First democracy, then mythology, and now a productivity tale; the lessons from the ancient Greeks never end. I’m sure that you’re familiar with Prometheus and Icarus. We can learn a lot from these two cautionary tales about the crime of getting carried away, being impulsive and sacrificing too much of ourselves; both had dire consequences on their subjects.
To jog our collective memories, Icarus and his father wanted to escape the isle of Crete. His father, a master craftsman, fashioned wings out of feathers and wax. His father advised him to follow his flight path; strongly warning him not to fly close to the sun or to close to the sea. Icarus’ got carried away, became impulsive and wanted to fly as high as possible. His hubris caused him to ignore his father’s warnings which led to his ultimate demise; the sun melted the wax, and he spiraled into the sea where he drowned…
Prometheus was a titan who, according to the Greeks, is credited with the creation of humanity. He was further accused of stealing the creation of fire and bestowing it upon humans to help advance human civilization. He was focused and devoted himself only to one goal – humanity. He ended up sacrificing himself and was subjected to eternal torment.
So, what does this have to do with us, you ask? It’s 2013! We have planes and have quick access to flames anytime we need them.
1# Fly The Right Way
Whatever our endeavor and regardless of our age, I am certain we have all been tempted to try to fly before we can crawl. Icarus was so carried away with his flight experience; he threw caution to the wind, and immediately aimed for the sun.
By all means, we should all aim for the sun. We should encourage ambition and exceed our expectations. But, and there’s always a “but”, we must do it the right way.
Set intermediate goals. Reach your final destination in a phased approach. Don’t start a project and get carried away changing your objectives and timelines. The euphoric feeling you had will fade and you will crash and burn. Plan your activities, your breaks, and maintain discipline to your objectives. Making a plan is one thing, sticking to the plan and not getting carried away is another.
Remember, once you reach your objectives, you can always reassess and plan new ones. This way you’ll always have achievement under your belt, and more experience to guide you.
2# Don’t Sacrifice Everything
Prometheus paid a heavy price because he sacrificed himself to his project – humanity. Meanwhile humanity, his project, also suffered under the wrath of the gods. What was gained?
We all have our obsessions. While it can be a positive, a driving factor in the face of pessimism, it can also lead to our downfall.
In order to succeed in our endeavors, we must find balance. There are always exceptions whereby people have sacrificed and succeeded. But the majority of us that sacrificed everything for an objective most likely have failed. For example, working 18 hours a day on a work objective, will wreak havoc with our family life and health. This will ultimately have a negative impact on your project.
Meanwhile, the person who can strike balance amongst all facets of life: personal, work, and family is more likely to succeed. This balance translates into a more productive and positive atmosphere which is conducive to getting things done. You’ll find that working 9 intensive hours will wield more in the long run in comparison to 18 hour days. Your mind will have fewer worries and distractions knowing that you’ve tended to your family and health.
3# Prometheus and Icarus learned that Ignorance is a short-lived bliss, Knowledge is ever lasting
Both Icarus and his father used wings to escape. One was knowledgeable, the other ignorant, we know how the story ended.
Before starting a project, research, study, and learn some more. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Common sense, right? Well common sense is not too common. Most of us, are too eager to start a project that we often fail to plan. We think we know enough to get started, and often crash and burn. The more detailed your planning phase, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with surprises. Of course, don’t go to the other extreme, over planning yourself into stagnation.
Until next time!