“The happy people are those who are producing something” (William Ralph Inge).
AT FIRST GLANCE, PRODUCTIVENESS MAY NOT SEEM LIKE ONE OF THE HIGHER VIRTUES, BUT THERE IS AN UNDENIABLE LINK BETWEEN PRODUCTIVENESS AND HAPPINESS. There is no real happiness for us in this world if all we do is consume that which others have produced. We need to be helping and contributing, working and doing things that benefit somebody besides ourselves. When we don’t do that, we find that life becomes a tedious, tiresome burden.
Some people make the mistake of defining productiveness only in terms of highly sophisticated or technical work, as if the kinds of things that day laborers do is not worthy of being called productive. But there are many kinds of worthy work in this world, all of which deserve to be appreciated when they are done well. More of us need to think like Thomas Edison, who said: “I have friends in overalls whose friendship I wouldn’t swap for the favor of all the kings in the world.”
To be productive, of course, we have to know how to do something that somebody needs to have done, so we all need to be expanding our skill set. The more tools we have in our toolbox, the more chance we have to do work that is profitable to other people. And the range of skills we might acquire is almost unbounded. There is hardly anything you can learn how to do that wouldn’t give you a chance to help someone around you, if you did it well.
Skills are not enough, however. The most skilled person in the world won’t be productive if he doesn’t discipline himself to use his skills responsibly. The lazy, unfocused person may inadvertently do something productive now and then, but he will fall short of the potential that could have been reached if he had been more disciplined.
Productiveness often comes down to enthusiasm; those who are enthusiastic tend to produce more than those who aren’t. But if worthy work is to be done, enthusiasm must be matched by expertise. There is simply no shortcut to excellence. We must undergo training, accept discipline, and learn how to do what we do in a skillful way. But when enthusiasm and expertise team up, be prepared: something productive is going to take place, and many lives will be touched.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece” (John Ruskin).