You’re going to die, and nobody cares
To be successful and fulfilled in your career, there’s a list of things to do. I did them all. I worked hard in school, studied engineering at university, and landed a well-paying job in my field that let me travel often. I had a nice car, made good money, and got free chocolate from clients. I got to go to Switzerland several times on business. I read self-development books on productivity. I volunteered.
The thing is, I wanted impact. I wanted to look back on my life and know that I changed the world for the better. I wanted to matter in the same way that Isaac Newton, Anna Kendrick, or Mark Zuckerberg mattered. The problem was, I didn’t want to wait to be a CEO, wasn’t keen on becoming a Hollywood celebrity, and someone had already discovered gravity.
For a long time, I assumed I’d need to be an entrepreneur and make it big. Invent time travel or something. Or a sex tape…that would work (people have said I have a nice ass…it’s about time I capitalized on it).
One day, I stumbled upon the solution. I had been issuing challenges to myself each week to get out of my comfort zone — often something simple like having a difficult conversation. I had always kept these to myself, but I realized others might benefit. I created a simple Facebook group and invited people to join. Every week, I posted a simple “Saturday Challenge”. Most people in the group I had never met in person, but one day at a meetup in Chicago, I did. Someone there heard that I was the one that ran the group, and I remember her reaction to this day — “that’s YOU??!!” she said. It was as if she realized I was a D-list celebrity.
I realized at that moment that my simple act of sharing these challenges for the value of others had this effect. People got value from me, and so, became my audience. It was my taste of impact.
Over the years, I have experimented further with creating and sharing things with the world. An ice hockey jersey for my university team, a TEDx conference, two podcasts, custom-built software tools shared with clients. I’ve marvelled at how satisfying it is to make something small or large that has never existed before, and hear from people around the world that are grateful for what I’ve done.
In short, I’ve found a way to have kind of impact on the world I’d been searching for.
You see, the common thread that runs between every person you admire is that they’ve made something for the world that has never existed before. There are COOs that are more talented and rich than Sheryl Sandberg, but you know her because she published Lean In and changed the way women approach leadership and in the workplace. There are chefs more talented than Jamie Oliver, but you know his name is because he chose to share his knowledge in the form of recipe books, TV, and blog posts. Impact isn’t about wealth, of doing a good job, or title; it’s as a result of sharing something new with the world.
Our world needs your ideas — small or large — to spread through the arts, social enterprise, and technology. It needs your dinner party that brings friends together, your photographs that make others aware of the beauty of your home town, and the 10k run you could organize to make your city healthier. The causes you care about need your unique interests, skills, and connections.
Changing the world doesn’t require money, credentials nor even experience. Look at this actor who had to sell his dog to eat, then created a film, or this Starbucks barista with four published books, or this man that started a spoken word poetry social enterprise at 17. You don’t have to make money, be an entrepreneur, or become famous to do it (you probably won’t).
All you have to do is redefine yourself from being an observer in the world to a shaper of it.
Want to get started?
If you’re looking for tips, ideas, and encouragement, there are plenty of examples of VR film producers, balloon dress designers, and mobile game makers who shared their wisdom, stories, and recommendations for your benefit. It’s more possible than you think.
I look forward to seeing your legacy, and how you make the world.