What Defines a Project as On Mission?
For me this question gained some clarity close to two years ago, when my son was born. The birth of a child brings a lot of things into focus. The time I spend at work has become precious because I have less of it, and that has made me scrutinize what parts are really worth doing. For me, a project is 'on mission' if I can be proud to describe it to my son, not just because it's an honest exchange of work for some compensation, but because it represents and advances values I hold dear and somehow makes the world better in a demonstrable way. If I can pass along my values to him by example -- the passion and care I have for a project -- then that project is on mission.
The three main areas of Green River's advertised focus (public health, school improvement, the environment) are all very important to me. Without careful attention to these ideals, people suffer, either now or later, so they pass the smell test of being worth my creative energy. Of course, there are plenty of other areas that meet these criteria. When I first found out about Green River, my wife and I were blown away when we saw the list of projects at greenriver.com/work. Everything there looked like something the world needs more of, with a few fuzzy-but-harmless exceptions.
I have worked at plenty of jobs that didn't do anything wrong (and one or two that maybe did run counter to my values indirectly), and those jobs were all ultimately unfulfilling. Looking back now, it feels like a terrible waste of the precious time I've been given. Back then, I didn't know what else to work on, but why did I settle? I took these jobs because I needed a job, but I should have never stopped looking for something meaningful to work on. I have heard a lot of people say that at the end of life no one ever wishes they'd spent more time working, but maybe that's just another indicator that we are spending our lives working on the wrong things, and maybe that's another barometer for whether a project is on mission.
In short, if we are eager to share our work with our loved ones, and if it holds up to us in retrospect as worthwhile of our time, it is on mission. And, of course, even if a project lies within such categories, we must agree that it will have an impact, or it is not worth doing. If what we do doesn't change minds and behavior for the better, we have wasted our time, however good our intentions. On mission projects are the confluence of careful and intelligent consideration, love and compassion for others, and concern for our common future.