The other day I was talking to a hedge fund friend and he said he was doing his part to efficiently allocate capital in the biggest and most vital economy in the world. Not surprising really because this is often the value statement I hear from Wall Street types. Someone has to kill the inefficient market participants and fund their replacements. I suppose the comment struck me this time because I had just come from a lunch where two women were being recognized: one for her work stopping the cycle of domestic violence and the other for her work on a cure for cervical cancer.
Pretty hard not to think about the value I contribute to the world when presented with these bookends in close succession. In the 25 years since I graduated from school, when the entries in the ledger started to be written in ink, I have spent a decade brokering real estate deals and the rest running an outsourced sales and marketing firm. I have done my best to try to live up to the incredible example set by my dad, who is retired now, but in his career as a Presbyterian Pastor built four thriving church communities and changed thousands of lives. I have volunteered for some worthy organizations, tried not to waste the money the universe trusted to me, put my heart into my wife and my kids, and been the best friend I know how to be.
Sure, that is nice, but how do I know if I am making a difference at work which is the biggest chunk of time that I spend? If I was to back up a bit for some perspective could I honestly say that what I do for a living makes a difference? With any luck I have some time before the final measurement. Until then my plan is to do the very best I can possibly do every day, ask myself the hardest questions I can think of, find the best possible people to work beside me, and hold my colleagues to high standards. I have a friend that likes to say "hey its not like we are curing cancer!" Nevertheless, I have to believe that by living this way I will make a difference in the world.
So that is it? Just those four things? Actually no. I think it is really just the first one. I am going to get up every morning, look myself in the mirror and when it is just me and my reflection I am going to figure out how to do the very best I can possibly do -- right then, that day, all day. The rest will take care of itself.