I was asked by someone who doesn't read this blog to re-post my theory on why smart people are lazy. I guess doing so proves I'm not so smart, eh?
Anyhow, the basic observation is this: most of the brilliant young people I've met are also quite lazy. We're talking ages of 15-25. We're talking brilliant, not just bright.
Now, to be honest, a lot of not-so-brilliant people are also lazy. But the percentages were off: the number of brilliant and hard-working people in that age bracket is countable on one hand.
My theory on the matter can be most clearly explained using public school. A brilliant child going to public school finds that maxing out the reward requires either being brilliant or working hard. Obviously, being brilliant is easier. Working hard while being brilliant produces no additional reward.
What's worse is that the ease with which the reward can be obtained devalues it. It's like this story:
"Hi, welcome to class. For coming to class, we're giving you a little baggie full of toenail clippings!"
"But if you work real hard, we'll give you a gallon jug of toenail clippings!"
"And if I don't want any toenail clippings at all?"
"Then you'll have to come back next year and try again!"
The devaluation of the only reward public school offers means that not only do brilliant children not work hard, they stop working at all. It's easier not to care at all about the class than to only care a little.
Now, before you think this is a situation caused solely by public schools, a similar thing happens in all interactions.
Adults reward brilliant children entirely out of proportion with hard-working children. Anytime a child says something brilliant, nearby adults are astonished and gush appreciation. Anytime a child works hard, they just get a consolation pat for being hard workers. No contest: why would you stay addicted to chocolate when you've got heroin? Stop working hard, it's not worth it.
Similar situations arise with other talents, of course. Charismatic children usually have a pretty easy time making friends, which devalues friendship considerably. This usually manifests as having tons and tons of mild friends or mistreating your close friends because you can always make another.
(I haven't studied these other talents as closely, for passably obvious reasons. Feel free to comment on your own experiences with them.)
The basic idea is simple: working harder rewards less than working smarter. In some situations, that's not true. Sports, for example: a talented athlete often finds that if he works harder, he kicks much more ass. A much better reward. But in our society's mad march towards mental mediocrity, the rewards are capped at a level which is absurdly low. Once your intelligence allows you to max those rewards out with only a few minutes work, the rewards devalue to the level of toenail clippings.
Some children could be made hard working, I imagine. Perhaps private schools, or home schools, with much higher reward standards. This seems to be largely true: all the brilliant, hard-working young people I've met have been from one of those two options, save one.
Also, once they get a family, it looks as if people's whole demeanor changes. Maybe they stop being lazy. Maybe they stop being brilliant. ;) Either way, that's why this is limited to the under-25 crowd.
Anyhow, that's my theory. And you're welcome to it.