Being Kart and Driver

In yesterday’s post about Go Karts and Management, I made the observation that there’s a difference between the “fun” image of go-karts and the “racing” version. If your goal is to win a go-kart race, you quickly need to come to terms with the actual limits of the vehicle, not the fantasy of having instantaneous responsiveness from an indestructible super kart.

In this era of video games, wizards, “smart” appliances and pre-packaged, highly-polished experiences, we’ve all been spoiled into thinking that things should be easy. We expect that we get instantaneous results. And we oftentimes apply these same expectations to ourselves and the people we work with. As a freelancer, I’ve applied these expectations to myself, and have tried optimizing myself out with various hacks and process tricks to eke out a few more minutes on the hour of productivity. I am the vehicle, in other words, and I’m just coming to the conclusion that there are certain performance limits that I have to deal with. It’s the way I happened to be put together, and trying to rice myself out to achieve a hypothetical world-beating awesomeness has a point of diminishing returns. So instead of focusing on fixing the vehicle, I should learn how to drive. Real driving, not Playstation. It’s dirty, tiring, and not very glamorous, but I sense that I need to return to these value. You’ve heard this a million times before: it’s not the car, it’s the driver. When it comes to being personally productive, we need to recognize that we are both. When it comes to managing others, learning how to drive a project means knowing your people and knowing the road ahead. Everyone is built differently, with different strengths and limits. This flies in the face of the “everyone is equal” logic, and it flies in the face of the desire to shape workers into super-beings. Sure, there are people like that, but for the rest of us it’s gratifying to know that we can all achieve a performance maximum if we just know how to be driven within the limits of our adaptability. One bonus we have over cars is that we can train ourselves to perform better with time, adequate resistance and repetition.

My Printable CEO work has straddled the line between vehicle and driver. The Concrete Goals Tracker, for example, has focused on the execution of existing strengths and compensating for weaknesses. The Emergent Task Timer is the equivalent of a human productivity dyno, measuring peak productivity over time. I haven’t to date focused on creating tools specifically to isolate aspects of the vehicle (our personal strengths) or driving techniqe (workflow and process creation), as there are plenty of sources (e.g. Positive Psychology for personal, GTD for process). But now I’m starting to see where the overall system is going. There is a history of endeavor underlying all of this stuff that beckons!