I recently had a conversation about business with my friend and colleague Joel Kessel. During the course of our discussion, he asked what drove me to start Attaché. Channeling the me from 25 years ago, my answer was “to make a living doing something creative.”
Back then, when I thought of “creative,” I thought only of design or art. My definition has evolved over the years as I’ve learned that making a living, while obviously beneficial and rewarding, is not fulfilling in and of itself.
I’m continually and pleasantly surprised by the opportunities for (and the fulfilling nature of) creative problem solving when it comes to business challenges. So when Joel asked what drives me now, my answer was “to find creative ways to do meaningful work.”
Take, for example, the work we did for a private insurer of credit union deposits. Most folks would say there’s nothing particularly meaningful about deposit insurance (does the phrase “Member FDIC” give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?). But credit unions are non-profit institutions that exist solely to provide their members with safe and affordable financial services. And our client’s role in that is to keep credit union money safe. Boom. Meaning.
Similarly, we have a client that is a co-op of electric companies. Unless you stick your finger in a light socket, you’re not likely to get serge of emotion about power generation. But the meaningful difference here is in the way this group operates. They are guided by a set of core principles that include open membership, democratic control, the return of unused capital to members, self-reliance, education, cooperation and promotion of worthwhile local causes. That’s a septuple dose of meaning!
Then there’s the client that manufactures machines to extract essential oils from plants. They make a high-quality product, and quality doesn’t come cheap (their units range in cost from around $80,000 to over $450,000 depending on capacity). But once you get past the sticker shock and do some research, you learn that more affordable machines utilize dangerous chemicals that wind up in the end product. Our client’s machines use a method that produces a cleaner, safer and purer extract. Seems pretty meaningful, considering these oils are often used on or in the body. And there’s bonus meaning if you believe in the health benefits of CBD oil—the majority of their customers use the machines to extract oil from cannabis.
Finding the Meaning
The trick to doing meaningful work is this: even when it seems that the work you’re doing isn’t all that meaningful, you can still find meaning in all the work you do.