What & Who Matters?

by Jay Deragon on 01/14/2009


As we sort through all the conversations feed to use from the proliferation of social technologies the end game is the answer to the question “What and Who Matters to You?” To answer that question we as individuals must define our purpose then go backwards from that definition. Our purpose defines what and who matters to us and how what and who can help us fulfill our purpose.

Tim O’Reilly article titled Work on Stuff that Matters: First Principles says” I spent a lot of last year urging people to work on stuff that matters. This led to many questions about what that “stuff” might be. I’ve been a bit reluctant to answer those questions, because the list is different for everyone. I thought I’d do better to start the new year with some ideas about how to think about this for yourself.”

“First off, though, I want to make clear that “work on stuff that matters” does not mean focusing on non-profit work, “causes, or any other form of “do-goodism.” Non-profit projects often do matter a great deal, and people with tech skills can make important contributions, but it’s essential to get beyond that narrow box. I’m a strong believer in the social value of business done right. We need to build an economy in which the important things are paid for in self-sustaining ways rather than as charities to be funded out of the goodness of our hearts.”

“There are a number of half-unconscious litmus tests I use in my own life. I’m going to try to tease them out here, and hope that you can help me think this through in the comments.”

  1. Work on something that matters to you more than money.
  2. Create more value than you capture.
  3. Take the long view.

The “what matters” answer lies deep in our definition of purpose. Everyone has different talents, desires and skills then when exercised creates value for others. The social web enables us to “exercise” our personal and professional purposes from which others can gain from. Most of “what matters to us” creates a return in numerous ways including self satisfaction, self expression and sometimes in economic returns. However the process of working on “what matters” is the greatest return to our individual progress while the outcomes are centric to creating value for others.

In other words the return is not the measure rather the process and quality of working on what matters is the return….what comes after is natural and in most cases pleasantly surprising.

OK, Now Answer the Question of Who?

The answer to “who matters” is the greatest part of focusing on ones purpose. Once we focus on “what matters” the answer to who” matters comes as a result of what we do, what we produce and who consumes the results of our purpose centric to “what we do”. Beyond our family the irony of finding and giving to “who matters” is that we never know who matters until they respond to “what we do or produce”.

The power of all this social technology is that we’ve been enabled to reach more people than ever before in the history of mankind. We reach people with “what and how we do things” which is reflected in conversations centric to topics of interest. When people respond to our conversation we are in the process of creating a relationship which taps into the core of our purpose, to relate to others with that which matters.

It seems as though the underlying dynamic of all this social stuff is the “awakening of what and who matters” to us as individuals then one to one to millions. The challenge is defining what and who matters to you first then through the phenomena of technological intersection with human interaction we will find the fulfillment of our purpose. The returns come naturally and cannot be forced, manipulated or obtained without focusing first on what and who matters. Get it?

What say you?


Aron Stevenson January 16, 2009 at 12:49 am

What & Who Matters? [Jay Deragon] – http://is.gd/g5ay

Jay Deragon January 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the comments and references. I’ll be sure to study them and likely write further post on this matter.

Site O Rific January 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

In regards to “Values” and “Meaning”, I have found the work of Don Beck (Spiral Dynamics) and Ken Wilber (Integral AQAL model) to be illuminating and even life changing! In these radically pluralistic post modern times, it is not just what you value, but how it fits with what others value that can make the biggest shift.

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