einsteinGrowing up in brown New Zealand, if you were smart - you were referred to as an Einstein. These were people who excelled at traditional subjects that we didn’t have mass representation - maths, english, physics, classics, and other languages. If you were an expert at something outside of sports, arts or music - you’d be called an Einstein.

As I got older, I started noticing that the ‘Einsteins’ of our time weren’t actually smart people. Yes, they were experts but they gatekept their knowledge whether it be for power or self-preservation. What made Einstein a genius was his ability to share his massive volume of work that challenged society and explained complicated subjects with extreme simplicity. This is how I discovered the Einstein Principle.

The Einstein Principle is a productivity approach with the importance of working smarter, not harder and prioritising rest and relaxation to achieve greater success. I wanted to share some insights into how we can use the Einstein Principle to work smarter but also to recognise things that hinder this process and what we can do to overcome this.

Working Smarter Not Harder

Many Pacific Islanders understand the cultural value of hard work because of the tangible benefits. Working overtime to provide for your family, putting in the work to get a sports contract, sacrificing so many things to realise your potential. Whilst hard work is important, Einstein knew working smarter allowed him to approach problems from different angles and perspectives. Two ways that

Setting Clear Goals: This was a fundamental aspect of Einstein’s approach to productivity and success. His ability to set clear and specific goals helped to pave the way for the activities that would contribute to this. It’s common

Prioritising Tasks: Einstein prioritised tasks because he recognised the importance of focusing on what’s most important to achieve his goals. Prioritisation allowed him to manage his time more efficiently and build patterns and habits that allowed him to do less with more. So when there was time for him to work hard, he knew he was performing in a way that could give him greater success with less effort. A variety of things can make it difficult to prioritise your tasks like unclear goals, context switching (eg. switching from your day job to your side project), and procrastination. One way to overcome this is to take regular breaks.

Taking breaks: Einstein was different from his contemporaries because he was known to take breaks away from his actual work. He would play violin, take walks or even nap to stay refreshed and focused. This gave his mind the ability to ‘wander’ away from his work and approach some of his tasks with a fresh perspective which often led to breakthroughs. It’s important to realise that Einstein removed himself from his actual work. Sometimes we take breaks by browsing the internet

Whether it’s building a business, building representation in industries that lack diversity and representation or preserving heritage and traditions, these learnings from Einstein can serve as tools to navigate unfamiliar territory. An example of this is the Welcome to Country protocol in Australia which serves as a way of showing respect and seeking permission to conduct business on that land. In a similar vein, Pasifika can use their cultural values to inform their business practices, while also prioritising family obligations and being mindful of the historical barriers that have hindered them in the past. Sometimes the tools we use don’t feel like they’re helping us move in the right direction no matter how hard you try. In some circumstances, this can be due to systemic barriers and it’s important to understand them.

Understanding and challenging systemic barriers

Systemic barriers refer to the policies, practices, and attitudes that create and perpetuate inequality and discrimination in society. These barriers are beyond your control but contribute to slowing down progress. I’ve felt at times these barriers manifest themselves as ‘feelings’ like you’re running into a brick wall and you’re making the same mistakes and not growing. These systemic barriers include:

Discrimination and bias: in the workplace, these things look like difficulty in advancing career ambitions or achieving your goals. This looks like unequal access to opportunities, lower pay, and a lack of representation in leadership positions.

Limited access to resources: access to resources such as education, healthcare, and housing can significantly impact a person’s overall productivity. This reminded me of the number of Pacific Islanders who had to share a house as they worked remotely.

Lack of representation: As Polynesians look to enter new spaces like business ownership and intergenerational wealth and other areas of society, the lack of representation in media can contribute to feelings of isolation and underrepresentation. Especially when it comes to things like stereotyping, misrepresentation and cultural erasure (as a long-haired, wide, Samoan man - I’m looking at you Maui of Motunui!)

Cultural expectations: Obligations to the big three - family, church and village create massive pressure when it comes to being able to prioritise tasks, value or even staying above water in these economic times.

Navigating these systemic barriers can be challenging. Things like impostor syndrome, burnout and fatigue are common effects but it’s important to remember that there are ways to overcome them. Prioritising self-care and mental health can help build resilience and develop strategies for overcoming obstacles. By taking care of themselves and prioritising their well-being, individuals can better navigate systemic barriers and work towards achieving their goals.

Prioritising Self-Care and Mental Health

Navigating systemic barriers can increase the chances of burnout and fatigue, however, prioritising self-care and mental health can help overcome these challenges. Generic advice to help you take care of your mental health is to do things like practising mindfulness, meditation and seeking support when needed. In the context of my experiences, these approaches lean heavily on things such as individualising social problems (when systemic barriers can be root causes) and shying away from your own responsibility to your health and dealing with difficult emotions. Instead, it’s more about finding culturally appropriate responsive ways to do this. Here is a quick list I came up with that can help with this:

  • Seeking out elders or other respected community members who can provide guidance and support in navigating the challenges of systemic barriers
  • Networking and collaborating with similar people to you in related fields
  • Attend activities that are culturally nostalgic and relevant to you. For some Pacific Islanders, this can be Church, Rugby or a Siva!

In conclusion, the Einstein Principle provides valuable lessons for working smarter, not harder, and achieving greater success. By prioritising clear goal setting, task prioritisation, and regular breaks, individuals can work efficiently and effectively. However, navigating systemic barriers like discrimination and bias, limited access to resources, lack of representation, and cultural expectations can be challenging.

It is essential to prioritise self-care and mental health to overcome these challenges. Seeking support from elders and other respected community members, networking and collaborating with like-minded individuals, and participating in culturally relevant activities are just some of the ways to navigate these barriers. By using these tools, individuals can work towards achieving their goals.