This post is about achieving “significance” during exponential times.
Significance is the feeling that your life (and your work) has had a meaningful and lasting impact.
And today, during these exponential times, that impact can be greater than any time in history.
Significance Over Success — Choosing Your Target
Too many people spend their whole life on a treadmill striving for financial success and/or fame.
People often take a job or start a company because they think it’s a quick way to get rich or get noticed, i.e. to be successful.
Throughout my career, whenever I’ve started a company just to make money, it’s been a mistake. Starting any successful company is always hard work, and if my heart isn’t in it, the effort becomes hard, unfulfilling work, and I give up before the job is done.
On the flip side, when I start a company to solve a problem truly important to me, one that excites me, even if the solution takes 10 years, every one of those 10 years are well spent — educational and fulfilling.
When given a choice to prioritize significance (meaningfulness) over success (financial or otherwise), take it.
The question is, how do you choose your focus?
Identifying Your Target — Peter’s Law #29
First, you need to ask yourself who you want to positively impact.
Which groups (people or causes) do you care most deeply about? Where do you want to leave a lasting legacy?
Simply put — to whom do you want to be a hero?
Once you pick a “who,” then focus on the “what.”
I often talk about finding your passion. The truth is, it’s more about finding and sustaining emotional energy.
What I mean is solving something you hate (despise) can be as powerful as doing something you love. On the positive side, what are you unreasonably excited about? What can’t you go a whole day without talking to someone about? What opportunity (that nobody else seems to understand) makes your heart race?
On the negative side, what aggravates you the most? I mean, what really, really pisses you off? Why shouldn’t this thing exist, and how could you envision a better world without it?
Here’s an exercise:
Write down the top three items you are most excited about, or most piss you off (that you want to solve).
For each of the problems you’re considering, score them as follows:
ASSESSMENT QUESTION Score (1-10)
- If at the end of your life, you had made a significant dent in this area, how proud would you feel?
- Given the resources you have today, what level of impact could you imagine making in the next 3 years?
- Given the resources you expect to have in 10 years, what level of impact could you imagine making in a 3-year period?
- How well do I understand the problem?
- How emotionally charged (excited or pissed off) am I about this?
- Will this problem get solved with or without you involved? (10 means you would make a big difference; 1 means a small difference.)
Now, add up your scores and identify the idea with the highest score.
This is your winner, for now. Does this one intuitively feel right to you?
One final fit test is “Peter’s Law #29.”
It’s not often that I add a new law… But after a new friend Tom Bilyeu (CEO, Quest Nutrition) told me the advice his dad gave him, it was so powerful, I’ve added it as #29 (with full credit to Tom’s dad).
Peter’s Law #29: “Find something you would die for, and live for it.”
(You can download a copy of #1 – #28 here: Peter’s Laws).
Ultimately, it’s about creating a life worth living – what wakes you up in the morning and gets you excited.
Next Step: Deep Research
Once you know what you want to live for — it’s time to become knowledgeable about the subject matter.
It’s certainly helpful if you already know the field. If you don’t, here’s a plan:
- Start by reading everything you can about your idea. What’s been tried? What has failed? Why has it failed? Really surround yourself with the material and build up your ability to “speak the language.”
- Reach out and talk to the experts. The best way to get up to speed on the latest in a field is by talking to the people already deeply committed. During the process, create your own assumptions of what a solution would look like, and then challenge them. Remember, experts can be wrong, and sometimes a new and novel approach spells out the beginning of a breakthrough.
- Lastly – and this one is counterintuitive and important — once you’ve done enough research, do everything you can to kill your idea. Find the reasons it won’t work, understand the obstacles, and come up with all of its weaknesses and risks. If, after all of this, you can’t kill the idea (i.e. you don’t have compelling enough reasons to **not** do it), then it’s time to get started.
Taking Action – Impacting the World
Now it’s time to take action, to make things happen. This is something I talk about in much greater depth in my executive mastermind group called Abundance 360, but there are many ways to “make things happen.”
- Start a company to solve the company
- Invest in entrepreneurs solving your problem
- Create an incentive prize (an XPRIZE or a HeroX) – see my blog here
- Find others working on the cause and join them
- Make some Stone Soup and leverage the Laws of Attraction – see my blog here
- Become a platform – connect talent with resources to solve the problem
- Start a fund and invest other people’s money in solutions to your problem
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