‘How people have changed the world’ was the initial prompt I was working with for this article. It’s a fascinating topic and one that can be approached and expounded from almost any angle, but I realized what I was more interested in exploring – and hopefully what you’ll be more interested in reading – is the human desire to innovate. Why do people want to make an impact and what pushes some to extraordinary lengths to be impactful while others are content not doing so?
This not a new question and in fact it’s something that’s been explored philosophically, psychologically, and scientifically for decades. Referred to by many thought leaders including Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins and Abraham Maslow, this exploration topic is intrinsically linked to core concepts behind Hierarchy of Needs, Six Universal Human Needs, and the philosophy of Self Significance. After doing some research I find I agree to a large extent that a large part of the underlying motivation to impact is based around selfish reasons of upping your own self significance (which, in the right hands, is definitely not a bad thing). There’s no question that everyone – even the most innovative and impactful thinkers throughout history like Newton, Galileo, Franklin, etc.—is aware and driven to an extent by what we think the outcome of our pursuits will do for our personal reputation and legacy. That, after all, is a part of one of the most basic and powerful human desires of all: to belong.
But I think there’s much more to this than simply being self-fulfilling. Being out to improve yourself can only take you so far. Once things stop going smoothly, you might realize that that initial selfish motivation isn’t enough to make you really care and bring you through the finish line. And when talking about making world-spanning change, not caring is not good.
I’m young and still have (hopefully) most of my life lessons to learn, but here’s my take: To really change the world, whether it be as an individual, a company, or whatever, you need to be driven not just by something that will preserve your legacy, not just by something you think will improve the world. Not even by something you think is critically important to the future of ‘us.’ You need to be driven by energy that cannot be contained short of a nuclear meltdown. And there’s only one question you need to know if you’re ready or not.
Is this one of the most exciting things happening in the entire world?
Don’t ask your parents that. Don’t ask your investors that. Don’t even ask your business partners that. It matters exactly zero percent what they think because at the end of the day, they aren’t the ones pursuing the change you are.
The reason I think an unquenchable driving energy is more important than anything else is because to many world-changers, burnout is a constant. Will doing something important get you feeling excited again? Does the legacy you would create by changing the world push you through frustration and exhaustion? I think not.
Truly answering ‘yes’ to the question this does a few things.
- Eliminates Alternatives. The possibility of quitting is negated because you know nothing will be more exciting.
- Makes the Journey the Destination. This makes your pursuit about the journey itself, not about where you end up with it. You are no longer as discouraged by denials and rejection. It’s not a matter of making money or being recognized. The energy and excitement you feel ultimately becomes a reward. Getting burnt out no longer seems as bad because you’re so jacked up about what you’re doing.
- Spreads Your Excitement. From personal experience I’ve started great professional relationships simply by exuding a lot of energy and passion. You become someone people want to be around and hear from. Suddenly what you’re working on is never boring, no matter what.
Not thinking what you’re doing is the most exciting thing is not the end all be all, of course (although I think you’d be hard-pressed to find people out to change the world that are not excited about their work). You’re still going to get burned out and still need to backtrack, sidestep and crawl over obstacles that get in your way. But being completely propelled by your excitement certainly helps and gives you a step up. When it comes down to just you and that one other person who really really wants to get rich, you’ll come out ahead 9 times out of 10.