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It is OK to not be changing the world

There is vision and there is narrative.

Every company and every little startup that you see, every founder that you speak to, talk of a grand vision that will change the world in some way, talk of "problems" that they are solving, talk of making a difference in the lives of their users.

Delivering something to my house that I could have spent twenty minutes in walking down to the store and picking up myself isn't changing the world, isn't solving a problem. It is just saving me that twenty minutes. (Maybe so that I can watch another episode of Modern Family). Hailing a cab with the tap of a button isn't changing the world, it isn't solving a problem. It is merely removing the inconvenience of stepping out and finding a cab on the road. And saving me some ten minutes or so. Delivering food to my doorstep at eleven in the night, erasing my texts the moment they have been read, sending people over to my house to clean up the mess I've made, or to give me a haircut, these are not visionary, these are not solving "problems". They are simply removing minor inconveniences. The cream of the first world problems, if you may.

A billion people don't have food to eat, that's a problem. A billion people don't have a roof over their head, that's a problem. A billion people don't have access to electricity, or clean toilets, that's a problem. We are burning up more and more fossil fuels and causing drastic and harmful climate change, that's a problem. And the ones finding solutions to these are the visionaries.

But we all like narrative.

We like to believe that we are changing the world with whatever we are doing, that we aren't doing things just for making a living, and consuming more, that we aren't doing things just for the money and fame and recognition. And this is what companies and founders and self help guides are selling us. They are constructing narratives that let us believe what we want. That let us believe that we are changing the world with whatever it is that we are doing. That it is all very meaningful and something that we will be proud of in telling our grandchildren.

Sure, we are changing the world. Likely for the wrong billion people. And likely at the expense of the right billion people that desperately need a difference to be made in their world.

There is making a difference and there is adding value.

Adding value is doing something that someone is willing to pay for. They pay because they find value in it. Making a difference is something more. It is solving one of the problems. And not merely removing minor inconveniences.

If you need to believe that you are changing the world and making a difference to feel happy and motivated, then go ahead and buy into the vision, or define your own. But it is perfectly OK to not be making a difference, and to not be changing the world and have something else that makes you feel happy and motivated.

At the end of the day, a problem is a problem and a perk is a perk.

A perk is not a problem.

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