Follow Your Contribution, Not Passion

I was reviewing this graduation speech (yet again) via Ben Horowitz and I locked in on his idea here about following one’s contribution instead of following one’s passion:

Following your passion is a very me-centered view of the world. And when you go through life what you’ll find is what you take out of the world over time, money, cars, stuff, accolades, is much less important than what you put into the world.

And so my recommendation is to follow your contribution, find the thing that you’re great at, put that into the world, contribute to others, help the world be better, and that is the thing you should follow.

As I consider even my own work with Eve and the work that I’ve done in the past, this is becoming more and more of my reality and I end up feeling better about my work and the time that I spend than ever before.

Ben’s right, you know – we are all very passionate about a lot of things but very few of those things create any real, tangible value for anyone else. It’s not about what we take out or what we get from our time spent on earth but what we can give.

I have long-held the belief that we should leave the world in a better spot than when we originally found it (or entered into it).

Image via BOSSFIGHT
Image via BOSSFIGHT

And now, especially as a parent, it’s become a very clear over-arching goal as I simply do not feel compelled to spend any of my time in areas that will not tangibly leave the planet in better shape for them.

My last serious venture was aimed squarely at education, challenging the existing systems of thought around how people learn new skills and how things like paper degrees are not nearly as important as the value that you can bring a company.

I wanted to, among many other things, ensure that this way of thinking, this philosophy of work through education was going to be a larger conversation piece for the next generation of children turned adolescents turned working adults, including my own.

I feel great about my contribution, the work that we spent to build a new type of company, and I was rewarded for my work with a sale and exit. I also gained a number of great friends along the way which have been more than invaluable to me. I added to the bigger meta discussion around education and technology and left a footprint, a mark.

And now, I’m hooked, addicted even. My next project had to be of the same type and kind and create something that would fundamentally impact people’s lives and make people happier, more fulfilled, and allow them to create even more value for themselves, their families, and the organizations that they serve.

And that’s what I’m planning on doing with Eve by automating the things that can be automated and freeing up more time for humans to do things that only humans can do – things like being a friend, a mentor, and a coach.

It’s about giving folks time to be that important empathetic ear when it’s most needed. Do these things create business value? Absolutely. Great teams build great companies and when great companies are built then everyone wins.

Strangely, focusing on the things that create the most value for others has, over time, become a bit of a passion of mine. I dig that.


Also published on Medium.