March 3, 2023

When the machine runs, it feeds everybody


When it comes to output, there are different levels of achievement a person rises to as they mature as a creator.

The most basic expectation is completing work in a timely manner that’s relatively free of errors. That’s the price of admission, whether you’re a freelancer or an employee.

As you grow out of that beginner stage, then you arrive at the point where you work quickly and create high quality output that adds value to the team, clients, customers, and so on. The vast majority of creative professionals sit at this level.

Finally, there comes the level of mastery. As my old boss used to say, you are a machine. Super fast, extremely high volume and top quality work, plus you’re able to help other people become more effective.

Have you ever met someone in that last category? The kind of creative person you would describe as a machine?

It’s a rare quality, but they’re out there and extremely valuable to the world. And for the record, we’re not using machine in the transhumanist sense of the word, where artificial intelligence greatly enhances the human condition into some kind of unstoppable science fiction cyborg. Nor are we using machine in the workaholic sense of the word, where the creator is a cold, mechanical robot who grinds until their mind, body and spirit putter out like a spent firework.

There’s also the type of machine who works like trained assassin with a quiet, emotionless personality, who will ruthlessly shoot someone in the back of the head, and then sit right down for dinner.

But in my experience, there is a version of being a machine that’s useful, healthy and legal. You’re a machine because you’re an engine of ideas, a fountain of wisdom, a well of insight and a dispenser of positive energy. You’re a machine because you’re stable, efficient and disciplined with your work, but still leave room for improvisation, rest and joy.

And to be fair, not everyone is wired, pardon the pun, with this kind of personality. Which means if being a machine doesn’t push your buttons, then that’s fine.

But if you have ambitions of achieving creative fulfillment, figuring out what your version of being a machine is will be a tremendous gift to yourself and others.

One of my relatives works for the department of defense, and part of his job is recruiting interns from universities with top engineering programs. He tells me that when he contacts professors, his only question is always:

Do you have anyone that’s special?

It’s his way of asking, do you have a student who’s a machine, in the best sense of the word? Can you show me a kid who works fast, has a high volume and top quality work, plus knows how to help others become more effective?

Not a bad recruiting filter.

After all, the word machine derives from the old term maghana, meaning, that which enables. It’s all about leverage. As you mature to different levels of achievement as a creator, think about the kind of leverage your engine creates.

For you, for a team, for an organization, for the world.

Listen, you are not machine to be manipulated for greater efficiency and productivity. But there’s no creative professional who shouldn’t be thinking about how to add speed, volume and value wherever they go.

Because when the machine runs, it feeds everybody.

What buttons can you press that nobody else can?