I was asked recently to speak more about what I give back vs how much I make … in the spirit of living a life that can hopefully inspire people to hold themselves accountable to a better future I’m going to take up the challenge and answer the question.
The danger of this post / article is it will read as an obscenely egocentric piece and that is not my intention at all. I have met COUNTLESS people who I regard as far more socially and environmentally aware than myself, but in my own way I hope that my contribution to our planet and society is a positive one.
The main answer to this question is that after a 20+ year career in technology, I walked away from a sizeable salary and an even more sizeable investment that would have made me and my family very wealthy. Why? I realised that to earn what I wanted and to have the impact I sought would only be truly possible in technology if I was willing to compromise on what I felt added value. I’m not saying that everyone in technology makes this compromise, just that I wasn’t able to find the formula.
For more context, I was fairly proficient at designing products that altered how humans would interact and react with a brand and each other. I won’t betray the various agreements and confidences by naming specific clients or practices but meeting after meeting, product after product focussed on business metrics “sell more of x”, “get y more customers”. VERY few, if any, of those conversations spoke about the customer experience, the value of the product or how we were enriching our environment or social space. My belief is that a good product with a relentless focus on the customer is the right way to develop any and every business.
I’ll illustrate this with an example. I regularly have to fly (yes, I’m aware thats not a good thing) and used to seek British Airways wherever possible to accrue points and jump to the next tier … “look at me, I’m a bronze member!!”. On a recent trip, I had to extend my stay and the BA Flight cost was prohibitive so I ended up on Norwegian Airlines. Long story short, I have actively seeked to fly with Norwegian Airlines ever since as the product, service and experience is far beyond anything else I have received at around 1/2 of the cost. I’ve never worked in aviation so I don’t know how they do it, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that a superior service results in loyalty whereas a loyalty program is simply buying compliance.
The above might sound conflicting, even confusing, and it is. It took me a solid year away from my career and a lot of personal development work to understand that the happiest moments in my career were when I helped people face and conquer their challenges. I believe everyone should play to their strengths and my strength is my ability to read people and help them make changes.
I used to use my skills to line the pockets of big business, but I now choose to utilise my capabilities to help those that have the drive to make a world better place. This should give me the impact that I want, albeit indirectly.
So, more specifically, how do I choose to give back? How do I intend to keep to the promise I made to both of my children when they were born that I would make the world a better place for them? These are the top 5 that come to mind.
- I retain a personal level of charitable giving throughout the year.
- My business will give a % of profits this year to charity: water … this is a phenomenal organisation that I believe can make a tangible difference.
- I’ve cut my meat intake down and aim for 2 meat free days a week + don’t eat dairy or dairy derivatives. The impact of non-arable farming on the planet is shocking. )I want to extend this further once I have worked out how to eat the amount of protein I need next to my dietary goals).
- I try and make ethical choices in my purchasing and at least 50% of the household shopping is from local produce and ethical suppliers.
- I work with the prince’s trust in the UK to mentor young adults from a disadvantaged background & am working through the necessary legal structure to allow me to speak to young offenders which will kick in during 2020.
I acknowledge that this scratching the surface of what is needed and am constantly striving to make myself a better citizen of our planet and a better friend to those around me. I firmly believe that any one individual doesn’t need to make many big changes, just that we ALL need to make lots of small changes.
I hope this leads to a spirited debate! I’d love to know how you seek to give back and the challenges it gives you!