The Scourge of Productivity

We all are our own worst enemies and biggest bottlenecks. We all need our heads screwed better on our shoulders. We all need a better sense of perspective, which is the key to a better and more fulfilled life and work...perhaps to greater productivity too...but who cares about being more productive if they are not going to be more fulfilled? I may have the potential to be the greatest basketball player, but I certainly do not have to be that if I do not want to. Unfortunately, we buy the hype lock, stock and barrel, and push ourselves in wrong directions at least some of the times. Productivity is great for organizations, but not for individuals. Fulfillment is. In the pursuit of fulfillment if we end up being productive then that is just a side note. Our DNA will automatically bring productivity along with fulfillment. But to pursue productivity is a fool's errand. I would not wish that on my child.

Let me give you an example that a lot of people will relate to. Here is a handsome man, very attractive, athletic and tall. Women swoon over him. But he is gay. Should he pursue women? I am not going to answer the question...just that I hope you can see the futility of productivity as a misleading paradigm.

What fulfillment means is for another time. Suffice to say that fulfillment is the alignment of who you are, with what you do, and note that you are not a robot but a human with multifaceted life experience. The marginal utility of working the 12th hour of the day compares nothing with the 1st hour with your child or scuba diving, after having put in your 8th hour at work. But fulfillment is entirely personal. Nobody can tell that to anybody what it is. The concept is within you to be discovered and it is marvelous. Each of us is special in our own way just like our thumb prints. We just need to bring that out and be ourselves. Bulk of the problems happen when productivity and fulfillment are misaligned. Doing things that you are not designed to do is a painful way of living. Unfortunately we waste ourselves in pursuing the standardized line of productivity where humans are required to become robots and be measured by a single scale. Don't let that happen to you and your loved ones. 

There is every reason to believe that a more fulfilling life goes hand-in-hand with higher productivity. Focusing on productivity will only make a marginal improvement on performance, focusing on fulfillment will make a dramatic one. I am not deriding is an essential part of our work culture, but it is misunderstood, and a poor focus of our lives. Although this idea may seem counterintuitive to the current ethos, but chasing the wrong metric can be deadly. Imagine taking a pill for typhoid when you needed malaria medicine. Imagine building a home where sand was switched for cement and vice versa. That is why I am pointing out that for some of us, at certain times, productivity is a wrong metric. While we focus on the mantra of productivity, it stops us from focusing on the right thing, and takes us away from greatness.

Even organizations will do better if they start looking at fulfillment metrics rather than productivity. Google already does that by allowing its employees to be themselves and spend a part of their working hours on personal projects. The iPhone is not a product of a productivity driven culture. Steve Jobs did not achieve all that he did because he was focused on higher productivity. He did it because he allowed himself to be, to channel out into the world the best that was within him and he left the world a richer place. Mahatma Gandhi was an ordinary man who had an extraordinary connection with his true self. He only did what he thought right, independent of the effect it had on others. He was not endowed with any clear talent - only a will to express who he was...few reach that level of greatness and there will always be only a handful of Jobs and Gandhi. But each one of us can create extraordinary lives for ourselves. You have a choice, you could continue striving to achieve higher levels of productivity, or you could have a shot at creating an extraordinary life...