Is it Worth It?

“Was that conference worth it?”  Everything you do gives you some value.  It’s worth it because you make it worth it.  There’s a hidden gem in everything.  It's just a matter of finding it.

My dad always said, “Take the 1% you find useful and throw the rest away”.   Sometimes he was referring to a book he was giving me and sometimes he was talking about attending an event. He always encouraged us to find 1% of anything we were exposed to that we could get value from.  Kind of amazing in light of how much complaining he did, but I suppose his philosophy still left him with 99% to complain about.

1% is the right amount.  100% is too much!  Imagine if you went to a conference and everything anyone said was valuable to you.  Your head would spin!   

“Is this just positive thinking again?”  I don’t think it is.  This is not just about appreciating the gems but about seeking them in the first place.  Consider the training your company sends you to versus a training that you paid for yourself. Which one are you likely to get more out of? Maybe both, but you’re going to make darn sure you get value out of the one you paid for.  And if you’re not getting your money's worth, you’ll talk to the instructor after class, you’ll ask questions, you’ll solicit information from your classmates at lunch.  One way or another you’ll get the value you came for.

Here are some things I’ve done to get that 1% out of everything I do.

Trust that it’s there.
 In Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford, he talks about connecting the dots.  Random things he did years before found purpose in his future.  You may not know the value of what you did today, but absorb it, enjoy it, and maybe it will show its usefulness to you later.

Expand your definition of “worth it”.  Does “worth it” mean that you got a return on your investment within a year?  Does it mean that you got a bunch of sales leads?  Consider expanding your definition of what’s worth it to include things like “practicing networking” and “learning about what others are doing.”  If your definition is limited to an immediate, direct dollar return, you are limiting the possibilities.

Actively seek the gem.  Don’t just sit there with an attitude like “I don’t see any gems here”. You need to go seek the gems.  Expose yourself to new ideas, talk to people.  The gems can come from an unexpected place and unlikely people.  

Jot it down.  I use Evernote to track things that have inspired me.  Create someplace to store that 1% so you can go access it later and use it to cross-pollinate ideas.  

What techniques do you use to find the 1% that's valuable?  Post your comments!

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
— Steve Jobs