Because it’s over so many loudspeakers at this time of year, I guess there’s a bunch of people who think that John Lennon’s Happy Christmas is uplifting. The fact that it’s a political song protesting the Vietnam War (or the American War, as it’s known in Vietnam) isn’t lost on me, and I find it incredibly poignant. Except for one line, which is beyond poignant, and always seems directed at me:
“And what have you done?”
Suddenly, Lennon isn’t just Lennon: he’s the voice of my conscience, and he forces me to stop, and take stock on the year behind. It’s not necessarily a warm-n-fuzzy thing. For those of us who ascribe a deeper meaning to this time of the year other than celebrating, the question of “What have you done?” is laden with both responsibility and accountability. Don’t get me wrong: I celebrate plenty – mine is a happy, celebrational, at times rather silly family – but this particular kind of self-assessment is dead serious.
Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, the constant underlying theme most often is, “Do! Do! Do! Achieve! Achieve! Achieve! Succeed! Succeed! Succeed!” And when you look back on the challenges of the past year and ask yourself, “What have you done?” the answers aren’t always easy. They’re certainly not easy for me. Which is why it’s important to have more than one measuring stick.
My measuring stick of choice? Other people.
If you’re looking inside for the answer of “What have you done?” you’re only getting part of the story. Look outside you. Look around you. What impact have you had on others’ lives this year?
In my business, I have a policy that in 30 minutes I can help you solve a problem, or point you in the right direction. I’ve helped lots of people solve problems this year, or pointed them in the right direction. This is pretty cool.
I left my primary school in Argentina in Grade 4, but the impact it had on me was profound, and I owe it a debt of gratitude equal to that of my parents, for starting my life as a writer and wordsmith. When I attended, the school was straight-up middle-class, but it’s now educating children from the lowest socioeconomic sectors, and they need help. I help as much as I can. This year when I visited, a mass of beautiful smiling children, resplendent in their white smocks, surrounded me and just about climbed over each other to show off their English to me. This was extremely cool.
And Kiva, the organisation that allows me to make loans to entrepreneurs around the world, and that I bang on about to anyone who will listen, sent me this email last week.
It made me go back and check out my portfolio over the last eight years. The stats are interesting because for the first few years I all but poked at Kiva with a stick from a safe distance, but a few years ago, I decided to increase the loans I make every single year. This added up to 36 loans in 2015. Very, very cool.
Why am I telling you this stuff? Well, certainly not to show off. I’m telling you so that you will remember that whatever you do, it’s not all about you. In fact, unless you have a serious personality disorder, it seldom is.
And more importantly, I’m telling you this to remind you that it’s never too late.
It may be too late to make your KPIs this year. It may be too late to make a profit, or even to break even. It may be too late to secure that promotion. It may be too late to get that project off the ground before year’s end.
But it’s not too late to make a difference in someone’s life.
Then, when you ask yourself what you have done, you can answer, “I’ve done good.”