I want to make a difference. I want to have impact.
I want to change the lives of the people in my community and around the world for the better, and grow while doing it. Come to think of it, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t. Whether we work in forestry or hospitality, consulting or as an entrepreneur, we all want to make a difference in the world, and we all want to make impact.
But what if we’re looking at how to make a difference all wrong?
What if impact wasn’t the goal? What if impact was the result?
Part of what I love about my job so much is that I am able to talk to new people and have numerous ‘aha!’ moments a week. Yesterday, for example, I was speaking to Joel Brown, founder of the incredibly successful Addicted2Success.com. The website has reached over 120 million people, has 1.4 million podcast plays, and is undoubtedly making an incredible impact.
During our conversation I tried to really challenge Joel on his goals for the year. We talked about how he had his financial goals, sure, but that he had a responsibility to grow Addicted2Success not just for himself, but for his community. Joel knows that if he can grow the community, that the money will follow. If he changes his mindset from revenue generation to value maximization, then revenue will be a by-product of value being received. He feels he has a responsibility to provide value, not make money.
Think about that mindset shift for a second.
The money will come if the value is there. Provide value and reap the benefits of a community that feels appreciated.
But it was this shift in thinking that made me think that we have the idea of impact all wrong.
What if impact isn’t the mission?
What if fulfilling our responsibility is the mission, and the impact is the result of it being achieved?
So maybe we shouldn’t aspire to make impact our goal. Maybe we should aspire to understand what our responsibility is, and work hard to get it done.
Impact will follow; it is inevitable.
Take one of Joel’s stories for example. After having an in depth conversation with Adam Braun, the founder of “Pencils of Promise”, Joel and his community were able to raise $51,000 in three weeks to build this school for children living in poverty in Laos. This conversation inspired him to become more aware of his responsibility and he worked to ensure it got done. It wasn’t about the ambiguity of ‘impact’, it was his dedication to completing what he believed was his responsibility that made it happen.
This lead me to realize that the word ‘impact’ is a bit of a catch-all. In a world where social entrepreneurship is thriving, and everyone wants to make the world a better place, we can almost stop saying our goal is to make a difference.
Perhaps the shift then, is to talk about what we feel we have a responsibility to do.
If we can articulate what that goal is, then it is clear as to what the impact, or result will be.
Joel also proved to his Addicted2Success community that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money yourself to make a difference. Joel donated $2,000 USD himself to the Pencils of Promise campaign and then raised more than $12,000 on top of that by offering his unique skills and abilities of online business development and marketing to others in return for donations.
This in turn inspired others in his community to do the same which created a ripple effect of awareness and action in his massive online community.
Joel believes “the ultimate level of inspiration is to show others what is possible through your actions”. He realized that it is his responsibility to just that.
When it comes to Joel, I believe it was his focus on his responsibility to build a school that allowed him to complete it… instead of just hoping to make ‘a difference’, or ‘impact’. As he takes this thinking into 2017, there is no doubt that he will continue his exponential growth both personally and professionally.