Work that Matters

The Work That Matters

If given ten seconds, could you articulate the work that matters for your cause? Would you use your mission statement, vision for the future, core beliefs, purpose statement, best story, or some hybrid? Is it accessible to those who ask why you do what you do?

Apple and Steve Jobs talked about making a dent in the universe. Most of the products and services that followed changed the paradigm of how we communicate and connect. Dent made (for better or worse).

What is your dent in the universe?

The Visible Unfinished Product

Making a finished product visible is a challenge for any work in progress. It might be easier with a brick-and-mortar project versus creating something entirely new. If we can attach an anchor point, others can join us on the belay ledge and watch us try to solve the next pitch as we climb upwards. If we leave our audience too far below or out of sight, our progress is anecdotal, and it is harder to sustain momentum. How might we bring our fans along on the journey? How might we offer a glimpse into what we are creating and how it will allow us to make a difference?

Working On vs Working Towards?

Is there a difference between working on versus working towards? Working on feels like I am engaged in the work that matters. Working towards provides a sense that there is ground between me and the work that matters.

Is it similar to a river viewed in different seasons? We are working on the river when it is flowing. We are working towards when we travel on its frozen surface.

Both journeys matter but the terrain we have to navigate is different.


Big, loud, jolting, climatic events get noticed. They demand attention by overloading the senses. Less noticed are endings that require no crescendos; experiences defined by what we encounter on the trail, not the arrival at the corral. Sometimes being lost in the wilderness is prologue to a silent arrival. The work that matters takes place out of sight but forever impacts our stories.

If it was easy, everyone would do it

It is easy to stare at a screen and say, ‘I could do that.’ Very few of us either attempt the action or have the opportunity to try. We see coverage of hurricane and think we would survive the storm surge. We watch winter olympians and think we could replicate their talents. We see entrepreneurs succeed and think they just beat us to identifying of a good idea that was easy to scale. We see nonprofit organizations and think anyone can give away a service for free.

So here is a chance to try. Navigate a cargo ship through the Suez Canal and see if you have what is takes to become the ship’s captain.

Borrowed Trouble

We do not need more trouble. Walking into a trap after ignoring warning signs is a problem of our creation. Learning from others’ mistakes is a far more valuable use of our time. The value of an affinity group is to share successes and failures. To be a voyeur, not the voyager who paddles over the known waterfall after numerous parties navigated the same waterway. If we come to collect you because you got caught in the bear trap, it is a waste of everyone’s resources. If you got caught in a sticky situation because you were the first person down the trail, then we are ready to assist. If we share what we learned, the benefit is not only better decision-making, but it allows all of us to focus on the work that matters.

At Some Point


The boulder is going to fall off the cliff.  The question is when?  It is easy to think of the boulder as the greatest threat to our future.  Perhaps we can design an app with 24-hour monitoring to alert us of any movement, build bracing and a cable retention system, or move our operations.  Or, we can assess the probability of failure and then move forward with the work that matters.  Too often the boulder consumes our attention, when in all reality it may stay perched for another decade.  What would a decade’s worth of distraction cost us?