Tech guru Tim O’Reilly has a great new post: Work on Stuff that Matters: First Principles.

I spent a lot of last year urging people to work on stuff that matters. This led to many questions about what that "stuff" might be.

There are a number of half-unconscious litmus tests I use in my own life. I’m going to try to tease them out here, and hope that you can help me think this through in the comments.

Work on something that matters to you more than money.

It’s easy to get caught up in the heady buzz of making money. You should regard money as fuel for what you really want to do, not as a goal in and of itself. Money is like gas in the car — you need to pay attention or you’ll end up on the side of the road — but a well-lived life is not a tour of gas stations! Whatever you do, think about what you really value.

Create more value than you capture.

It’s a matter of balance. Every business needs to pay attention to its bottom line; every individual needs to put a roof over his or her head and provide food for loved ones. But take a look inside: how much are you thinking about yourself and what you might gain, versus what you might create?

Take the long view.

It’s very easy to make local optimizations, but they eventually catch up with you. Our economy has many elements of a ponzi scheme. We borrow from other countries to finance our consumption, we borrow from our children by saddling them with debt and using up non-renewable resources.

It’s hard to see beyond the "small here" and the "short now," especially if you live in a favored place and time. That’s why so many of the really important things do end up on the plates of non-profits.

That’s why a time like this, when the bubble is bursting, is a great time to see how important it is to think about the big picture, and what matters not just to us, but to building a sustainable economy in a sustainable world.

 

I made liberal edits. The whole post is worth the time to read.