In my last two posts I posed the question Is Individualism Killing Us and responded with A Focus on Community to show that we need to work together to achieve our best. At the same time, if we want to make the most of our world, how do we do that? It’s a great question, with a straightforward answer for maximizing your potential in a community-centered world.
The Value of Contribution
Focusing on being our best has a lot of merit. It helps us meet our potential and improve our world. It’s one thing to be a carpenter, it’s another to really work at your craft and make sophisticated, sturdy, and beautiful furniture.
However if you focus only on feeding your ego by making a few pieces just to earn praise or you focus only on vanity by improving yourself without creating furniture to share with the people around you, what have you really achieved?
Becoming a better carpenter should have a result that could impact the community as a whole. You could simply do it as a hobby, providing a better sense of self worth that helps you better interact with and help others or you could make items that others can use in their homes. It could even be that you share your knowledge to help other carpenters become skilled enough to also do something valuable for the community.
Maximizing your potential in a community-centered world involves finding out how your skills and abilities can make the world and your community better. Unfortunately a lot of people set goals with the wrong focus.
Achievement at the Expense of Others
Typical goal setting focuses on metrics, and with the wrong metrics you could make some great progress that has no real value.
Perhaps you focus on making 2 dressers a week. That seems like a great goal if those dressers go to people who need need them, but what if your focus is only on creating the dressers? Having 8 dressers stack up each month isn’t helping anyone.
What if instead your goal is on selling 10 dressers a month. You may find yourself hiring people to make dressers to fill the demand. If your only goal is on selling, the quality may drop and you may sell a shoddy product that doesn’t last.
Also, with no goal on employee well being, you may end up slashing pay and benefits to the bone to keep your margins thin. Your goal after all is to sell 10 dressers a month. Everything will bend to your service of that goal.
Maximizing your potential in a community-centered world should work differently. We need to focus not on our own achievement at the expense of others, but on becoming our best to enrich others. There’s a better way, and it centers around three letters.
Start with the Why
One of the most popular Ted Talks of all time was presented in an independent TEDx event in Puget Sound. The bespectacled man presenting it wore a pale button down shirt with rolled up sleeves and nothing but a giant paper pad on an easel and a pen. As he scrawled on the 4 foot tall page in front of the red velvet curtain, he drew two concentric circles. In the center was a simple three-letter word: “Why”.
This man’s name was Simon Sinek, and this talk has been seen over 50 million times. The concept has been immortalized in the best selling book Start with the Why. It all boils down to this idea: the companies that do the best are the ones that focus on why they do what they do and communicate that well.
For instance, a good company might make a great rolling pin. They could tell you what it does: “our rolling pin makes dough flat.” They could tell you how it does it: “with improved rolling technology, our rolling pin makes rolling dough easy.”
A great company however, tells you why: “You know that smile you see when the kids see fresh baked cookies? You know that feeling as the smell of the fresh baked apple pie wafts through the house? When you use our rolling pin, you can rest assured that your baked goods will be made with perfectly rolled dough to make those moments magical.”
Starting with the why is essential for maximizing your potential in a community-centered world, and knowing the why is the key.
Goal Setting Revisited
When we focus on setting goals, we need to focus on the why. It’s one thing to make a certain number of dressers. It’s another thing to sell a certain number of dressers. But if our only goal is on production, we’ve missed the why.
Dressers aren’t made to be produced. They are made to help people feel comfortable in their homes. They are made to help people organize their lives. They are made to help people enjoy the space they live in and feel good about where they spend their time.
If we want a richer world, we need to focus on community and make our goals reflect that focus. We need goals that focus on the why and how it positively impacts the lives of others and not just how it enriches ourselves.
It may feel amazing to make 100 dressers a month, but if no one uses them, or they constantly break and cause more grief than good, we haven’t made the world better, we’ve just made ourselves feel good.
The best way to change the world is to focus on goals that improve the lives of others, and in my next post Purposeful Goals, I’ll show you how to do just that.