leave a mark

I think this should be the defining aspect of anyone’s mentality when they’re making a commitment to something, irrespective of whether that’s a personal or a professional commitment: what kind of mark will you leave behind? What kind of impact will you have on the environment or the people around you? What kind of impact will they have on you?

Genuine and deep commitment to something doesn’t actually come that easy. Think of every New Year’s Resolution you’ve ever made—how many of them did you actually keep for the full year? The vast majority of people will start off pretty strong in January and then taper off very quickly by the end of February. One easy way to see this effect in action is to check out gym subscription numbers, which will often go up at the beginning of the year and then… dwindle again.

So for me, the best motivation is just to think about impact. Actual change. What kind of impact do I want to have?

It doesn’t have to be a life-long endeavour. In a professional setting, the goal can range can be anything at all, either short-term or long-term:

  • Have an interaction that leads to someone becoming a repeat customer.
  • Rework an internal system that leads to significant changes within the company, like adopting a new ticketing tool or a more efficient way of using canned responses.
  • Participate in an internal culture of honest and constructive feedback exchange, which maybe also leads to bigger changes within the company.
  • Be responsible for training or onboarding at least one new employee.

These range from a single interaction to big-picture projects that can change the shape of one organisational structure, but your mentality going into each position will be completely transformed the moment there is at least one thing that you can codify, quantify, or measure. The commitment becomes about more than just doing routine work repetitively and endlessly with no greater satisfaction. The specific angle of trying to have an impact that lasts beyond your particular tenure, regardless of how long or short it is, means thinking about the bigger picture and looking for a purpose within a job that goes beyond the everyday.

It’s useful to think about this reciprocally too. What kind of impact do I want this job to have on me? Once again these can be based on learning new skills, being exposed to new ways of working, or acquiring new knowledge.

  • Become exposed to a completely different organisational structure and understand how it works internally, like a flatarchy or a holocratic organisation.
  • Become an expert in a new or different field.
  • Learn how to react and respond to a complex personnel scenario.
  • Recognise something new about yourself, like a tendency to avoid a specific type of task or a propensity to stay in your comfort zone.

The idea here is to look for knowledge or experience that will last and mean something to you in one, five, or ten years’ time. If you manage to have a lasting impact on either the people around you or the environment you were in, and have had your perceptions or knowledge changed by the experience, then the commitment you made at the start and all the time, energy, and effort invested in are immediately worth it.