Work on Stuff That Matters

The title caught my eye: Work on Stuff that Matters. By Tim O’Reilly, of O’Reilly Media.

Yes, I agree. I get it that we’re in a downturn now, tough times for a lot of businesses, we’re losing jobs, businesses are going under; but in the meantime you stay focused on value, do a good job, and get through it. The good businesses will survive and prosper, and the new businesses that fill wants and needs, and give value, will grow.

That post is really good, go read it. But if you insist, here’s a short summary.

1. Work on something that matters more than money. “Think about what you really value … Don’t be afraid to think big.” He continues:

Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s a wonderful poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that talks about the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, being defeated, but coming away stronger from the fight. It ends with an exhortation that goes something like this: “What we fight with is so small, and when we win, it makes us small. What we want is to be defeated, decisively, by successively greater things.”

One test of a bubble is how many entrepreneurs are focused on their upcoming payday rather than on the big things they hope to accomplish. Me-too products are almost always payday-focused; the entrepreneurs who first made the market often had much less expectation of easy success, and were instead wrestling, like Jacob with the angel, with a hard problem that they thought they could solve, or at the very least make a dent on.

2. Create more value than you capture. He refers to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, makes his point very well. In one part he says:

Look around you: How many people do you employ in fulfilling jobs? How many customers use your products to make their own living? How many competitors have you enabled? How many people have you touched that gave you nothing back?

Focusing on big goals, rather than on making money, and on creating more value than you capture are closely related principles. The first one is a test that applies to those starting something new; the second is the harder test that you must pass in order to create something enduring.

3.Take the long view.

And, at the end, a very good conclusion:

That’s why a time like this, when the bubble is bursting, is a great time to see how important it is to think about the big picture, and what matters not just to us, but to building a sustainable economy in a sustainable world.


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