In 1911, 25 reindeer were introduced to St. Paul Island, an island that is part of the Pribilofs. They were introduced to replace the native caribou that had gone extinct due to hunting.
By 1938, the reindeer population grew to 2,046. A boom as they expected and the average body weight of the reindeer had dramatically increased by 22%.
A few years later, there were 8 reindeer on the Island.
No major predators were around. Bad environmental conditions didn’t play a role. Disease didn’t spread. The island of St. Paul hit carrying capacity. Every living thing (and business) has a carrying capacity. Biologist and economist refer to carrying capacity as K on a graph. Only 2 things can happen when you hit K.
- You can stabilize. You can overshoot and begin to stabilize around your peak until you eventually flatline at a comfortable level and continue existence.
- You crash. Which is what the reindeer of St. Paul Island did. They overshot carrying capacity and the population plummeted.
At best, the island could support 2,046 reindeer. But at the rate they were growing, resources would eventually come short. The island is unable to ween the reindeer off of their eating habit. The population doesn’t slowly decline or “hover” around their carrying capacity. The reindeer become practically extinct in one season because of starvation as the last resource is consumed.
I jump at the chance to tell this story. Last night a friend of mine was expressing how exhausted and consumed she was with her work/life/school balance. She keeps piling on the work and making no headway. She is taking steps backward. I applaud her for her efforts and confidence to handle so much. But everything and everyone has a carrying capacity. I doubt she will disappear out of existence, but you understand.
I think productivity and sustainability is all about finding that sweet spot. The sweet spot where you’re at the maximum productivity and still able to grasp and control growth. I’m not usually one to preach about “slowing down” and I won’t start now. But I believe without the proper understanding of your own carrying capacity, you will plummet.
A lot more plays into your personal carrying capacity then your work load. Romantic relationships, hobbies, friends, late nights, financial debt, stress, sex, school, food. Allowing your life to consume you will be the quickest way to be wiped from memory.
Find your sweet spot. Here’s how:
- Work to achieve a goal. Weed out the bad priorities.
- Be with someone who helps. If you’re going to be romantically involved with someone, make sure they’re taking the stress away – not adding.
- Unplug. The quickest way to feel overloaded is to check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email and blog stats 15 times a hour.
- Sleep. This is life’s natural way of rebooting you. Don’t take it for granted. I wrote more about the importance of sleep here.
***Can you believe they introduced more reindeer in 1944? Guess what happened.
I took one of the biggest risks you can take at my age. I started a business. Looking back now, it was the best decision I have ever made and I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Starting a business when you’re 18 (now 20) comes with sacifices. I lost friends, gave up time and left school. But one thing I didnt sacrifice was sleep. Sleep is your greatest resource.
Why Sleep Is Your Greatest Resource:
1. My food delivery company consisted of a very small team. My twin brother and I managed any and all responsibilites for a long time. Over sleeping wasn’t an option and neither was not being alert. Be alert and decisive.
2. Nothing good can happen after midnight. Staying up past midnight answering emails or reading articles will do nothing. You won’t digest the article and you won’t be coherent in your emails. Grabbing a late night drink, even if they are an important, is not worth it. The opportunity cost of losing sleep trumps going to that party on campus. You could be sleeping and resting to GROW your business.
3. You feel better. No need for 15 cups of coffee and an energy shot. You did it the old fashion way and allowed your body to rejuvenate.
4. You look better. No dark circles, no bags, no lines. Go to a meeting looking like you partied all night and you will be treated like it.
5. You’ll live longer. Studies show that those who get a regular 8 hours of sleep decrease their chances of stress, heart disease and a number of other things. If you want to live to see your company go public…get some rest.
If you’re really working hard as an entrepreneur, you will go home every day ready to sleep. That’s the best sign of a hard day’s work.