Investing time–and money—to help make good things happen

I want to get really, really good at helping make great things happen.

My dad is amazing at this. He gets this glimmer in his eye. He comes up with this crazy idea. He says the magic word “Imagine…” and people get swept up in his vision. Inventing a cultural tradition? Restoring the rice terraces of Batad? Teaching blind children photography? He’s figured out the process of going from dream to reality, bringing together lots of people in order to make incredible things possible.

I want to grow into doing that someday. Maybe it takes me 35 years to get to where he is. Maybe I can learn it earlier. I think it would be useful – and tons of fun.

Fortunately, it’s easy to practise. The world is full of good ideas that other people have already thought of and coalesced around. This means that I don’t have to wait for an awesome idea – I can already start learning how to help people make awesome ideas happen.

I’ve been ramping up my investment of time into things I like. For example:

I also occasionally help my parents out with awesome Manila things, but it’s easier for me to make stuff happen locally. =) Besides, I’m surrounded by people who volunteer their time and talents in order to make these and other great things happen. It’s fantastic!

But here’s something to think about: when I talk to other people about what they volunteer with, I often hear an underlying stress about time as the limiting factor. Many people work full days and squeeze volunteering into the evenings. They want to do a lot of good, but the lack of time sometimes gets in the way.

I’m poking at this constraint myself. It helps that I’m experimenting with how I want to structure my work and my time. But another experiment I’m also trying is to see time and money as fungible. If I think something is a good idea, I give myself permission to spend money on it. After all, what’s money but time and energy translated into something that can be traded easily?

Instead of writing cheques to the library or other established organizations, I can dedicate that “giving back” part of my budget as a way to bring in other people’s time and skills. By doing this, I gain so much more than I would save by doing things myself. I learn how to systematize processes and train people. I learn to work with other people’s interests and skills. I create opportunities for other people to earn income and gain experience. It still takes time for me to set up and tweak processes, but I think it’ll pay off in terms of scale.

One of the things I love about developing code is the ability to take the solution to one challenge and make it more flexible so that it can accommodate another. If I help the meetups I care about with social media and build a process manual along the way, if I help spread ideas by sketchnoting (and maybe eventually involving other sketchnoters!), if I help people connect around such different topics, that diversity of experience and network gives me a solid foundation for making other awesome things happen. See, it’s all part of my Evil Plan. ;)

I like this. I can’t wait to see how this part of the experiment turns out. I think wild success will look like:

  • Clear, organized processes for common things that people need to do in order to make things happen, shared as much as possible
  • A wonderful team with way more skills than I could develop in one lifetime
  • Delighted organizers who are making a difference in even more people’s lives
  • Connecting with other people who want to help make even more awesome things happen
  • Stories! Plenty of stories!

I think this will be fun. Tell me how I can make this even better!