"Productivity" as defined by capitalism vs humanity

Okay y’all, if you’ve ever been on a call and someone’s said the word “productivity”, you’ve probably seen me make a nasty face, and possibly heard me go on a rant. This topic is intended to better put into words those thoughts and feelings, and examine how we can make “productivity” an act of pleasure and joy within our community.

One of the biggest things I’ve been reflecting on is the fact that capitalism is abusive. It’s taught us to fear for our lives if we do not Produce, or that we are only valuable if we are constantly Producing, whether or not that act of production is harmful to ourselves or others. I see this in my friend who is a baker with chronic pain. They have expressed to me that they feel like they must make themself indispensable in order to have security with their income, but comes home and is barely able to walk or do the things they enjoy without pain. Capitalism forces us out of integrity with ourselves, especially when it comes to doing work, and I believe it’s lead to some level of trauma for all of us. This is why I say that “productivity” is a bad word to me.

However, I truly don’t believe that productivity is inherently bad. As humans, we have an innate desire to create and build and explore and think. And it is so satisfying to find the path of least resistance through a workflow, or to overcome a challenge, or to have the capacity to work on something for a long time. And this is what I want us to be centered on when we say “productive” at SoureCred. I want us to be operating from a place of creativity and not fear/trauma response. I want us to be here, creating together and staying in integrity with our needs. I deeply believe that we can redefine “productivity” towards a more supportive and encouraging meaning. I see us moving towards this in the month break we just took, the breaks we’re planning, and the fact that we are taking these first couple weeks of January 2021 to make intentional choices about where we put our time and energy.

We are valuable even when we aren’t creating. Taking a break from moving through things quickly doesn’t mean we won’t come back to it later. We can create from a place of joy and not fear.

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I’ve found that whenever I do some work I enjoy I’m satiated in a unique way. It has been deceptively easy to reflect on this and think “I’m satiated/content because I did something.” but actually I’m satiated because I satisfied a desire to engage with something that interests me, and perhaps even self-actualized a bit.

However, the process of reorienting on self-actualization and away from productivity and output has been so gradual. We need to work together as a community to do this successfully, possibly through celebrating each other for working something we enjoy rather than just working on something.

That being said, we all have work to do that we don’t enjoy, but is absolutely necessary. Maybe we need to find a different way to celebrate and/or reward these kind of contributions?

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I’m listening to a set of lectures about Tchaikovsky, and the author said something that made me think of your post. Quoting them:

[Tchaikovsky] was hard at work on his Symphony No. 1. Truth be told, he was too hard at work […] In May and June of 1866, he worked with almost crazed intensity, to the point that he was experiencing severe numbness in his arms and legs, and, according to Tchaikovsky himself, “terrifying hallucinations”. Tchaikovsky’s doctors pronounced that he was at the very edge of insanity.

Yeah, okay. Frankly, no disrespect intended to Mr. Tchaikovsky, but one wonders, with his delicate constitution, how he would have survived the rigors of a modern work week. His sanity ultimately intact, Tchaikovsky finally completed his first symphony in February of 1868.

(Emphasis mine.)

The author says this with a chuckle in their voice.

It disturbs me that this is so normalized. Tchaikovsky worked for nearly two years under steep expectations from critics, had long-standing psychological trauma due to the death of his mother and the constant concealment of his sexuality (for which the state ultimately forced him to secretly commit suicide), and was pronounced at the “edge of insanity” by doctors—and the response is “haha, good thing he’s not alive today; he wouldn’t make it a hot minute”?

I’m not sure if this set of forces is exactly capitalism, but I see similarities: foremost, expectations that recognize no inherent value in the person.

And for what it’s worth, it is very much unclear that Tchaikovsky’s sanity was “ultimately intact”.

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Wow Joie, I love how gorgeous and concise this topic is. I think you really hit the nail on the head when it comes to the nuance of what this word has come to mean under capitalism, and what it could come to mean for us.

I also have a deep desire to move away from the way our society (regardless of the cause) uses “productivity” as a way to reduce us to how much we as individuals can trade our bodies, our passion, our talent, our skills and knowledge, our priorities to the ends of financial maximization of corporations and the mega wealthy; in exchange for the right to keep living (out of poverty if you’re lucky). It’s no wonder we’ve connected our ability for alienated production to our moral right to live.

The system we currently live in has almost no interest in finding the ways in which we naturally strive to create, our core strengths/talents, our personal priorities, or what inspires the light of passion within us to provoke our productivity. I think the book I just finished reading called “First Break All the Rules” has a lot of wisdom to offer on this topic in particular.

It’s a book about what it means to be an exceptional manager, and as it turns out, all great managers turn away from the “conventional wisdom” of capitalism and the work place. The role of a truly great manager is indeed concerned with productivity, with performance, but the way they approach building performance in their employees is so much more in line with how I think we want to operate.

An exceptional manager’s job is to understand that talent is something that lives within us* and is essentially not changeable. (Learn more about talents/skills/knowledge in my other topic). Therefore we should be identifying the unique talents of every individual, abandon trying to make a person “fix” their weaknesses, and then defining clear outcomes of performance that directly utilize their talents/strengths.

A managers job is to turn talent into excellence through consistent performance. The way they do this is by casting roles by talent, defining the right outcomes, focusing on strengths (managing around weakness), and finding the right fit. They put people into roles they can naturally excel at, they make it clear that performance (productivity) is essential and define what that means in the context of their role and their talents. They’re finding the ways they can support their employees around their weaknesses, turning them into mere nontalents that don’t interfere with performance, and pushing their people to do the kind of self-reflection required to find true excellence, expertise, and passion in their work.

This is a bit of a ramble, but I think that redefining productivity in these terms (in addition to training up/bringing in some excellent managers) will be crucial to our goals for the year of not only being a loving and wholehearted community, but also being that community who gets shit DONE with a fierce joy and passion.

I truly believe that if we do it correctly, with the right focuses, we’ll be able to take productivity and put it to work for the deep self-discovery and empassioning of every SourceCred participant.





. * while talent is something you can technically develop from scratch through great effort, time, and striving (because of the incredible neuroplasticity of the human brain); it’s not something a manager should try to do to their employees. That kind of change requires a deep and personal commitment from an individual who is ready to choose themselves and devote years of effort to changing their most basic filters for the world. That’s not the kind of thing another person (like their manager) can choose for them, and isn’t something a manager should be trying to do. It’s much smarter, more practical, and less demoralizing for everyone involved if a manager works with, encourages, and supports the talents (4 lane highways in the brain) that already exist within someone.

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I feel all this in my BONES. The toxicity of corporate systems creates a cyclical pattern of burnouts and bruised self-esteem. It affects not only how we feel in the work place, but also our sense of selves by weaseling its way into our passions, hobbies, and even our relationships. Our Western culture makes individual strife the key component to any protagonist, and thus makes us feel unworthy if we don’t see it in ourselves.

So, how do we change this in SourceCred? How do you propose we change our usage of the word productivity?

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Wow, I feel like I gained so much awareness about myself and society while reading this. Thank you all!

One direction that I think is worth digging into more:

We are valuable even when we aren’t creating. Taking a break from moving through things quickly doesn’t mean we won’t come back to it later. We can create from a place of joy and not fear.

When I play devil’s advocate against this, the question becomes: How do we measure or reward value when people aren’t creating? One solution looks like UBI, but in as much as SourceCred isn’t a UBI token, I assume we need a different solution for valuing “unproductive” contributions. All solutions I can think of seem like they make it easier to simply pay people based on their popularity, but I’m not convinced a creative, community solution doesn’t exist.

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I’m not sure I personally have an answer for the questions you’re bringing here, but I do know that I believe that rest is a valuable contribution to SC. It allows contributors to be operating (more) from a place of health and peace, than pushing through to be productive when it’s harmful to themselves (and thus the project). So in my mind, at least to a certain extent, I see rest as an active contribution to the project, particularly from key contributors.

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@decentralion has said “Self care is a contribution.” and we’ve been encouraging the community in the past to share self-care activities on discord to both promote self-care to other members and reward engaging in self-care. It’s easy to imagine social sub-networks and cliques potentially abusing this type of thing as community trust erodes, but I think the benefit of unlearning harmful practices and habits currently outweighs this risk.

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Yeah, I think I’m unlearning harmful practices every moment I spend with this community.

Thinking about this more, I’ve become increasingly convinced that weird incentives for rewarding “canonically unproductive” behavior isn’t actually a problem. I think one pathological solution (used in the math sense) to the question of “what happens to a community that values each other’s well-being but stops achieving its goal” is that we have a community, maybe one limited in size by about Dunbar’s number, that provides something like universal income. There might be other solutions, but I thought it was interesting and worth noting that you can dial “capitalism productivity” down to basically zero and still have a functional community (albeit income might be low).

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If the world had more neurodiversity awareness they would see that this was simply autism and homeboy was overstimulated. I’ve been learning to court my inner Albert but since the terms still so new maybe Ill change it to Mr T because he really fits the bill… I just came out of a manic 24hours of writing…it was the first time I had massive amounts of dopamine hit my brain in a long time, I am depressed about 50% of the year broken down into bite-size chunks throughout my weeks. This is just the norm with so much brain trauma and damage.

I was on a natural brain high from writing (for 24hours straight) about my passions I slept for 12 hours afterward. Before that long slumber, I have been managing to get a few hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I catch myself turning in circles in parking lots forgetting what I was doing / where I was going. overstimulation. The houseless neighbors in the park, I’m no different than them just like they’re no different from people who have the privilege of comfort. Homeless folx are just neurodiverse folx we have let down as society because we haven’t really put our attention in the right places in regards to mental health.

Have you had an interest in Tchaikovsky for long?

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