What Are You Optimizing For?

Listened to this great interview yesterday between Kara Swisher and Jim Collins, author of a number of books including Built to Last, Good to Great, and Turning the Flywheel.

As you know I’ve spent the last few months asking myself questions about my purpose and my “why” in hopes to get out of the creative rut I’ve been in this year.

I have a strong desire to go into next year with clarity of purpose and a stronger drive to create work that matters and that helps, i.e. changes people for the better.

Then this question came up in the conversation:

What are you optimizing for?

It struck me as a way to reverse engineer what your current “why” or purpose is.

An example:

Someone close to me recently joined one of these MLM companies. (“It’s not an MLM” is what they’d yell if they were reading this.)

I asked them “why”? They have a great job, make lots of money, seem fulfilled, etc, etc. Why add this to the mix?

Think about what their potential answers would reveal about their purpose –

  • “This product helped me and I want to share it with others”
  • “I found this community of people and it just totally clicked! I love going to events and working with them.”
  • “The product is super easy to sell, and there’s a decent profit margin. I should be at four figures a month by the end of the year and five figures a month in about six months.”

In order, contribution, significance, money.

I’m not here to judge. But it serves as a very clear example of how looking at what you’re optimizing for can reveal your purpose. If like me, you’re searching for that answer, this is a huge breakthrough.

So, what are you optimizing for? Growth? Profitability? Contribution? Change? Status? Income? Fame? Chaos? Certainty?

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