When I was in undergrad, I met Jody Williams. She’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner who’s life work focused on decommissioning land mines. Though I typically have major celebrity anxiety, she gives off major cool aunt vibes so I felt comfortable enough to talk to her after her Q & A.
Me: Your work is so inspiring and you’re out there saving the world. But how do you actually, like, make money?
Jody: Well, the Nobel prize isn’t just honorary – you get paid.
Me: So you’re just living off the prize money?
Jody: No, I also get paid for talks like this and I consult and… why you are so concerned about how much money I have? Do I look broke?
Me (celebrity anxiety skyrocketing to an ALL TIME HIGH): I just want to dedicate my life to making the world a better place but I don’t know how to do that and also pay my bills.
Jody said something reassuring after this but I can’t remember her exact words because all the blood in my body had rushed to my face but it was something along the lines of Of course you can get paid to work in peace! There are TONS of jobs – you just have to look for them.
That’s about when I switched my major to education, thinking I’d change the world by raising the next generation to be hippies.
Now that I’m in data visualization, I still center World Betterment as one of the core business values at Evergreen Data and I screen potential clients for this criteria.
I’m confident that most of the people who follow me share this value, too.
The way I calculate it, you work about 45 years (from 20 to 65). Each year, you work roughly 260 days (to account for vacation, weekends, mental health days) and, each day, maybe 7ish hours.
That means you’ve got 80,000 hours of a career.
How are YOU going to spend that time?
There’s actually a website that I wish existed back before I embarrassed myself in front of Jody Williams.
The site is full of resources but I believe its biggest gift is the pause it prompts.
On the one hand, 80,000 hours is a ton of time.
This is great because changing the world is a slow slog. Rewarding in the end but jeez it takes patience.
On the other hand, 80,000 hours whips by. I’ve spent one just writing this letter to you. You could spend another digging in to the website.
The podcast episodes and case studies show that Jody was so freakin right – there are so many paths to peace.
And if, upon reflection, you feel like you’ve spent some fraction of your 80,000 hours working on something that isn’t exactly contributing the way you want, there’s a list of the world’s most pressing problems AND job board. A job board!
Of course, you can always do what I did and make yourself a job that adds a lil something to world peace, too.
Every day isn’t going to result in a paragraph of your Wikipedia entry. Jody Williams surely spends some of her hours just trying to tame her inbox and update her software.
But at the other end of the long arc of your career, what do you want to say? What’ll go on your career tombstone?
Write to me and fill in this blank. Here lies the career of ____________, who spent their 80,000 hours ____________.