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 consider myself a pretty stylish guy. When I’m clothes shopping, I don’t yield to my girlfriend for her opinion on if I’m picking out the right things. I curate my closet and make the decision on what to wear.
I was shoe shopping about 2 weeks ago when I came across an incredible pair of brown wing tips. A beautiful set of shoes that I must have. My girlfriend, who was with me in the store, looked at me in almost disgust when I went to pick the shoes up. “I dont know if I like those” she said, “Do you really like those?”.
She was respecting my feelings. She didn’t want me to look like an idiot in these shoes. But remember, I don’t care what she thinks about my shoes. I know a great shoe when I see it. I bought the shoes and wore the hell out of them the next weekend for a wedding we attended together.
I met her at the church (she was a bridesmaid and was there much earlier) the morning of the wedding. She had asked what I would be wearing the days prior, but I didn’t mention the new wingtips would be on my feet. As I walked in, I was greeted by another friend, also a bridesmaid. Afer saying hello she immediately complimented me on my shoes. “Those are sharp! Where did you get those?”.
I finally got to see my girlfriend after the ceremony before we headed to the reception. She was standing with a friend and introduced me. I’m a gentleman and ask how they both enjoyed the ceremony and did they need a ride to the reception. After polite conversation the girl complimented on my shoes…stating they looked great with my suit.
During the reception, I danced with my girlfriend and as the night slowly winded down and we were able to talk more, she noted how handsome I looked. I reminded her how much she didn’t like my shoes when I bought them, yet I was “handsome” in them now. She replied…
” What?? I never said! I’m the one who insisted you get them! I think I’m the one who picked them out, right?”
A few lessons to be learned here.
- If you curate your closet (or life, or product, or brand) and you’re doing okay, keep doing it. You will get better with experience and practice. You also won’t get a terrible mix of a bunch of bullshit you “sorta” like.
- No one wants to be the first customer. Have a great business idea you want to pitch? Tell the first client you pitch that his competitor is already on board and you are seeking others right now. Chelsea didn’t like my shoes until her friends did. She needed confirmation.
- Group debate and forums don’t always get the best result. Sometimes a key decision maker with the right vision will make the right decision. Take Steve Jobs, for example.
- Always dance with your lady at weddings.