Feeding the Machine


When you’re flying, there’s always security on the way to the plane. If you’ve got priority access, there’s fewer people and fewer restrictions. If not, then there are longer lines and more hassle to make it through TSA. In either case, it’s a process. There’s the line, the presentment of ID and boarding pass, any removal of clothes and gear for the X-Ray machine, the metal detector, and retrieval of your stuff. At any point, this can break down and grind to a halt. It often happens when someone who doesn’t have experience with the process isn’t aware of what they’re supposed to do. In any event, their job is to feed the machine. The agent checking for access needs the credentials. The X-Ray machine needs to gobble up suitcases and briefcases. If the machine goes hungry, everyone stops moving.

Feeding the Machine
Feeding the machine

This subject came up the other night while I was having dinner with a friend. He used the term “feeding the machine” to describe booking orders to supply revenue to the startup he’s heading. I described the TSA process and we both knew exactly what the other was talking about. In so many cases, there’s an expected outcome or journey which can only be pursued if prescribed goals are achieved by people who know how to do it. There’s always the person who doesn’t know they need to show their ID, drives 50mph in the left lane, or pursues deals which will never close to gum things up. Some parts of life just have an assembly line aspect to them.

When you’re in those situations, you really need to try to put yourself in the company of people who know how things are done. They need to know how to feed the machine and keep progress moving. That way you get where you’re going. However, there’s not always much satisfaction in having a well fed machine. Sure there’s brief feel-good moment in going through a routine, but it’s rarely transformative. There’s no creativity or new ground broken. It’s industrial age and not creative in the slightest. It’s one thing to have an efficient assembly line, it’s another to disrupt the process which makes the entire journey obsolete.

This is a concept to judge your expectations on in life. The first time through security, you’re going to mess things up. By the time you’re a frequent flyer, you’ve got a routine down and things become subconscious. This is OK if you’re not expecting yourself to grow. The challenge of learning how to do the process is gone. Learning stops. You aren’t pushing yourself. If there’s no element of challenge, we stagnate in the mindlessness of the routine and the satisfaction of succeeding goes away.

Mind numbing sameness is not the way to go.
Mind numbing sameness is not the way to go.

In order to have real growth, we need to move beyond the machine. There’s not much value in a task which needs doing just for the sake of doing it. When you feel that stagnation and realize you’re just pushing the same buttons over and over, consider changing things up. As soon as that button no longer needs pushing then you’re not needed to push it. Not that you really wanted to keep doing it anyway.

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4 thoughts on “Feeding the Machine

  1.  

    Eric,

    I really like this message; it speaks to what I try to be about. Of course, I’m the one fumbling and trying to figure things out mostly these days.

     

    My personal motto is two-fold: get 1% better every single day, and always give more than is required of me. This blog post reminds me of how I try to view my place in the working world, with a new and fresh spin. Thanks for the reminder, too, that one day all that is challenging me in this first year will become second nature. I’m excited about that part, too. J

     

    Cheers,

    Staci

     

    1. Great points, Staci. That last part is also important. That brings to mind this quote which I love. If you’re always trying to get better then what’s hard today will get easy but you’ll continue to grow.

      “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” Greg LeMond

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