The Productivity Debate Begins

March 21st, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

The hard work vs. laziness productivity blog showdown between myself and Fred Gratzon has begun at Slacker Manager. Brendon Connelly first invited each of us to provide our own definitions of certain terms: success, hard work, passion, happiness, laziness, productivity, work ethic, efficiency, and motivation.

Here is my response, and here is Fred’s.

It seems that the difference between Fred’s philosophy and mine goes beyond semantics. Perhaps the key difference is how we define going with the flow of what Fred refers to as “Mother Nature.” He explains that as physics itself always goes with the flow of nature and takes the path of least resistance, then we humans will achieve the greatest success when we align ourselves with these natural laws.

Fred’s response sounds beautiful. I’ve read many books that espouse a similar philosophy. But I don’t adopt this philosophy as my own because in the long run I believe it will ultimately self-destruct.

Here’s why:

Where will going with the flow of nature take us? What will laziness get us? Do you actually know where this path will lead? Not just us as individuals but all of humanity? Given the status of our planet and the history of our world as we appear to understand it, where will this philosophy take us?

Where has it already lead most of the other species on our planet? Where did it lead the dinosaurs?

You see, if you want to accept the philosophy of going with the flow and living in accordance with nature, then you must accept the whole package, which includes giving up control of your life to natural processes outside your control. You must trust that the path of least resistance will lead you somewhere good.

This is an easy (and very tempting) philosophy to adopt. And if you don’t mind becoming extinct, then by all means go for it. But if you’ve fallen in love with humanity’s potential as I have, then perhaps you’d prefer that we don’t drown in our own pollution and go the way of the dinosaur. Maybe it’s worth the effort to keep this wonderful and creative species alive and see just how far we can go.

We humans are the only earth species to have left our planet. We visited the moon. Isn’t that absolutely incredible? And we busted our butts to do it. Think about all we’ve accomplish as humans and how hard many of us worked to achieve these goals. What we’ll accomplish over the next 100 years is astonishing to even contemplate. I for one am glad to live at this time in history, and I’m grateful for all the hard work of previous humans to get us to this point.

To me this is not a time in history to be lazy, complacent, and cowardly. Humanity has some big challenges on the horizon. So let’s get busy and tackle them with our intelligence, our courage, and our capacity to work hard. Stop bemoaning the existence of these challenges and wishing we could all take the easy way out. If you want the easy way out, there are plenty of drugs to choose from.

I’d rather participate actively instead of passively letting life slip away. If that requires some effort and hard work and facing down fears, then so be it. I’ll pay that price willingly. I won’t go to my grave thinking of the people I might have helped but didn’t because I was too lazy and fearful to make the effort.

Hard work IS painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love. Who wants to work hard for money? You want to dedicate your whole life to collecting smelly pieces of paper with pictures of dead people on them? What kind of pathetic motivation is that? Of course you’ll cringe at the thought of hard work if that’s all you care about. But there are so many more interesting things to live for that make hard work worthwhile. And this requires getting out of your own little shell of personal gripes and fears and taking a look at the rest of the world and asking yourself, “How can I contribute?”

As Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.



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