What the Heck is a “Ding in the Universe”

I never appreciated Steve Jobs’ quote, “I want to put a ding in the universe,” until I talked with Gary Hamel, Wall Street Journal’s #1 most influential business thinker.

I asked Gary what leadership behaviors have the most impact on organizations.

I started thinking “ding in the universe” when Gary said, “It’s easy to feel hopeless.” Maybe you’ve fallen into the abyss of “It won’t matter.”

Thinking it won’t matter, matters. Thoughts always matter.

Gary elegantly restated my question by asking, “What does it take for you to make a bigger contribution than you expect?

Bigger impact:

Gary explained that disproportionate impact happens when you, “Tackle problems above your pay grade that defy easy answers; problems bigger than you.”

Light bulb – that’s a way we make dings.


You may not be a V.P. in a fortune 500 company. How can average Joe’s follow Gary’s ding-path?

Solve big problems in small contexts.

Don’t wait for the perfect ding-moment. Work on today’s persistent nagging problem – the one others hate but accept because they think it won’t change.


  1. Get pissed off. Problems hang around because we aren’t pissed off enough. “Big problems,” Gary said, “require contrarian spirits.”
  2. Move through anger. Foolish leaders get stuck in anger; wise leaders work through it. Anger is reactive. Solutions are proactive.
  3. Solve big problems informally. Don’t waste your time in meetings. Bring them up over coffee or lunch. Everyone’s too busy to solve the problem that’s been hanging around for ages. Meetings come later.
  4. Connect problems with outcomes that everyone believes in.
  5. Implement small solutions. Useful anger drives you to try things.

There’s much more to tackling big problems. What strategies that help people make a ding in the universe can you add?

Gary’s new book: “What Matters Now