I love this quote; it’s attributed to Clausewitz, but I don’t know where it really came from. It doesn’t matter, though, because it’s still true:
I divide officers into four classes — the clever, the lazy, the stupid and the industrious. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the high staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy is fit for the very highest commands. He has the temperament and the requisite nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be removed immediately.
Joel Spolsky’s covers this same principle in his discussion of how to hire people: look for those who are smart and get things done. I think it has applications to lots of other things, too, though.
For example, we’ve all worked with people at church or other volunteer organizations who are stupid and industrious– they make more work for themselves, and others, but that additional work doesn’t translate into more achievement or benefit to those they serve. They’re the ones who are quick to cite, and insist on obedience to, every small, Pharisaical rule. They’re the ones who get bogged down in the minutiae of whatever they’re responsible for and lose sight of the bigger picture of what they’re supposed to be trying to achieve.
I’m trying to be less stupid in my own callings and life. Perhaps someday I’ll not only make it, but become more industrious too.