People Getting Stuff Done

If you think about the amount of stuff a human can get done in a lifetime, it’s staggering.

In either a very good or very bad way.

The vast majority of billionaires in the world came from nothing. Many, born into no special favors, built up billion-dollar commercial empires (think Richard Branson, Sam Walton, Ralph Lauren) or tech companies (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, Jan Koum). Starting from where everyone else started, they’ve amassed fortunes, acquired airlines, flown to space, built skyscrapers, and done everything in between.

Yet on the flip side, other humans can be equally staggering in the lack of anything notable: starting from nothing or in some cases starting from quite a bit, and maintaining a steadily declining trajectory of productivity across their life.

The method…the way people get things done…is the most wildly uneven and confusing aspect of a productive life.

I think that a productive life is a good life, and an unproductive life is a bad life.

It’s not just money. Productivity can be manifested in a wide range of things. It can be invention. It can be family. It can be art. It can be cash. It some cases it can even be survival. We shouldn’t use the same scales to measure everyone across all of human history and geography. The first caveman who discovered fire gets a lot of credit, but I also know how to make fire. Where’s my credit!?

Times are different. From whom much is given, much is expected. We have been given much.

Perhaps the first tribes wandering the planet were productive just by surviving another winter. But here I am, surviving many winters. Half of America survives the winter without even going to work. How much more should we be producing, now that those of us in the developed world need to do nothing in order to survive?

In 1001 AD, Leif Eiriksson got in a Viking longship, crossed the Atlantic, and spent the winter in Canada before heading back to take care of his old dad.

Who do you know today doing something that ridiculous?