Meaningful Contribution

Meaningful Contribution

You are probably pretty good at your job. You do it at least well enough to keep it. I bet you are actually pretty good at it when you decide to focus on it, when you give it 100%.

But…  Do you enjoy what you do?

Being good at something is not a good reason to keep doing it

Just because you do something well, is not good enough reason to keep doing it.

Photo: Mariposa de Amor

If you love it, and are great at it – fantastic.

If you hate it, and are great at it – stop.

If you are a bit bored by it, and are great at it – you have a decision to make: Can you commit to increase the aspects that you enjoy, dedicate yourself to mastery and say no to the parts that you don’t enjoy?

If you are doing something you hate in order to save money that will then allow you to do something you love – when will the process of changeover begin?  How long are you planning to live?

Life’s Activities in Venn Diagram

Here’s a Venn diagram expressing the idea.  For each activity I can ask myself 3 questions:

  1. “Do I do this well?”
  2. “Does this serve others?” (in something they value)
  3. “Do I love doing it?”


We have 4 combinations of intersections between these questions:

  1. “Job” – I do it well and it serves others
  2. Hobby – I do it well and I love doing it
  3. Charity – I love doing it and it serves others
  4. Meaningful Contribution – It serves others, I do it well and I love doing it.

The universe is not designed so that everybody’s passion can make them lots of money.  There is a small model train ride in the children’s park next to my house.  Every day I can walk through the park and see a group of men (not sexist, I have never seen a woman) in blue overalls maintaining miniature steam trains.  Each Sunday kids come to ride on the trains.  The men clearly love the trains, love being part of the mission of keeping the steam trains in working order.  However, there is not a fortune to be made.  But, fortune should not be the ultimate determinant.  Many of these men are probably retired and are choosing to work at something that they may well have to pay to be part of.

At the other end of the scale, we have someone like Warren Buffett.  Warren Buffett lucked out: what he loves to do, what he does extraordinarily well and what serves others (his investors) combine to create a massive fortune.  However, he is the first to admit that if he was born in Pakistan that would not be the case.  He needed the right environment to let him flourish.  He was incredibly lucky to be born in a world that places a high value on the skill of efficiently allocating capital.

The good news…

It takes 40 years or so…

I am coming up towards my 40th birthday.

In my 20s I had a lot of spare energy to dedicate to being good at things that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  I got a good job with a great company and worked many hours.  I met great people and travelled the world.  I got promoted several times.

In my 30s I had a lot less energy to spare to be good at things that I didn’t enjoy.  I stopped working in a big corporate and sought my riches as an entrepreneur.  I was going to “be my own boss”.  My aim was to get rich.  I worked hard to build an empire.  I set up 4 businesses.  I started to show up in the newspapers and get invited to speak as a “successful entrepreneur”.  And then 2008 Lehman collapsed…  the banking system seized to a halt… and my business changed overnight.  Growth turned to Decay.  I did all that I could to fight the reality (the environment had changed).  I fought to get back to how business had been before.  But eventually it fell apart.  And it fell apart in a much more painful way because I had spent so much time trying to pretend that it wasn’t going to fall apart, not accepting that the business model didn’t work in the new economic reality.

What will my 40s hold?  I think the biggest thing is that I now stay in that central intersection of the Venn Diagram.  I may fall back and forget once in a while, but my aim is to do work that I love, become ever better at this work and serve those that I can.

Jim Rohn always used to say that you can’t “make money” you can only become the type of person that money is attracted to.  You can’t find success, you can only let success find you when you become the type of person that success is attracted to.

Good luck in the search for Meaningful Contribution.  How’s your journey going?

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  1. I read this page , and understood this “Jim Rohn always used to say that you can’t “make money” you can only become the type of person that money is attracted to. You can’t find success, you can only let success find you when you become the type of person that success is attracted to.”

  2. I will too soon reach 40 and have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the intersection of the 3 venn diagrams. Fortunately, thinking is not the only thing I’ve been doing and after a momentous decision last summer to relocate my family to the UK, I certainly feel much closer to a “meaningful, fulfilling life”. The journey is by no means complete, but this image of the 3 diagrams sure helps to keep me on the right track. GREAT post!

  3. I will also turn 40 in one month or so… and yep, the energy for working is not the same as it was in my 20s 🙂 I am happy that I have a job now with nice remuneration and somehow interesting, which allows me to travel, but it is not in the place where I would like to live, and this aspect is becoming more and more important through the decades 🙂 I have several interests and a few ideas in mind, and hope one of them will allow me to live where I want very soon. Thanks for your “meaningful contribution”!

  4. What if I love my job, my salary keeps me very happy even if is not the best, but some attitudes of my bosses made me down and fall and hate my job. I can concentrate on my freelance project as my blog, but it just made me miserable going to work… need therapy 😀 😉

    1. There is a fine book by Marshall Goldsmith called Mojo – and he talks about the 4 aspects of people who have found this point of meaningful contribution – and there is a light that shines from them that all around can see.

      The final aspect, aspect #4 is Acceptance. The ability to understand what can and cannot be changed in life.

      People will be people. Our parents are who they are for all that they have lived. We can’t change them. Our bosses are who they are for all that they have lived. I can’t change them.

      Acceptance is the wisdom to see what I can change and the strength to take the action to change: and the wisdom to see what I cannot change and accept it as “as it is”.

      It is not easy.

      Shimon Peres says “If a problem has no solution, it is not a problem.” It is a fact.

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