I had coffee with a colleague last week, and she asked me to describe my ideal project. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. My response:
- Socially impactful
- Very, very hard
I love projects that make you stop and think, “How the heck are we going to do this?”
I love projects where stuff gets done, not just talked about.
I love projects that require you to gather as many smart, passionate, caring people as possible and to get them aligned and activated in order to even have a chance at succeeding.
I love projects where everyone is working their butts off, learning, and having the time of their lives.
I love projects that are meaningful.
Not all of my projects are hard, but they’re all meaningful, and I feel very fortunate about that. Still, I’m constantly craving bigger, more impactful challenges.
Recently, I’ve been turning down a lot of speaking opportunities. I love to give talks, and I want to give more of them. They’re great excuses for me to reflect and synthesize and tell stories. But sometimes, I get the feeling that people are asking me to speak as a proxy for actually doing something.
The more my reputation grows, the more people give weight to what I say. It’s a nice feeling. It’s gratifying, it’s safe, and it makes me uncomfortable. I hate safe.
In theory, I know that all of this translates to more opportunities to work on the kinds of challenges I crave. Still, I would much rather have someone say to me, “I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I want you to show me.”
And when my reaction is, “Wow, that sounds super hard and super scary, and if we pull it off, a lot of people will be better off,” then I know that I’ve found the right project.