I watched an interesting video a few weeks ago about testing the difference between tools and materials that were made before technology and automation went mainstream, versus tools and materials that are made now. The way they tested these was by putting each tool under a hydraulic press to see how much pressure it can withstand.

First, they started with a sledgehammer. The new and the old were approximately the same in size. As they put the old one under the hydraulic press, the steel that it was made of did not get crushed under the pressure. When they put a new sledgehammer under the hydraulic press, it only withstood half the pressure applied to the old one before it was crushed to a point where it was unusable. The next test compared a concrete block that was removed from a castle that was built in 1890 and a new modern concrete block. Interestingly, it took the hydraulic press five times as much pressure to crush the block that was made in the 1800s versus the one that was made recently.

It’s an interesting phenomenon for me to think about because it seems counterintuitive. One would think that the easier and more automated the creation method, the sturdier and more durable the thing should become—especially compared with something that requires hard manual labor without automation. However, as the tests showed, having it easier doesn’t always translate into better.

I think a similar phenomenon occurs in our own personal lives too. The easier and more automated that daily living gets, the less motivated and resilient we become as humans. It is not by chance that the Greatest Generation—which grew up during much more difficult times and experienced wars, depressions, and pandemics—was able to later set the stage to transform the western world into a peaceful and prosperous society. It is also not by chance that as we live in a time of ease and automation that we are at the brink of collapse the minute a little bit of extra pressure is applied to our lives.

So, as we head into the new year, hopefully we can set goals that focus on building strong relationships and developing resiliency versus looking for the highest level of comfort.