The mathematics of making an impact

Suppose you create a website to save every user one cent on their Amazon purchases. At the end of the year, you reached ten million people and created one cent of value for each of them.

Your impact (number of people x value) is 10,000,000 x .01 = 100,000

Now imagine another situation where you create a high quality educational experience. 100 people participate and each pay about $1000 over the course of the year for events, resources and advising.

Theoretically the total amount of impact is the same.

100 x 1,000 = 100,000

Oftentimes when famous people give advice, they talk about trying to impact the largest possible amount of people. That sounds great in theory, except when you look at the math, impacting ten million people can be equally as valuable as impacting one thousand people. It all depends on the depth of the impact.

Suppose you’re young and not sure what to do, which should you choose? My theory is that small number of people and high value of impact is the more rewarding path.

Working with one hundred people, you would know all their names. You would be interested in their journeys. You would build personal connections. There’s something special about a community like that.

When your job is to save everyone a penny, you wouldn’t be missed if you were gone. To any individual person, having to pay an extra penny doesn’t matter.

On one hand, adding up the aggregate of pennies saved looks like a substantial impact. On the other hand, adding up the fact that not one out of the ten million people would be sad if you didn’t do your job tomorrow, you’re left with an unchanged world.

So if you’re blindly pursuing the large amount of people, think back to this math. Maybe you don’t have to go that route. There’s nothing wrong with helping a few people in a big way.