand and do it myself. I could, so I did. Primal living at it’s best. None of my 58 year old peers would dream of doing it. They probably couldn’t. I was happy to save the money. It only took a day to do. I used a tarp and cut out the grass and then put it all back the next day. You could not even tell it was done when I was finished. The back hoe would have wrecked my yard. Just one example…I have many more.

  54. This post reminds me of building a tipi. I practically always took the easy way when finding, collecting, and moving wood for it. Part of my intention in the construction of it was to get exercise but mostly I just wanted to build something that looked impressive or fantastic, something I could look at and be proud of, and something to perpetually exhibit until it rots, like a temporary shrine, not for credit but for the effect it has on the viewer. I wonder how many people, kids especially, have been driven by and seen the tipi standing on top of its ridge and marvelled at it, wondered who built it and how. Maybe some have built their own. There were a lot of logs I could have carried in ways that may have garnered me more strength but getting the work done in good time was the main goal.
    Nature sets us up to be able to work out obstacles with cunning and diligence, not just an indomitable fortitutde.
    Moving wood, especially bendable wood, is a good way to increase your ability to manipulate organic physics as well. I dragged, carried, and rolled the wood, and pulled what I couldn’t lift. It’s almost like having a sixth sense when you feel the vibrations and tension in the wood, the compounded friction of soil that it’s dragged across,the strain of tugged plants.

  55. I personally prefer the hard way as rule I only rest when I need to. Otherwise if I’m taking the easy way out most of the time I feel I might as well be laying in a coffin. Life is for living and to me laying on a beach sipping whatever would get boring real quick

  56. i believe you have to work smarter not harder. i agree with kraut life is just too short. so enjoy it and make the most of it.

  57. I try to take the easy way out in everything I do. Just because we term it easy, doesn’t mean that I sacrifice quality. If quality has to be sacrificed then I spend more time on that certain task and / or project. By taking the easy way out, more gets done, productivity rises and I can utilize my skills elsewhere. We aren’t doomed by taking the easy way out, we’re doomed by taking the lazy way out. Their’s a difference in the two.

  58. Dr. Ajay Kumar did his doctorate in Medicine from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. He did his residencey in physical medicine and rehabiliatation at Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia .