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What good can I do today?

I’m still reeling from Effective Altruism Global — a recent conference focused on doing the most good we can. The event was one of three international gatherings which discussed how we can take on the world’s biggest challenges, using evidence and reason to guide us.

The one thing I remember above everything else is a conversation I had with a 17 year old lad, let’s call him Jack. Prompted by the first speaker, we were sharing our objectives for the weekend, trying to make them sound tangible, within reach.

Jack was excited about learning which kind of career he might have, one inspired by Effective Altruism (EA). He wants to use his career as best as he can, to bring about positive change in the world. We spoke for, perhaps, ten minutes before I asked him why it was so important that he made an impact so early on in his career.

“Well,” he said, “I’ve just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, I’ve maybe only got 10–15 years.”

Now, that stopped me in my tracks.

My personal aspirations for the weekend were incomparable. Crikey, Jack wanted to channel every last drop of his health towards good causes, while he had it. I’ve hardly stopped thinking about him since.

Jack has got me reflecting on the way we do business at Bellroy. Our mission statement leads with ‘use business as a force for good’. And we do. We do a lot of good. Promoting ‘better ways’ to carry, and do business, are at our heart. But can we take Jack’s thinking and stamp it on even more, on our every moment?

How about we talk to every person like they’re our most valuable, design every product like it’s the only one we’re working on, treat every year like it could be our last. How about we sharpen our attention to bring out the best in every moment, so we leave everything better than we found it.

Let’s tell people we enjoy chatting to them, that they encourage us to think differently. If we think they’re smart, let’s say it. How about we push that design further than is safe, so we challenge folks more. That dream product idea that’s lurking in the bottom drawer, let’s bring it out. Let’s say yes to challenges that frighten us, and research that’s hard. Let’s do the most difficult thing, if it might leave today better than it was an hour ago.

If we consider the legacy we leave at the end of every conversation, design and day, perhaps this will encourage us to be even more effective? We can measure these things easily, and as soon as we know they work let’s try to improve them, as we keep doing them. Because we can always find ‘better ways’.

Let’s remember the little things, while we’re working towards the big things. Let’s make life better for the people we see and design for every day, as well as the most challenged communities worldwide.

As Jack reminded me, we simply don’t know what tomorrow holds, so let’s make sure we do the most good we can today. To me, that feels like a better way to sponsor an EA event, and the most effective.

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