• Jon Saft

Aesop's Lesson on Productivity

We think about productivity much differently today than in the past, or at least we should. Old schoolers tend to think that productivity revolves around clocking in and clocking out. You work until you can't work anymore, then you push a little harder.

Today, we know that this dated mindset might lead to more output in the short term, but long term impact, along with general well being, will suffer.

But not all lessons from our past fall into the same trap. Thousands of years ago, before any assembly line, performance review, or TED talk could skew our perception of productivity, our old friend Aesop knew that there was a better way, and in classic Aesop fashion, found the perfect way to describe it.

So settle in, folks. It's story time.

The Goose and the Golden Eggs

Once upon a time, there was a farmer and a goose. One day, the farmer went out to check on his goose, and found that the goose had laid a golden egg! The farmer was in disbelief, so he picked up the egg and went into town to have it appraised. Sure enough, the egg is pure gold!

The farmer can't believe his good luck, but it gets even better the next day when he goes out to find another golden egg perched under his goose. Day after day, he wakes up to find another golden egg. The farmer becomes rich beyond his wildest dreams; it all seems too good to be true.

But with his new found wealth comes a growing sense of greed and impatience. Unable to wait for the next day for his next gold infusion, the farmer decides to kill the goose and get all the gold at once. When he cuts the goose open, however, he finds it empty. There is no gold inside the goose, and now he has destroyed the source. There will be no more gold tomorrow or the next day.

The Lesson

Most people can identify with the farmer's thought process: the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are, so let's try to maximize production, no matter what it does to the source.

But as the story shows, true productivity is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the source's capacity to produce (the goose).

You are the goose, and the fruits of your labor are your golden eggs. If you neglect your own well being in favor of producing more eggs, you will destroy your source and be left with an empty goose.

On the other hand, if you take care of yourself - mentally, physically, and emotionally - without putting the gold before everything else, you will soon find yourself waking up full of the energy and motivation necessary to produce your own golden eggs.

Prioritize Yourself

So the next time you feel like pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion to impress your boss or staying an extra hour because you see your colleague doing the same, remember that you are both the goose and the farmer here. The decision is yours.

You can cut yourself open and try to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the last scraps of gold, or you can sign off for the day and go for a jog, or read a book, or whatever feels replenishing for you.

Because with the proper self care, when you wake up the next day, there will be another golden egg waiting for you.


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