We have become experts at efficiency. In 90 minutes, I can respond to 100 different emails to 100 different people completing, managing, or making progress on 100 different tasks.
We can video conference with half a dozen people from around the world with the click of a button.
We can use a Google Doc, or something similar, to rapidly coordinate on a document in real time.
We can transmit our thoughts via text message or phone call to somebody thousands of miles away almost instantaneously.
We can learn about any topic, at any level of complexity, at any time. The total sum of all human knowledge is available to us in text or video whenever we want it. Any fact, any skill, or any concept is accessible to us, and almost always for free.
We are really good at getting a lot of stuff done, bolstered with the technology that gives us superhuman capabilities.
And that’s really cool. Actually no, it’s not JUST cool. It’s INCREDIBLE.
Now, with all of those capabilities, with all of this efficiency, have you achieved more than Benjamin Franklin?
You know, Ben Franklin. The guy on the $100 bill.
The guy who accomplished so many amazing things that we often forget some.
Most people likely remember the biggest ones. He helped author the Declaration of Independence. He created, wrote, and published the Poor Richard’s Almanack. He invented the lightning rod. And also the Franklin Stove.
If you think harder, you might also remember that he invented the bifocal lenses and served as the first Postmaster General.
But, if you’re like me, without Google, you probably don’t remember that he also invented swim fins, published the first American political cartoon, was the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, was the sixth governor of Pennsylvania, and was the first ever US ambassador.
And even with that extensive list, any ONE of which would be enough of an achievement for a lifetime, I’m sure people in the comments are going to tell me things that I missed.
But it’s not just our friend Benjamin. Have you accomplished more than George Washington, Julius Caesar, or Cleopatra? Do you run your business or division better than Henry Ford or Rockefeller?
These people created and managed wildly successful, massive organizations with thousands and tens of thousands of people, without a single email or Zoom call.
How did they get so many important things accomplished without being even a fraction as efficient as we are?
How have I managed to grow and create multimillion dollar enterprises, write a blog each week, etc. all while having a big chunk of my time and energy sucked away each day by a disability most people don’t have to deal with?
They did it the same way that people who accomplish big things right now do.
They focused, maybe obsessively, on only the things that matter the most. They cared a lot more about being effective than being efficient.
You can become really efficient at loading and firing a musket, but it’s still not going to be as effective as shooting a fully automatic machine gun.
The key to achieving greatness isn’t doing more. It is doing less. It is doing only the most important things they are actually going to move the needle and put you closer to your goal.
How many of the emails that you sent, the work that you do, and the meetings that you have are doing either of the above? Some might be. But I bet most aren’t. Here is a good litmus test: what would happen if I DIDN’T do this thing? What would we miss out on? Would it even matter?
If you can figure out one major, important task per day that really matters, that really moves the ball down the field, that really helps your life in some meaningful way, and make sure that you get that one thing done, even if that means sacrificing some other things that might not even matter, you will be a lot closer to achieving that Ben Franklin status.
How much of your free time are you spending doing the things that you truly love the most, as opposed to unplanned, less satisfying, forgettable recreation (watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, etc.)? I certainly have my things I waste time on, but I have watched less than one or two hours of television a week since I was 18 years old. The average American watches about 40 hours of TV per week. That extra 38 hours of time each week has allowed me to do even more enjoyable/worthwhile endeavors. That’s 1,976 hours per year, and 39,520 hours over the last 20 years that I got to spend doing cooler stuff.
You don’t have to slave away constantly to do great things. If you focus on only doing the most productive things that matter, and spending your free time only doing the things that you really love the most, you will live a richer, more fulfilling, more successful life. Our boy Benjamin accomplished incredible things, but he was still known for drinking and orgies on the regular.
If you cut away the fat from your work and from your recreational time, you can do great things in both. You can have it all.
(Do you know someone this can help? Please share it with them. If this helped you, get a link to the next blog post the minute it is up by texting the word CRIP to the phone number 484848. It really means a lot to me when you subscribe, so thank you.)