The law of the conservation of energy can be paraphrased as:
Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only transferred or transformed from one form to another.
It’s fascinating to think that the Sun feeds plants here on Earth, and that those plants grow and die feeding other life forms—transferring their energy. And ever since the discovery of fire, humans have been taking the energy given by the Sun, stored in the form of wood, coal, oil, and natural gas, and converting it to other forms of energy for our use. (Go read “The Story of Energy” on waitbutwhy.com for a much better and more entertaining explanation.)
Of course, the implications of this for humanity are scary. Much of the news we read and hear, when stripped of the politics, is about this very thing. Energy. There is a finite amount and we seem to be addicted to its use.
But this addiction is true in many ways, even beyond the global concerns relating to the Earth’s natural resources. As organizations and as individuals, we are constantly trying to figure out how to get more work done. All this work requires energy, but we only have so much. In my past, choosing to work 60 and 70 hour weeks limited the energy I could spend on being a father, husband, brother, boss, friend. Those other roles suffered while I started my company. It’s been a long-time goal of my business partners and I to reach a more sustainable place—one where we as individuals are more balanced in how we spend our energy.
Similarly, I want the individuals on my team to be amazing Web designers and developers. But I also want them to be the best parents, siblings, children, friends that they can be. If I structure Sparkbox to demand an unbalanced amount of energy from my team, I am setting my people up for failure in other areas of their life. This may benefit me as an owner for a short amount of time, but the gain will most certainly be temporary. Viewing people as resources implies they can be used up. Instead, taking a longer view means we opt to see our people as renewable, but only if they are given the opportunity to develop.
I’ve recently hired a personal trainer and wellness coach. It’s been too long since I’ve been as physically fit as I should be. The active lifestyle of my youth has slowed as I’ve focused on my career and my family. Similarly, I’ve found myself fascinated to consider how the limited amount of energy I have in a given day is dependent on the food, water, and sleep I give my body as fuel. Recognizing this and learning about how the body works—what it needs to transform these into the energy I use for work and life—has made a shift to healthier choices easy.
I can already feel a difference. And it’s not just physical, I have a stronger focus on the important things in life and the discipline to prioritize them.
Life is short, and we only have so much energy. Let’s choose to do the work that matters, the work that will last.