A Thought on Efficiency

WARNING
This borders on a rant – I get into moods where I like to rant, and this is one of them. Treat it accordingly ;)

A (semi) quick thought before I go to bed. There are times in my technology filled life of smart phones, streaming, bluetooth, web 2.0, multitasking, scheduling, interoperability, synchronization, single sign on, and coordination that I honestly just get sick and tired of being efficient all the time. I understand the theory in that by working smarter, not harder, you can get more done – but what’s the point?

People have a lot of reasons for being more efficient – one of the major points: getting more done in a shorter amount of time. The theory is that we either don’t like doing crap, or there is a reward for doing crap, so we devise ways of doing more crap in less time so we have a bigger reward – this reward being the extra free time we saved from doing the crap quickly, or a payment we received in exchange for doing the crap.

The Fisherman

One of the problems that comes into play is we usually take the time we’ve saved by being efficient and put it back into activities surrounding the crap again – either working more or devising even better ways of being efficient for work in the future.

My friend Leah had read me a story once, and I’ll do my best to only semi-misquote it here. It concerns a business man talking to a guy fishing on a beach. The conversation goes a little something like this:

Businessman: Why don’t you go get a job, you lazy fisherman?
Fisherman: Why should I get a job?
Businessman: So you can make it into a career.
Fisherman: Why should I have a career?
Businessman: So you can climb up the ladder, make a lot of money
Fisherman: Why do I need a lot of money?
Businessman: So you can invest it, build up a retirement fund
Fisherman: Why do I need a retirement fund?
Businessman: So you can live out your final days relaxing, fishing on a beach somewhere

Obviously the story leaves out any points of the fisherman having a family, responsibilities, or supporting himself, but the point is still there. The dig here is not against business, but the attitude of the businessman, this “prerequisite of happiness” thing where you’re constantly working to get to somewhere that can be reached without doing all that crap in the first place. The bigger paycheck, the larger office, and the faster car always seem more appealing from far away, but when you’re actually there, they give no happiness compared to the proverbial sitting on the beach and fishing. And if that truly is the goal, then why not cut out the middle man?

The Driving Force

We live in a nation of bigger, better, faster, compete, win, more, more, more. It’s driven into us in a number of ways – we must excel in all that we do. Our country’s finances operate on capitalism, and it’s a survival of the fittest game. And while this drive pushes us to achieve amazing things and delivers us glory, does it truly make us happier in the long run? Especially considering new abilities are often paired with new issues?

All this is the subject of a much more detailed and lengthy article than I could write, and I’m definitely not arguing against progress. But there are many times in my life when I want to unplug – when I’d rather hand write a letter to a friend than send them a Facebook message, or give them a call on the phone instead of text messaging them. There are times when I don’t want to be the fastest or the best, I don’t want to be connected wherever I go – I just want some quiet, some peace, and some happiness.

I think what it really comes down to is needing balance – it’s something I’ve been working on quite a bit the last month or so. As odd as it sounds, I need to put more fisherman into my life.

3 Responses to A Thought on Efficiency

  1. Ray says:

    Well written.

    Add to that the pride and comfort spiral. If the fisherman does increase his lifestyle, gets the bigger faster better stuff, then he gets accustomed to it and has to maintain it or else lose happiness. Can’t just drop it all and go back to fishing without losing comfort and pride.

    Tough balance indeed.

  2. Leah says:

    The story:

    An American businessman was at the pier of a tiny coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican (I think his name was JUAN !) on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

    The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said that he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

    The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my
    children, take a siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each
    evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a
    full and busy life, senor.”

    The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should
    spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would increase your profits and sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this tiny coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then to LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

    The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

    The American replied, “15-20 years.”

    “But what then, senor?”

    The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is
    right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public
    and become very rich, you would make millions.”

    “Millions, senor? Then what?”

    The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a tiny coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the
    evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

  3. Toni says:

    Leah – Thanks for the full story, that definitely gets the point across better :)

    Ray – Yeah, that’s a really good point too, and one I’ve actually been thinking a lot about. I’m definitely going to have to sacrifice a bit to balance things out more, but I know it will be worth it in the long term.

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