This blog originally appeared on Medium.com
About 10 years ago, my husband and I ended up hosting a family friendly, impromptu New Year’s Eve party in our home. We had friends with kids, friends with no kids, and friends of friends just pop in and out throughout the night, and our annual event was born. During that first annual, a friend of friend and I were chatting in the library and he asked what I did for a living…
“Oh, I’m a Business Analyst for a large telecom company,” I responded.
“You know that means absolutely nothing, right?” he replied.
“Oh, I know that,” I surprised him (I think) with my response, “but I define the value of what I do by the fact that I make other people’s lives happier. The work I’m doing 9 to 5 doesn’t make the world a better place, but I make the work day better for the 200+ people that I support each and every day. And when their day is better, their experience with their customers, and therefore my company is better, and the health of my company continues, and we all get bonuses at the end of the year.”
He practically fell over himself to apologize and mitigate the insult of the way he responded to how I spent my 2500 hours a year.
That’s the average number of hours that a 9to5er works in a year.
I assured him it was okay because, I get it. I had often thought of the work that I did then, and I knew it had no worldly impact per se, besides being a part of the Canadian GDP. I often lamented, like most people, “What’s thepoint!?!” and I didn’t have an answer besides supporting my family. So, I learned to frame the work that I was doing in a way that brought value, a more intrinsic value than just my annual salary to those 2500 hours.
Having an impact.
It’s the one thing that’s motivated me most in my life. Whether it is with my family, my friends, my community, my chosen kin, the political discourse, my readers, or the organizations that I choose to work for and with. I want to have an impact.
In my last role, I did a little math before I left in late September of this year. Over the last (almost) three years that I worked there, I realized that I had commuted over 3200 hours.
That’s about 133 and 1/3 days.
That’s 3200 hours of either being on a VIA train, or driving along the 401, the busiest highway in the world. In. The. World.
It was exhausting, but I did it because I love the organization. I love their mandate, I love the impact that they continue to have on BHAGs, dissecting systems issues, and have had on the startup community, and the businesses that they’ve supported and helped launch and grow. Some truly, remarkable stories.
For me, what matters most is feeling valued, engaged and respected.
So, since I’ve moved on from that last place, I make every decision now based on where I’m going to find value in my next 3200 hours. Not just the work hours, but the hours that I spend commuting, volunteering and engaging with people all told.
What art will I create? What mandates will I support? What dialogue is worth my energy and my fight? Which companies have a culture that I can support ? Which people are authentic enough to stand alongside and get behind?
These questions matter the most.
As I get older, it becomes easier to decide where I spend my hours and my energy, because I know that I can’t do it all. What I can do is proffer my expertise, my experience, my knowledge and my passion to those that value it, respect it and want to engage with it. It really is that simple.
Our hours, all of our hours, are too few and precious. We shouldn’t spend those hours on bad books, too long commutes, dull TV, people who roll their eyes behind your back, work without value (whatever that value is to you), or those that suck the lifeblood out of everyone around them.
3200 hours. I’ve already wasted too many…