When I was a kid I past this arbitrary intelligence test which allowed me for 1 day a week to go to a special class at another school all day. It wasn’t particularly challenging or different, some days we played computer games (Apple 2E son!).
The overarching goal of these classes were these projects that we would work on every week until the end of the class. One year we had to invent an alien civilization. Another year we had to perform Macbeth.
I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan by any means. But having to build sets and memorize lines as an 11 year old is no easy feat.
There were 4 competing teams that performed Macbeth, so an auditorium full of amped up parents got to watch the entire play not 1, but 4 times. Our team did… ok. For whatever reason a few scenes stick around in my memory. I only had like 2 lines that weren’t memorable enough to hold a place in my brain. But partway through the play, my friend Nathan who played Macbeth stole the show when he stopped for a moment mid sentence and whispered into the microphone “…I forgot the part.” He went on to finish the play by reading his lines, God love ’em. It actually worked to our favor I think because it broke up a lot of tension that we were all feeling and got a huge laugh. I’m pretty sure it was on VHS and we watched it in our normal class later that week.
I think this story popped in my head for 2 reasons.
Reason 1 is that I don’t regret any of the experiences I’ve had in my life. I’ve had ups and downs like we all have. I wasn’t the coolest kid in school (I was the coolest kid in college, but that was kind of small potatoes). I’ve gotten to travel a bit. I’ve been bullied, embarrassed, and the victim of numerous fashion choices. I’ve also gotten to fall in love, buy a house, and start a family – which seems mundane to a 20 something year old, but quite appealing when it actually happens. I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve gotten to experience, for all the people I’ve spent time with, and for all the hangovers, stubbed toes, and near death experiences that I didn’t really ruminate on until after they happened.
Reason 2 is that I’ve been struggling with productivity for my entire life as far back as I can remember. I have my awesome days and my abysmal ones. I’ve completed projects that didn’t receive worldwide acclaim necessarily, but that I’ve been personally proud of. Etc. I’m constantly in search of ways to be inspired and infinitely more productive. I am now trying to shift my perspective to focus on “What is productive enough?”
If you don’t have a standard definition of what productivity is, then you will never really be productive. You can tell yourself that measurement is for nerds, but not making the effort is only going to hurt you in the end. If you don’t make any effort to finish something, you’ll never finish and you’ll feel horrible about yourself. On the other end, if you make a little progress here and there then you’re eventually going to finish and you’ll feel great. It’s not enough to watch successful people and hear their stories about productivity, you need to define it for yourself. Define what a good productivity day looks like (within reason). Define what a bad productivity day looks like, and don’t forget to define methods for how you can salvage a bad productivity day.
I’ve been listening to a lot of books on tape this year – mostly about self help type stuff – but something in the book You Are a Badass resonated with me recently. We are all living in our own reality. We are all living in our own world with our own terms and definitions. No 2 are the same. It’s fine to have have dreams and hopes and ambitions, but define what accomplishing them might actually look like and give yourself reasonable timelines and expectations to accomplish them.