Author Erik Qualman admits that there was once a time when the way that you made people feel was the most important thing to consider in how you act. After all, with no Google search results or Wikipedia page yet to define people, what better way would there be to remember someone other than the strong passions that they stirred in you?
However, in an age when everything you do is forever etched in digital history, from the first game you won in high school to the last bit of charity work you did in your community, Qualman argues that it’s become even more important to consider the fact that, fifty years from now, what we did, how we did it and why we did it will be known to all.
“Now, a lot of leadership books they talk about, ‘envision your funeral and what you want people to say about you at your funeral, what you want your legacy to be,’" he says. "Well we don’t have to wait for our funeral in this day and age because we can just Google ourselves to figure out what people are saying about us.”
And whereas celebrities used to be the only ones who truly had a widespread legacy to consider, these days, Qualman says, with everyone having the ability to become digital celebrities, it’s imperative that we all ask ourselves a question.
“What’s the mark on this world that you want to leave starting today?”
The key to answering this question in the best way possible requires people to always think about their digital stamp or their S.T.A.M.P., an acronym that provides five steps to living a life that is search worthy, which Qualman explained during a TED Talk in Lansing, Michigan this year.
We should be looking to do fewer things in life, not more. Qualman argues this point and he does so with full knowledge that multi-tasking is usually seen as a mark of better and smarter person. He says though, in fact, that it means the opposite. Multi-tasking makes us dumber, to the tune of ten I.Q. points to be exact.
“We’re trying to leave this great digital stamp, so we think we need to do more. We need to beat father time yet father time is undefeated,” Qualman said. “And so when we do that multi-tasking we’re actually making ourselves less efficient. We’re doing the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do.”
If we're aiming to leave the best mark we possibly can, the key isn't doing as much as possible, the key is doing what we do without interruption and doing it well.
It's a message that's becoming echoed more and more in this day and age, especially as the statistics pile up regarding the job market and just how many employees are unsatisfied within it. And while many can argue foolish it is to go for what you love, or how foolish it is not to do so, one thing seems certain. If you stray away too far from your passions, too far from what you actually want to do, you might find yourself at a point of misery.
"Ask yourself, 'what do I do that makes me happy and why does it make me happy?'" Qualman says. "...Once you have that, that's something you can reference whenever you're faced with a tough decision. It'll make that decision much easier."
The author says it's all about setting yourself on the path to where you want to end up and making sure you stay on it, and his logic is hard to argue against. After all, do you really want your mark to be that sold out your own ideas and dreams?
The battle to actually get things done and do the projects that have been on our minds lately, is actually a struggle between what Qualman calls throughput versus output. When we focus too much on throughput, things that are minor can take up our whole day and leave us exhausted.
Things like answering emails just to do due diligence can take up a person's time and yet leave them with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. What ends up happening then, is that we become slaves to throughput without actually producing any output for ourselves, the author says.
"These digital tools are designed to work for us," Qualman said, "but yet I found myself working for the digital tool, email."
We ought to place greater emphasis on production, he says, because it's output that changes the world. It's our projects, the organizations that we want to start, pieces that we want to write, that are more important than the tweets, text and emails that we spend so much time on.
Say yes to output and no to throughput, Qualman says.
"The easiest way to do that is tomorrow morning wake up, write down two things of output that you're gonna get done before you do anything else before you touch your device."
As pioneers, people who want to make a difference and a change, we should be flexible in how we get to our destinations. People are going to knock us off the course of where we want to go simply because they've never seen what we're doing.
"Digital pioneers don't use old maps to get to new destinations," Qualman points out. "So understand as a pioneer that you're gonna get that push-back and you need to embrace that push-back."
Qualman uses the often cited story of Steve Jobs to back his words, but he also discusses a part of that story that usually goes missing. Jobs reached supreme success at Apple, via Apple first, then NeXT Computer after being forced out of his own company, then Pixar, then Apple a second time.
The moral of the story? You can be set on where you're going, but you must be prepared to be flexible on the way there.
No matter how much technology emerges, the masses will always looks for something they can gain from. It's important, then, that we look for something to give them in order to attract them to us, Qualman says.
"A lot of us ask, 'how can I get you to follow me, how can I get you to like me? How can I get you to view a video?' When we need to ask the exact opposite question.
'How can I give you something?' Once you give, you will get. You'll get more followers than you can ever imagine once you start to give."
Producing good work, work that people can get behind, begins with asking yourself, what can this give to the people viewing it? What does it offer that they might not have had before?
Top Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images