Understanding How a Mission Impacts the World

Vishal Verma

Engineering Manager at Netflix



In life, there are different types of goals. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes to mind. If you just need a job to feed yourself, that’s totally okay. Different needs of different levels are not “better” or “worse” than the others; it’s just the stage of life that you’re in. Where you are in your life will influence what your particular mission is going to be. No need is isolated from society. It’s a holistic thing distilled from many different influences.

When people take on a mission, whatever that mission is, we should not look at what they’re doing and immediately tell them that they’re wrong or to criticize. That way of thinking is not helpful.

Actions taken

Instead, I think that it’s more helpful to talk them through what they’re setting out to do. Offer your perspective. Why do you want to do this? Ask the “Why?”s, and people will slowly do some of the thinking themselves. Think about kids. They have very different motivations than adults like us. People start small, much like children. They want to build something simple, like a straightforward product or service. That’s going to be their mission initially. The best thing that you can do is help them get to that next level. They’ll climb that hill and see more; they’ll start aching for those big-picture mountains before them.

Considering the social impact of any mission is vital. We’ve kind of lost that, I think. The social impact used to be front and center. It’s not en vogue to talk about these things. I like to think that this way of thinking is coming back to some extent. This thing that you’re building should not just be a means to an end. It’s going to have an impact beyond what you see. It’s going to interact with the world and change what it comes into contact with.

Lessons learned

  • When you build something, you may be thinking purely financially in terms of your motives. You need to remember that the effort will have an impact on you, your personal life, the lives of your employees, and society as a whole.
  • The internet allows us to reach so many people. This is such a new thing. We have not yet come to terms with that. The kind of impact that we all can have now, even by just posting a message publicly, is undeniable. I try to be mindful of this with everything that I do.
  • People should always come first. Communities should always come first. Everything else kind of flows from there. A rising tide lifts everybody. Instead of focusing on the zero-sum nature of everything, the selfish reasons that we get into anything, it should fall upon our leaders to create an environment where everybody functions. You are empowered to do that.
  • We cannot sever ourselves from the animal part of our brain always focused on survival. Even in a meeting, surrounded by people that you know, this mechanism is always at play. If we are aware of this, we become much more intelligent. This part of us operates separately from the cooperative, human part of our brains. If you, as a leader, are able to create an environment where this part of us is not triggered, there is a much higher chance that people will do the right thing. If they’re able to feed their families and to take care of themselves, this survival instinct becomes less of a problem.

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Vishal Verma

Engineering Manager at Netflix

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