Insights on business,
life, and leadership —
right in your inbox!

The Antidote to Disengagement

November 7, 2023

I’m approaching 40 years old, and I’m a dad of three kids.

I spend my time at work helping business leaders and much of my time at home caring for children. 

So in a room full of high school students, I am the opposite of cool . . . and at a recent speaking engagement, I felt it.

Off the stage and in between sessions, I walked directly up to Heather, one of my key leaders, and said, “I am not speaking to students anymore.” I felt like nothing I said was connecting with this group. I tried to manufacture energy and enthusiasm with every funny joke, and I was telling every good story I had in my arsenal. It seemed like nothing worked. 

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to love speaking to high school students. At one time, I was a younger guy traveling the world and able to share about my most recent adventures.  However, my current reality seems so irrelevant to students now that it’s tough to tell if I’m able to connect.

At this same event, I spoke to a second group of students. Thankfully, this group felt slightly more engaged than the first. At the end of this session, a student came up to me and wanted to talk about Essential Exchanges. She shared a personal story of how she had given up stability for significance. Through broken English, she explained that she moved to the United States from Moldova to seek an opportunity for a better life. While she is in high school, she is also working a job to help provide for her family. She moved away from everything that was comfortable and affirmed that my challenge to exchange stability for significance was one she has made. She told me that my talk helped her feel that the sacrifices she made, and the ones she’s currently making, are worth it.

This conversation encouraged me . . . and it also made me feel like a total jerk.

Why didn’t I want to speak to high school students again? Honestly, because I was more concerned with being impressive than being impactful. I was focused more on myself and how I’m perceived rather than how I can best encourage or inspire the people to whom I’m speaking.

This was a reminder to me of the truth that our ADDO team works hard to teach to organizations around the country:

Your work has worth.

Regardless of the task you’re doing, you have a purpose. And when you remember your purpose, the mundane becomes meaningful. 

Focusing on myself makes it so easy to forget why I do what I do. I’m grateful I’m surrounded by people who are constantly helping me remember that I have a purpose bigger than myself.

I don’t know what your engagement level at work is right now, but I want you to know that the antidote to disengagement is purpose.

We are all prone to discouragement, but you must remember that your work has worth.
If you’re working the cash register at a restaurant, your work matters.
If you are a customer service representative sitting in a call center, your work matters.
If you’re teaching your fifth Geometry class of the day, your work matters.
If you’re the founder of an organization who is experiencing the shifts of a new leadership team, your work matters.
If you’re a stay at home parent caring for children and needs that nobody sees, your work matters.

If you don’t know why your work matters, it’s time to identify your purpose. Why do you do what you do? What are you working for that’s bigger than yourself?

If you know your purpose, tell it to yourself every single day, and even in the moments of disconnection and discouragement, you’ll be reminded that your work has worth.


Insights on business,
life, and leadership —
right in your inbox!