[Updated with link to the graph I referenced. Thanks to the folks who found it.]

The other day I saw a very cool graph that showed which vitamins and supplements have good science behind them and which ones don't. The graphic was interesting on several levels. The first thing I noticed was how cleverly constructed it was. I could see at a glance which vitamins and supplements are supported by science. The graph was interesting enough to keep me staring at it, following its little lines and connections as if searching for Waldo. That level of engagement probably helped me retain more information than if I had skimmed it.

The next thing I realized is what a good public service this graph was. Millions of people would see it and come away with knowledge that directly applies to their own health. Some people might start taking useful supplements and vitamins and others might discontinue the ones that science doesn't support. There's a good chance that the creator of the clever graphic saved some lives. How many of you have a job that rewarding?

I was wondering about the artist who made the graph. Did he or she get this assignment and think I can save some lives? Or was it just another assignment and just another paycheck? People who are primarily working for money can do good work, but the cleverness of this particular graph suggests there was a stronger motivation behind it. I think the creator was aware of the stakes and elevated his or her game through intrinsic motivation.

Whenever you see the x-factor in someone's output - that little extra something that turns the good into the awesome - it's a marker for intrinsic motivation. Monetary motivation plateaus at the point you think your work equals your pay. For most people, that happens when the product is good but not awesome. To get to awesome you need to think you might be changing the world, saving lives, redeeming your reputation, attracting the mate of your dreams, or something else that is emotionally large.

One of my techniques for staying motivated is that I put everything I do in the context of how it might improve the entire world, or at least some subset of it. With Dilbert I imagine that at least some of my output makes people laugh, or smirk, or feel less alone in their misery. Laughter decreases stress, which improves health and increases both productivity and creativity. In a very small way I'm nudging the world in a positive direction. That thought helps me dig deeper to find the x-factor for tomorrow's comic.

Then there's this blog. I don't expect anything I write here to directly influence world events or to change anyone's mind about anything. But what I know from my work as a creator of content is that all creativity comes from putting existing ideas into a mixing bowl then swirling the whole mess around to see what happens. The more ideas you are exposed to, the more likely one of your mixtures will produce something great. If you read any idea in this blog that you wouldn't have thought on your own, your creative potential is increased. That's a big deal because nothing of importance has ever been done without creativity. I'm motivated by the thought that I'm contributing to civilization's creative pool.

This brings me to your job, whatever that might be. Is there any opportunity - no matter how small - for you to change the world through your work?

Leave me a comment and tell me what you're doing that could change the world, no matter now slightly, in a positive direction.
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +87
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+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2012
I write security software. I guess I should feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, but <rambling, depressing rant deleted>.
Of course, perspective also matters. I used to be a volunteer firefighter, and _that_ was rewarding.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2012
I do physical therapy in a Nursing home and massage therapy out of my home. I make peoples lives better every single day and can't imagine doing anything else.
Aug 27, 2012
I've never thought of what I do as earth shattering in any way, but it is certainly creatively rewarding, so I suspect it falls into the same sort of category as your own. I work at Disney Animation lighting feature films, and I know they certainly effect many people positively.
I personally love what I do and strive to make it as perfect as I can, and I definitely wouldn't work as hard as I do just for money. You'll be happy to know that your blog has made my day better by making me realize how much I'm changing the world. ;-)

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
I doubt I'll have much impact on the world in my day job - though I do have a plan to change the economics of online communities - so that we have much more vibrant interactive spaces that cater to real local communities (eg physical neighborhoods/cities). I just can't get anyone to listen to me. It's a pretty simple concept: Share ad revenue with the folks who do the work to make online communities vibrant. I even have a fairly detailed plan for how that could work.

My long-term goal is to write and advocate for gifted education. I homeschooled my own three kids after my oldest son's 4th grade teacher told me "smart kids have to get used to being bored."

Today he's a West Point cadet. His younger brother will start at Stanford in the fall. They are bright kids -but they also had the advantage of being pulled from a system that really doesn't care about the needs of bright, bored students. As long as those kids don't make the school look bad by failing out - schools feel they have done their jobs. In fact - a lot of highly capable kids lose out on the opportunity to develop their full potential. They may not become delinquents - but they put all their energy during critical developmental years into surviving the tedium of an education system barely tolerates them. They have so much more to give. It isn't that hard to reach them. We just have to care. Right now all the emphasis is on improving failing schools. That is clearly very important - but we have no idea how much we lose by not engaging the many bright, bored students who are merely drifting through...

At the moment, though - I need to focus on my day job - to make up for those years of homeschooling.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012

Perhaps you are only wanting a tangible example? As you made a widget that improves some condition?

Again, you would not do this work well at all if your boss was a doofus. Nor if you are distracted because your children were badly attended at daycare, or your co-workers did not help you at this great work then pretend to forget your name to annoy you because you nit-pick arguments.

Let us agree, my friend, that *good work that changes the world* is widely defined and success is socially/technically intertwined, and not exclusive on each other.

Now go succeed wildly!
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
Not going to state my own modest contributions, because there's always a tendency for this to evolve into a sort of dick-measuring contest.

I will say though that I do find this blog inspirational, and I'm sure many others do as well. One friendly suggestion I'll make, Scott, is that you should stick with your ideas for longer. Potentially you have a half-dozen Facebooks in your archive.
Aug 27, 2012


I'm sorry, but the only part of your last comment that seems to be related to what I or Scott was saying was the part about how everyday life is work. Otherwise you seem to be either confused or arguing against points I didn't make.
Aug 27, 2012
Thanks for the graph. I've been debating dropping a couple supplements I take, and I probably will now. Scott, in a very old blog you promised me I'd live forever if I took Resveratrol, so I was disheartened to see it resting on the very bottom of the graph. On the plus side, with the hits my finances have taken, I can only afford to live to around 65-1/4 anyway, so it's all good.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012

My friend, the machine of progress does not work without social grease.

Living everyday well is noble and hard work, with which many positive results improve the world.

If our *work* was only a result driven formula, then Stalin, Mao and Genghis Khan could be congratulated for their good work in the area of population control.

Given Scotts comic universe, what if the PHB was a real leader/mentor instead of a doofus boss?

Aug 27, 2012

Was commenting on the part of your post related to your parenting, not the part related to your job.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
whtllnew, as noted in my opening paragraph:

1) Preventing world collapse of a financial system on the brink
2) Keeping everyone who works or depends on the financial system employed
3) Preventing starvation and displacement of the folks and their families in #2
4) Preventing starvation and displacement of the folks that rely on the folks from #2
5) And so forth...

May not be technically "changing" anything but perhaps preventing bad "changes"
Aug 27, 2012
That is indeed good, EMU, Raymee and hankfu, but Scotts question was regarding what good we're doing Through Our Work.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
Hey, I AM doing something after all!

I'm dating a lady from an after-school care center. When she's happy, so are a lot of little kiddies.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
I've been learning about the world I landed in after the wall fell, politically and economically since '89.
Only, so far, I haven't found a way to have others benefit from it. :-(

Except for helping some friends avoid the more obvious pitfalls when dealing with money, banks, funds and stuff.
Aug 27, 2012
I work for a company that builds critical infrastructure like water and power all over the world. I underestimated how much satisfaction I would get from doing something "good". I could have worked for companies making consumer electronics or nuclear weapons, but, while unglamorous, this is so much more fulfilling.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
I don't understand the chart. Why is the some of the stuff above AND below the "worth it" line? Like Anti-Oxidants or fish oil?

And apparently the X-Axis is just for sorting alphabetically. I think something like
Y-Axis: Confidence (no evidence: bottom, lots of evidence: top)
X-Axis: Strength of (possible) Benefits (none: left, prevents cancer, alzheimer and divorce: right)
would have been better.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
I'm the annoying person trying to keep all the people who actually do work from hurting themselves in the process. As a safety professional, I get to hear all the whining about how personal protective gear is a pain, and it's easier to do the job the way it was always done before, and all the training is so gawdawful boring. But if I am consistent and active and enthusiastic enough, somebody will remember to put on those safety glasses, or climb the ladder correctly, or not lift the heavy thing carelessly, and it means I might save a person from anything from a minor sprain to losing an eye, or their life. I might screw up any day at work and let someone get hurt through inattention or ignorance, but then again, I can make all the difference in how they get to go home. It is good to remember why I'm being paid, even if it isn't enough!
Aug 27, 2012
I've been lucky in the sense of knowing my work could change lives for the better. I used to help deploy cellular systems, which in spite of the morons who talk and drive, I think have generally been a good tool for connecting people. Now I help promote biometric systems, including a fingerprinting matching system that's used by the FBI. Our law enforcement customers regularly tell us about crimes that have been solved using our system, including cold cases. It's very rewarding. But honestly, in today's economy, I know that if I don't do a good job, and we have a slump in sales, my job won't be the only one lost. Fear is an excellent motivator.
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
Years ago, I attended a Dale Carnegie course and was, among others skills learned, impressed with the the effect of remembering the names of people.

Since then, I go to great effort to remember peoples names. The positive interactions that result still surprises me. Difficult personalities actually soften, clerks at the local govt office want to help you more, ect. No joke, remember someones name after briefly meeting them a week ago can sometimes be like making a friend for life.

There are many things I can still improve upon, but this is one slice of cheer I bring to the party.
+24 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2012
I elected to work in government procurement solely and specifically so I could change the world. Much of what you believe and fear about government procurement is true, and much of what you don't know is even more scary. The odds of changing any of this are preposterously small, and the effort required enormous.

But without people actively and energetically trying, the odds become zero. I save you money every day. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to let you know.
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