health, leadership, technology

The need for sleep is a bug, not a feature

Arianna Huffington wrote a piece for Thrive last week called, “An Open Letter to Elon Musk“. In the piece, she chides Musk for working 120 hours per week, a fact he revealed in a recent New York Times interview.

I agree with Huffington’s overall assessment, of course. Elon Musk is clearly overdoing it and that should be a concern to anyone who cares about innovation and the US’s place in history. At the same time, this line stuck out to me, “For machines…downtime is a bug; for humans, downtime is a feature.” As a leader working in the software industry, this analogy struck me as poorly thought out, enough so that it undermined her argument.

Huffington refers to ‘downtime’ and has some interesting points about FDR and taking a vacation, but in the paragraph immediately following this analogy she launches into facts about sleep deprivation. Making her “Open Letter to Elon Musk” about the need for both sleep and downtime weakens the impact of both points. Her argument would have been much more effective if she had chosen one of those two pieces of advice and focused solely on that.

People like Musk are driven toward the singular purpose of making their vision into reality. For them, sleep is seen as an inefficiency. Ask any CEO if they would get rid of the need for sleep if they could – but we already know the answer. They’d get so much more done without having to sleep!

The need for sleep IS a bug, or at least in need of an enhancement ticket. We’ll let the Product Manager decide.

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