“What’s your why? If you want to be great on that field, you gotta have a why. The problem with some of y’all, the reason you don’t give 120% every damn time you get on that field, is because you ain’t got a why for what you do. You ain’t got a why.” — Eric Thomas
Productivity is good. You have to be productive. Without productivity, your life is going to suck. That’s what the people say. But why?
Why do you want to be productive in the first place? Productivity for productivity’s sake does not mean anything. It does not get you anywhere. It has to be connected to a bigger why — or else, your endeavor to become more productive will fail.
Back in university, I took a French class. I had already had a few instances of French in my life, starting at age 7 or 8 with private lessons, taking it in high school for three years, spending some time in Paris. So I figured, I’d take a refresher on the language, and maybe pass the B1 exam eventually.
I failed miserably. Not only did I not do my homework, I also only showed up for my once-a-week class reluctantly. I hated it. It felt like a waste of time. But I had committed myself, so I would show up again and again — for no reason.
That was precisely the problem. My Why wasn’t strong enough. The only reason I enrolled in that class was that “I would kind of like to speak French a little better”. Nobody has ever learned a language to fluency because they “just kind of wanted to speak it a bit”.
Three years later, I joined our business bringing nurses from Italy to Germany. In Italy, foreign language skills are rather rare, most people’s English is very rudimentary if at all. Suddenly, I was standing there amid 70 Italians, not able to communicate with anyone. Considering we were going to continue to work with Italy, that wasn’t going to change anytime soon.
I started learning Italian. Every single day, I did my vocabulary for at least 5 minutes. I even had a 200+ day streak, not even missing a day on weekends. I spoke Italian every day with a native speaker, and if there wasn’t one in the office, I would ring up one of our candidates on Skype for a quick chat. It was ugly at first. “Ciao, come stai?” — “Sto molto bene, grazie. E tu?” — “Molto bene, grazie.” Awkward silence ensued. But every day, I made a little bit more progress until two years later, I was fluent.
You don’t do this kind of stuff if you don’t have a Why. My Why was strong. I wanted to understand the people we worked with, connect with them, get a deeper understanding of the culture. But most of all, I didn’t want to be dependent on translators and interpreters, but be able to take care of things myself. That was my Why.
If you want to be really good at something, you need to have a Why. You don’t just accidentally become the best at a thing. You do it by being focused, by having a greater vision, a greater reason to achieve your goal.
Eric Thomas became one of the best motivational speakers in the world because he wanted to break the cycle of his family being high school dropouts, and because his daughter wants to go to Harvard
Martin Aufmuth invented the “OneDollarGlasses” because he was frustrated with the fact that the only thing that determines whether we grow up poor or wealthy is the luck of birth. He wants to remove that injustice.
Our Linguedo students push through 5 hours of studying German every day, because they finally want to work in the profession that they love, and because they want to build a future for themselves.
Odell Beckham Jr. became one of the best wide receivers in the NFL because he’s in it “for the glory, not the honorable mentions”.
All these people are successful in one way or the other. And all of them, as many other people we look up to, have a Why.
Back to productivity. On your journey of becoming more productive, the first thing you have to ask yourself is: “why do I want to be more productive?”
You won’t become more productive purely by learning about it, or kind of wanting it. Your reason for it matters.
Think about it.
And if you can’t come up with anything, maybe you’re at the wrong address here. Or you need some inspiration. In that case, I will give you a few reasons why I want to be as productive as possible.
So much to do …
Running a startup can be a very time-intensive endeavor. My list of tasks that I could or should achieve every day is too long to realistically achieve it. But the more things I can knock out, the better. Money isn’t infinite. Every day in which we don’t grow the business is one step towards bankruptcy, towards having to fire people. Therefore, I don’t just have the need to be productive; I have the responsibility to grow the business as much as I can every day, and thus to be productive.
… so little time.
But that’s not all. There are many other things I’m interested in. I want to be the best Lacrosse player I can be, which requires at least 13 hours per week from me (not counting stuff like Yoga and stretching, or games). I’m a very social person, so I want to spend time with my friends. I absolutely love writing, so I want to have some time every week to write. I enjoy playing the guitar, it helps me calm down. And while I currently don’t have a relationship, when I had one (and when I will have one) I want to commit time for that too.
With all these things, I need to make the most out of my time. Not just at work, but in everything that I do. And while in certain settings, such as meeting friends, you can’t be “productive”, you can still be 100% in the moment and focus on the interaction.
We all only have a very limited amount of time in our lives, so I definitely don’t want to waste the hours we have procrastinating, idling on social media or sitting in meetings I don’t need to be sitting in.
It’s rewarding to be productive.
At the end of the day, when I look my “I-did-list” (basically a mirror list of my todo list with tasks achieved that day) and realize “damn, today was good”, I feel happy and fulfilled. I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve used the time in the day to work on our business and my personal dreams.
This vacation (currently writing these lines from a coffee shop in Kyiv, Ukraine) has been super rewarding and relaxing, because I got to write every day. And I didn’t just fuck around; I put on some drum and bass, sat down in a coffee shop, grabbed a filter coffee and went at it. Going to bed never felt so good.
In the end, productivity for me is getting the most out of my time. Therefore, productivity can be different for every person. I consider “getting most out of my time” working on a business, writing and playing Lacrosse; for other people, this might be video gaming, watching Netflix, going to museums or teaching people. Every person is different — but I think one thing we all have in common is that nobody likes the feeling of having procrastinated for an hour. Or going to bed at night without a sense of achievement.
What’s your motivation to be productive? What’s your Why?
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