Balancing stock and flow

I just stumbled on this remarkable insight from the writer Robin Sloan who explains the economic terms “stock and flow” and relates them to the kinds of content we produce in this information age:

“Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got nothing here.”

So much of what I create is flow, fine for the moment but not particularly sticky, not worth talking about over time. Occasionally I make something reasonably solid that I know will still be meaningful, at least to me, months or years from now. But I mostly just stumble on those stock, substantive creations by simply showing up every day and attempting to do something small.

For better balance, more impact, and deeper satisfaction, I should be intentional about the kind of work that has staying power and makes a difference for more than just a day.

Posting on this site daily has been worthwhile and has rewired my attention each day in consistently surprising, constructive ways. But the daily updates don’t typically lead to the kind of substance that sticks.

What can I invest time in that will endure? What projects and pursuits could even have the potential to outlive me? Why not be bold and imagine doing work that just might resonate even a century from now?

I find real merit in the daily flow and the energy that it pulses through the rhythm of my routines. Now, balance that with the intention to dig deeper on work, on stock, that will last and structure habits and routines around that intention.

Aim high and dig deep. And keep showing up every day.