I believe in something that I call “net gains”. Can you contribute in a way where the result is greater than the sum of the parts? If I spend an hour of my time and save you an hour of your time, the net gain is zero. However, if I help to solve a problem, establish a process, deliver a project, or stand up for something important, a small amount of work can have a much larger impact.
This is the “leverage on time” concept popularized in blogger culture, but in this philosophy the leverage is outward looking. Net gains is what you can do for other people, not what you can extract for yourself. It is a selfless philosophy, but it is not charitable; having an impact and creating leverage also improves my own economic utility.
I have done a lot of “net gains” work in the last few years. Sometimes because it was interesting, or someone needed help, or, critically, because it was necessary. The highest calling is to contribute.
Why Net Gains?
Life is the ball that we play the game with, not the game itself. When the game is over, kick it under the porch and forget about it. The true game is to do your best and be a good person.
The finest compliment I ever received was when someone told me “everyone I know lives on the axis of Happy <–> Unhappy but you seem to move between Satisfied and Unsatisfied.” It’s true. Happiness is a state of mind, but satisfaction is a recognition that our efforts were up to our own standards.
An exercise used in various educational and clinical settings is to ask a participant to imagine what they would like to read on their tombstone. It’s a method for focusing on the important stuff. I never played that morbid game, but – for the record – if I did, mine would read DIED SATISFIED.