In a few days, I’m going to be giving the Spring Commencement Address to my alma mater – the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. For those of you who have been following the Dispatches for a few weeks, this isn’t news. But this morning I wanted to share a little of what I’m going to be highlighting in the brief time I have on stage.
I thought about what I’ve learned over the years (especially the past two) around what it takes to truly do work that matters that involve some sort of social impact and innovation – in our case, improving the public’s health. Three things (or currency types as I call them since they involve some sort of value transaction) have been at the core of what I’ve seen innovators who have created a worthwhile company or initiative, accomplish:
- Margin in their Schedules (time): the lure of constant connection and ability to fill pockets of quiet time with scrolling on a phone or another conference/event can feel like we’re doing something important when in fact it’s taking time away for our minds to creatively think and digest ideas we have marinating. Also, if we’re constantly running around, we have less time to rest our minds/bodies – which is essential to creating a useful body of work.
- Meaningful Dialogue & Listening (people): our communities are the lifeblood of any successful initiative for positive change. If we aren’t understanding the needs and pain points of the people we want to help, how can we expect to change anything properly? Trust and relationship will go even further in importance in the days to come. Take the time to invest and listen to others – ask questions and turn those into smart solutions.
- The Courage to Do (action): none of this means anything if we don’t actually do anything, right? You can be encouraged by others and talk about how you might have the right skills or gifts to be useful in our world. That’s great to acknowledge – the hard part is shipping, as Seth Godin mentions. Getting moving on that first, small step. I guarantee the momentum after those first few small steps will lead to clarity on the next bigger ones. Take the next step and make a difference.
And there you have it. The wonderful thing about those last two currency types is that the more you use them, the more you have. The more time you spend with the people you want to serve and learn their needs, the better your solutions will be. The more time you spend taking action rather than just talking about it (or just complaining about why you are in the same place over and over again), the faster you’ll be at creating things that matter.