Children’s Stories and Productivity

I don’t have any kids, but I have friends that do.  Being the good guy that I am, I reluctantly agreed to that ‘Hey, can you watch Jessica tomorrow night?’ question that pretty much every childless friend is bound to encounter at one point or another.

After piling stuffed animals, phone numbers, and a few books into my arms, Katja and Mike were off for a night of merriment, while I was at home with a 4 year old.  Naturally, my first reaction was ‘How the heck do I keep a 4 year old entertained until she passes out’?  As it turns out, 4 year old girls aren’t that interested in basic movement and combat controls of a level 72 Tauren Shaman, which left me with those books.

Hmmm…what’ve we got here?  Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Little Engine That Could, and Snow White.

Take a knee little Jessica, Uncle Dan is about to unleash a whole load of productivity life lessons that you’ll thank me for later down the road.

To be fair, it didn’t start off like this, but about three-quarters of the way through Goldilocks, a lesson in productivity started to form in the back of my mind.  It seems like I’m not the only one who’s had this revelation as well, Hunter Nuttal at Pickthebrain.org wrote an excellent article about Goldilocks and Productivity back in October.

To summarize Hunter’s article, Goldilocks and the Three Bears represents an example of an economic concept known as maximum sustainable output.  This is a concept that measures a country’s (or individuals) highest level of output over a sustained period of time.  The Bear’s porridges represent 3 different phases of productivity output.  The ‘too hot’ porridge can be seen as kicking your personal productivity into overdrive, eventually causing a ‘crash and burn’.  The ‘too cold’ porridge can represent underperformance, or doing less than you’re capable of.  And the ‘just right’ porridge can be seen as the perfect medium – representing maximum sustainable output.

After an encore of ‘again, again, again’ (this girl is destined for CEO level work), we moved on to The Little Engine That Could’ (coincidentally also mentioned by a commenter on Hunter’s article).

‘The Little Engine That Could’ has to be the genesis of the ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ school of thought.  Generally when I’m reminded of PMA, I usually respond with a ‘Yeah, I got your PMA right here buddy’, but after reading this story to a four year old, I’m starting to rethink this theory.  If you’ll recall, the Little Engine was faced with a challenge that even the larger Engines in the trainyard either refused, or didn’t even attempt.  With the assistance of a PMA, this little Engine overcame an insurmountable obstacle.

Jessica ended up falling asleep somewhere around page three of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, so sadly I wasn’t able to impart the words of social responsibility and word ethics hidden in ‘Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go’, but we can save that lesson for the next visit with Uncle Dan.

Lessons learned:  Always seek to obtain that ‘just right’ level of your maximum sustainable output, Think you can – Think you can – Think you can, and wait until at least age six before starting ‘em on WoW.

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