Thinking In Newspaper Headlines

“When I grow up, I want to answer emails.” (…said no-one ever.)

“Here lies Alicia. She completed 455 tasks.” (…is a terrible gravestone inscription.)

“Woman consistently achieved PDP targets” (… doesn’t make the newspapers.)

The lens of a childhood dream, obituary or a newspaper headline gives us the opportunity to question the meaning of things. What meaning do we create from our lives? What about our life’s work?

The public service is a special place to be. It’s an incredible opportunity to participate in meaningful work that positively impacts the life of others. We know this, but it’s an easy one to forget this when we get wrapped up in the daily minutiae.

I love the concept of the 50 year newspaper, which I read about In Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. Essentially, the idea is that if you looked at the last 50 or 100 years as a series of headlines, you’d be quite impressed with how much progress the world has made.

I read this little anecdote by Donald Miller a few years ago, and it’s always stayed with me:


“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”

― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Our work life is full of high-pressure goals that are the equivalent of that Volvo. If we let the pressure of our work environment numb us to our potential for impact and public change, statis sets in.

We feel disengaged, we don’t innovate and we don’t bother trying to push for change. But our public deserves more – and so do we.

Are you wasting precious time on Volvo goals?
What would your 50 year newspaper headline look like?
How can you level up the impact of your public service?


Til next week
- A