Can you change the world while working 40 hours a week or less?
This is a question I’ve been asking entrepreneurs and changemakers lately.
My favorite answer comes from Swedish society Entrepreneur Admir Lukacevic, who simply replied: “Give me a second – that’s enough for me!”
I love Lukacevic’s enthusiasm (and confidence) ), but most of us would agree that we need more hours. But how much is the question?
My informal research results paint a very clear picture: 81% say yes, you can change the world during this time. Meanwhile, 19 percent said no.
The most common answer among those who say no is that to be the only one driving a company or movement that changes the world, you just need 40+ hours a week in the trenches, There are not enough examples to the contrary. But even in these responses, they recognized that perhaps the lone entrepreneur’s model of changing the world on his own is outdated.
In my new book, Becoming a Changemaker, I talked to my favorite leader, Sid Espinosa. Sid is the first Latino mayor of Palo Alto, California (where he oversees a community of entrepreneurs and innovators) and is currently the head of social impact at GitHub. I’m curious how he has achieved so much at such a young age and wanted to hear his secrets. His suggestion totally surprised me.
He talked about the change needed by startups, companies and communities, and said we need to stop seeing ourselves as individual sprinters and see ourselves as runners in a relay race. Whether we have 10, 20, 30 or 50 years left in our careers, we will likely never see all the changes we want to create in our careers or our lives. Instead, our job is to push the baton as far as possible.
That means taking the baton from those who came before us (whether it was decades, months, or days ago) and doing what we can to push us forward together. Then, when it’s time to pass the baton to the next recipient, it’s our job to be as good stewards as we can—through coaching, advising, mentoring, etc., to make those who will follow us succeed.
Espinosa’s advice applies equally to entrepreneurial and social change environments. We may be responsible for financial or other short-term goals that let us down in the short term. But remember, we can now deal with what needs to be done in front of us, while thinking about how we can pass the baton to someone else in the future can liberate us. We can handle what needs to be done in the near term without rushing to make critical changes that may take some time to materialize.
So maybe the correct metric here is not maximizing our weekly hours. Rather, it is the weeks, months, years, and decades that we are committed to continuously creating change, and how we effectively bring others to walk with us.
As Matthew Kelly wrote in his book The Long View , “Most people overestimate their day can do and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
weeks, it becomes less important whether we work 35 hours or 45 hours in a week. What matters is how many weeks we put in, month after month, year after year.
The baton is there for you. Will you rob?