Projects or Progress?

by Dan Walsh


Breathing life into effort.

Actors have a cool gig. Aside from all the fame and stuff, they also get to work on projects. Each movie, play, or TV show is an opportunity to be another person, maybe in another time. Some actors get to be characters that live on in our imaginations. How cool is it that Christian Bale is┬áBatman? Not many people get to be Batman. Regardless of any other roles he chooses to take, his Batman will persist. Actors finish a movie and the character they played lives on – outside of them. The effort they put into each role is encapsulated, either on film or in memories, and continues to do work even as the actor moves on to another project. It’s almost like they duplicated themselves.

There’s a fairly obscure comic book character in the X-Men world named Multiple Man. He has the ability to create duplicates of himself. When I first learned about him as a kid, I thought he was pretty lame. Sure, he could make a flash mob, but he wasn’t strong, or fast, or anything else cool. But as an adult, oh how I wish I had his powers. Each of his clones is fully autonomous. They can run off and learn or do whatever they want. He can send five clones to work on five different projects while he works on the sixth. Talk about the ultimate productivity hack! In a way, actors have this too. They can, and usually are, filming Movie A, while Movie B plays in the theaters and makes them famous.

Actors work on projects and it allows them to be in multiple places at once. Other professions do this too. Authors and serial entrepreneurs come to mind. They work on books or business and when these projects are complete they let them loose in the world. In a way, these projects live their own lives on best seller lists or legal entities that create jobs for others. This seems like a really good way to leverage time. It seems like a great way to breath life into whatever you’re working on.

In contrast, I think a lot of effort these days – maybe always – is spent on progress.┬áProgress is improvement. It’s extra revenue each quarter. It’s better performance in the gym. It’s more efficiency crunching numbers in Excel. I think progress is almost always good, but I wonder if projects are better. Progress stops when we stop working on it. Projects, once their finished, live on.