Today, I’m inspired. I’m so inspired I can’t write fast enough. I’m bursting at the seams with hope, I’m filled to the brim with excitement, my veins are coursing with enthusiasm. Why, you ask?
This last Sunday was the end of Milwaukee’s second Young Professional Week, a week-long of twenty-two different events with a message of community, collaboration and vision at its core. It was a week when the city’s young people came together and said “We’re changing our city, we’re going somewhere and we’re doing it together”. And to cap off this fantastic week of programming, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, gave a talk on company culture, community and his vision for what they’re trying to do in Las Vegas to change the city for the better.
Yes, his presentation was focused on companies but that didn’t take away from the fact that the things he was saying truly apply all the way down to the lowest common denominator – everything starts with people. Here are a couple of the things he said which really resonated with me:
Don’t worry about short-term ROI (Return on Investment), worry about long-term “Return on Community”.
What exactly does this mean? Return on Investment is a results-based phrase. People who rely on Return on Investment as a measurement of their success often miss the bigger picture and the reason for what they’re doing. They rely on the “what have you done for me lately?” philosophy. There is often little room for mistakes and failure. There is no trust, it’s all about results.
Return on Community, on the other hand, is not results-focused and, yet, it reaps results. What’s the difference here? It’s the mindset. Instead of people being there to do something for you or to get you something, it’s the realization that we’re all in this together. Treat other people as you would want to be treated, give them a real stake in what you’re doing and they’ll come alongside you, they’ll fight with you till the end.
You have to care about something bigger than yourself.
This basically means: don’t go into business for the money. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you doing it to make money? Yes, all of us like to be rewarded for what we do but what kind of reward are you really striving for? The idea here is that the quest for wealth is meaningless and short-sighted. The idea is that we should, instead, try to create a society that values social responsibility and responsibility to each other – an Economy of Community, if you will.
Do what you love, do it for a reason other than money and the money will come. Do you want to transform a city? Do you want to educate people about something you have passion for? Find that thing, find that reason and you will inspire people.
Now, go forth!
I can honestly say that, in the end, if I am able to inspire people, if I am able to make people think differently, if I am able to challenge people’s beliefs, then I’ve already accomplished what I set out to. If I am able to accomplish those things, I will count myself lucky, I will die a satisfied man. And it is that satisfaction that is your true reward.
In the end, what is true success – money and fame? I, instead, choose to view success through a different lens. A wise man once said, “all you can take with you is that which you’ve given away”. And it’s true. Nothing you have, nothing you “own” will be able to follow you to the afterlife (if you believe in one). The only thing you really “have” is how you affected the people around you, the ideas, the concepts, the different ways of thinking that you left behind. The way you impact the world you live in – the world that has allowed you the opportunity to change it – that is the only thing you will be remembered for, that is the only thing you truly have.
So, go forth, do what you love, do it well, make an impact and you will have more than anyone could ever ask for.