Not to make a numbers’ game out of it, since none of us have the mental energy to deal with that level of philosophical meditation in the office on a weekday, but it’s awfully difficult to find ways to add objective value to the world.
Our collective optimism is limited, and the news is Very Bad: it’s hard to check any social media without being filled with a profound sense of impending doom, and the routine of reading feel-good stories in the paper every morning has been forcibly replaced by having a smart home voice assistant tell you about all the new ways the world is going south today. And so, we listen to enough that we become concerned with Everything Everywhere, which leads to a very short, albeit well-intentioned train of thought: how do we find a way to fix Everything?
It takes a few attempts at doing whatever degree of Good we can, covering however many issues we care about, to realise there isn’t one. So, in trying to do Everything, we do it superficially – divide our brain power into twenty projects at once and forget slapping a band-aid over some injuries only hides them and gives them time to worsen.
And if I can easily fall into the trap of offering the wrong solution to what I aim to make better, why not do nothing at all so I don’t risk subtracting from the net Good?
We, as Patrick Morgan, and we, as individual team members within the company, work in an industry with a few persistent problems, one of which is diversity – at the top, C-suite level, and this inequality disseminates to the mid-layers of the business. Going into one of these companies to slap a folder of Rules and Regulations on their CEO’s desk and yelling, ‘You must do better!’ is doing nothing for the source of the issue, so we have to dig deeper; much earlier, before career paths have been established and professional lives have set off in one general direction or another.
Problem with that? It’s extremely difficult.
It’s extremely difficult and must be addressed very early – at education level – which bears a great deal of responsibility. We would be aiming to intervene in the lives of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who don’t think entering the industry is even a possibility for them, and who are extremely receptive to any advice that comes their way. And so, we put ourselves in the position of Advisers, who could affect a student’s life with either Very Good Advice or Very Bad Advice, like the butterfly that flapped its wings in Chicago and set off a tornado in Tokyo. High risk begets deep guilt if it all goes wrong – fail and you really fail.
In the very early days of our efforts, I sat with all of this for quite a while, as we worked through hours and hours of meetings and thought hard about whether or not we have the expertise and knowledge to offer career guidance to students who don’t have a concept of how many opportunities are out there for them to go after. Are we standing on soapboxes we have no business being on? Are we giving the ‘correct’ advice? Are we exhausting ourselves just to realise we’re not adding the Most Possible value to the world, and therefore changing nothing, or making the problem worse?
And then we went and did it. On the 18th of October, we went into a secondary school with limited resources and taught a series of workshops on CV writing and interview skills, equipped with good intentions, great material, and first-hand knowledge of a rocky path to a thriving professional life. Our Managing Director, James O’Dowd, kicked it off with a talk on success, the importance of a good attitude, and what it means to be an aspirational person. Afterwards, the rest of the team taught our workshops to two groups of students from Year 11 – the sessions focused on how to construct an attractive CV, which went from the basics to lesser known tips, and then on the stages of interview preparation and etiquette. Alongside the teachers, we went through the material throughout the morning and led activities on what we’d discussed with the students to encourage engagement.
We came out with concerns, still – had we done the best we could’ve? – even as we went back to the office for strong coffees and an early finish. Nonetheless, hindsight shed a light on a new truth, too: we engaged with students who needed information in any form they could get, like all of us on the Foundation team when we were their age, and what we said answered some of their questions and sparked even more, which they’ll take to teachers.
Suddenly, it dawns on us: we added Some Good, which changed Something.
It didn’t change Everything Everywhere; even as we scale, event by event at the schools we partner with, hour by hour we work to make the material more comprehensive, it still won’t change Everything Everywhere; but then, that’s not the point. The Net Good is a pool that needs every possible contribution it can get, and if every potential contributor lets themselves be hindered by the fact that they can’t fix Everything Everywhere alone, the pool gradually evaporates to Net Zero.
The Patrick Morgan Foundation exists to do the Most Good it can and increase what that means with every new initiative. We are starting small, of course, and tackling just one issue we see evidence of clearly in our own industry with the hope that we can add to the pool and lead by example. You don’t need to tackle everything; not at the start, anyway. Small-scale wins are still wins, and they bring about more, bigger wins. Then you think about the snowball that results from these continuous efforts, and the world starts to look a little less bleak than it did before.
There aren’t many ways to add objective value to the Net Good – we’re all too tired and too busy and too overwhelmed by the feeling that we’re never doing enough. Nothing may ever be enough; shouldn’t stop us from piling onto the Net Good with Something. On top of more Something, that becomes, steadily and without a doubt, a Valuable Amount of Good.
Here’s to guilt-free wins.
By Marina Hercka