2 Critical Questions to Help Discern the Greatest Good

Synergies per hour is the long term game. There's where you find the greatest good. @DanielTStephens

So, what should I do?

I had been talking to my dad, getting some fatherly advice about whether to accept a job offer. As we often do, we had gone down a rabbit hole about worldview and why we do what we do. For me to say “yes” or “no” to this job offer, I had to be certain that it fit with my “why.”

Synergies per hour is the long term game. There's where you find the greatest good. @DanielTStephens


The whirlwind that led to this conversation was a bit confusing. so here’s a quick timeline:

  1. Sunday, April 5th. My parents and one sister left on a mission trip to Haiti to serve at the orphanage where we adopted my sisters from.
  2. Thursday, April 9th. Even though I hadn’t been looking for work, a boss that I had worked for two years ago called out of the blue and offered my old job back, with some very appealing modifications. I’m thrown into decision confusion.
  3. Monday, April 13th, I told the old boss I wasn’t sure that I could make it work (soft “no”), and they modified the offer.
  4. Thursday, April 16th. I told the old boss that I couldn’t make it work (hard “no”). My parents got back from Haiti.
  5. Friday, April 17th, they modified the job offer a second time.
  6. Saturday, April 18th. I got to lay things out for my dad, and ask him that question.
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From the 9th to the 18th, Skylar and I had spent between 20 minutes and an hour each night discussing the pros, cons, and logistics of the decision.

When I finally got to re-hash the discussions that Skylar and I had already had for my dad. He asked me one question: What are the potential synergies? I had to stop and think really hard about that to see where he was going.

What is the long game here?

Aside from whatever mission is being served, all job offers come with the opportunity to put money in your bank account. However, the opportunity cost is that jobs subtract time from your calendar. Most people stop considering a job offer if the dollars added per hour taken aren’t satisfactory.

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That is a short term view.

If you really “want to help people” (what a vague cliche!) then the currency to measure your job in isn’t dollars, it is lives impacted. This particular job happens to be in child and family services, so the lives-impacted-per-hour math is really easy.

This is a medium term view.

What are the potential synergies?

When you’re going to add something new to an already full plate, can it create a positive synergy with things that you’re already doing? What about negative synergies?

This goes way beyond asking whether the tasks fit in your schedule, or whether the difference in pay is worth it. Any time that we’re asked to add something to our schedule, and  we’re faced with a good vs. great dilemma, it is about people and causes. To use this question to discern the greatest good, follow these steps:

  1. Consider the people and causes that you’re already committed to
  2. Consider the people and causes that you’re making a decision about
  3. Ask:
    • Are these causes aligned?
    • Are there people or skill gaps in either cause?
    • Are the people on either side interested in working together?
    • What greater cause might be served by facilitating synergy?
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Back to “what is the long game here?”

Dollars per hour is the short term game. Lives per hour is the mid term game. Synergies per hour is the long term game. There’s where you find the greatest good.

I took the job. We’ll see what happens.

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By Dan

Founder, Executive Director, Mental Health Counselor at Restored Life Counseling