Monday, April 9, 2012

Discretionary Energy

"You're investing in a great challenge when you're applying discretionary energy to it."

I don't recall who first told me this, but it has guided me for well over a decade now. It motivates me to select things to work on that I deem "great." It motivates me to ensure the challenges at work are great enough to engage others' discretionary energy such that it's applied to the challenge as well. I'm fully engaged on a challenge when I allocate discretionary energy to it. If the challenge is something I can just "do," that's great and all, but not as fulfilling in the end.

You can gauge a lot about a company, and the people in it, by whether or not anyone there chooses to apply discretionary energy to it. That energy may be expended during business hours, or not. Niether the amount of discretionary energy, nor when/where it is applied are the point of this post. The point is whether any discretionary energy is being allocated.

If the ratio of discretionary energy to paid-for energy is 0:1, then all that is happening is that a crank is being turned. If the company is not profitable, that's a real capital problem because it's likely that nothing creative is going on to get the money printing press going.

If the ratio of discretionary energy to paid-for energy is 1:1, then things are in high-gear. As we all know, that can be good as well as bad (potential imbalance, burnout, call it what you want).

We should strive to ensure we are in work situations with a ratio of >0:1. For some that's 0.0001:1. For others that's 1:1. However, if it's 0:1, you're not pushing yourself; you're not engaged. You could potentially just be punching the clock.

To be clear, I am not making a statement about work/life boundaries. Some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure to work with cordon off their "work" life from their "personal/home" life, and apply relatively little discretionary energy to challenges at the office.

Be conscious of your discretionary energy ratio, you'll live a more deliberate and aware life.

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