There is a lesson I learn from Success Built to Last about knowing whether or not we are now doing what matters to us.
Builders cling to a personal commitment that’s so compelling to them – something so important to them that they would actually do it for free – that they must do it despite popularity.
From this quote, I derive a simple test to know whether or not you are now doing what matters to you. Simply give honest answer to these two questions:
- Will you keep doing what you do if you do it for free?
- Will you keep doing what you do if it never becomes popular?
If your answers to both questions are yes, then you are doing what really matters to you. If you answer is yes to only one what of them, then you are doing something that somehow matters but it doesn’t really matter. If your answers to both questions are no … well, you can guess, right?
Now, some thoughts from me.
I believe many people would say no to the first question regarding their job. Many people doesn’t really like their job; they just do it for the money. Once the money factor is gone, there’s no reason to keep doing it. Considering this, no wonder many people do not have fulfilling life. I remember what Steve Jobs said:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
However, I think the second question is even harder than the first one. There are many people who are willing to do something for free as long as they get some sort of popularity. Open source movement comes to my mind as an example. The people writing open source software do programming for free so they certainly pass the first question. But many of them – consciously or unconsciously – look for reputation and approval for what they do. This is absolutely normal, of course. Everyone needs to be appreciated. But if someone does something that really matters, it will be so compelling that the urge to do it is even bigger than the need for appreciation.
Many famous painters fall into this category. They really loved what they did that they did it despite money and popularity. Many of their paintings become famous and expensive only after their death.
Doing something that somehow matters (passing one question) is not easy. But doing something that really matters is even much harder.