What Makes Something Worthwhile?
Worthwhile: Sufficiently valuable or important to be worth one’s time, effort or interest.
What makes something worthwhile? This question has been tumbling around my mouth like hard candy for the past six months. Tonguing it over from left to right cheek, slowly digesting its layers as the core of this bitter/sweet question reveals itself. What makes something worthwhile?
It is no secret that death is the great equalizer. But knowledge and death have nothing in common. When it hits in such an incomprehensible, unfair, devastating way as it has hit my community recently, the answers to my question about living become strikingly evident.
In the face of death, most things in life become completely absurd. Money looses its currency, quarrels vanish into thin air, and anyone who is affected by it is forced to ask themselves how they wish to live in the context of death. The question that emerges is: what is the currency of value? Because money just ain’t doing it for me…
The most fulfilling experiences in my life occur when I in some way bring value to the lives of and/or connect with others. I find that scale matters little in this realm–I’ve found equal satisfaction in a simple stranger-to-stranger smile exchange as I have in creating a new website that increases the profitability of a client’s business.
I think about worthwhileness in design often. I am infinitely concerned about both the material and emotional environment in which we are living; I am staunchly disinterested in putting more crap out into the world. But as someone who has a deep, almost metaphysical need to create, I need to find a way to reconcile this dilemma. I am so fixated on this question because I believe that if I better understand the answer to it, I can choose to do more of that thing.
As we mature as a firm, we get to be more and more deliberate about the kind of work we do. The projects I find satisfaction in are those in which I develop connections with the people with whom I work, and those in which we help to create solutions that serve to make other people’s lives easier and better in the long run. I have a hunch that if I shift my idea of currency to these two conditions, that my vision about what’s worthwhile will manifest itself more and more into my work and life.
Death grants us the opportunity to look at our lives in terms of ideas like worthwhileness and value and, bizarrely enough, the strength to make changes accordingly. For that, I am grateful.
What makes something worthwhile?