From Chapter 13 “Efficiency” in Ingredients of Outliers.
Have you ever met people who just seem to get more done in the day than everyone else? They never seem harried or stressed, or even busy. Yet their output is over the top. They must know something the rest of the world doesn’t about efficiency—how to be as productive as possible, given the time and resources available.
For example, how is it that Theodore Roosevelt accomplished so much during his relatively brief lifetime? He died in 1919 at age 59—long before the Age of Technology—but his record clearly reveals a man who was ahead of his time and always on the go. In a 2006 profile of him in TIME magazine, he was called “The 20th Century Express,” and a brief look at just some of his achievements confirms the accuracy of that description.
Among his accomplishments:
- The first President to fly in an airplane, to dive in a submarine, to own an automobile, and to have a telephone in his home.
- The first President to travel outside the borders of the U.S. while in office. He took the battleship USS Louisiana to Panama in 1906.
- The first President to entertain an African-American (Booker T. Washington) in the White House.
- The first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.
- The president who signed into law the first 51 federal bird sanctuaries and the first 18 national monuments.
- He was a state legislator, police commissioner, and governor in New York.
- Owned and worked a ranch in the Dakotas.
- Served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
- Fought as leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Served as President for two terms, then later ran for an unprecedented third term.
- Wrote more than 35 books, the first while he was only 24.
- Read tens of thousands of books, including several a day in multiple languages.
- Explored the Amazonian rain forests.
- Discovered and navigated the completely uncharted Amazonian River of Doubt, over 625 miles long; its name was later changed to Rio Roosevelt.
- Volunteered to lead a voluntary infantry unit into WWI at age 53.
- Maintained a strenuous lifestyle, and actively participated in boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, polo and horseback riding (among other things).
- Remains the youngest man ever inaugurated as President.
Just reading that list can make me tired. Measuring your output by Roosevelt’s standards makes all of us appear inefficient and under-performing.