Thursday, December 4, 2014

Don't Like the World? Change It.

I've been involved in a few Facebook discussions over the last few weeks, which isn't necessarily news-worthy. After all, it's kind of my social media MO. However, I have noticed a particularly annoying trend: 

Lots of people seem to be passionate (or fixated) on or about one particular issue, yet really do nothing to improve the issue or situation.

Back when I was a teacher, one of my goals was to teach the idea that any one of us has the power to make a dent in the universe. I've continued to operate under that belief since traveling the country and eventually settling down in San Diego. It always seemed like a fairly straight-forward concept, but far too many people, for a wide variety of reasons, choose to merely complain about the status quo.

That's bullshit.

Here are a few of the more common excuses I hear:


  • "I don't have time."
  • "I don't have a degree."
  • "I have children."
  • "The 'man' is holding me down."
  • "I'm not an insider."
  • "They are too powerful."
  • "Things have always been like this."
  • "Nobody else understands this issue."
  • "I'm not a leader."
  • "I'm trying to instigate grassroots change, so it's a slow process."
... and so on. The point - people make a lot of excuses to stay in their comfortable cocoon of inaction. That's fine; not everyone has to be a instrument of social change. However, if you do feel there is a great injustice in this world, you owe it to yourself to make that change happen. Despite this, the vast majority will still be content to sit on their asses.

My journey through life has taught me at least one very important lesson - doing shit to change things for the better is a hell of a lot better than talking about how and why things need to change. People that personally know me can attest that I'm not special. I'm not exceptionally intelligent, I'm sometimes socially awkward, I'm not overly attractive, a below average uncoordinated athlete, and I'm only marginally funny. I'm a mediocre public speaker, write at around a middle school level, and, while I have a lot of formal education, I did the bare minimum to get by. In other words, almost all of the people that read this have more skills and knowledge than me. 

Despite this, I've been able to affect some pretty decent change in the world, which includes helping change the running industry by promoting barefoot and minimalist shoe running, helped expand trail running and ultrarunning to the masses, became a proponent of minimalist and RV living, and helped advance the way we think about our romantic relationships. Those "causes" have included:

  • Attracting somewhere in the ballpark of three million blog hits,
  • Worked as a shoe consultant and brand ambassador for a $500 international outdoor company,
  • Held around 150 running clinics in forty-six states and four countries, 
  • Self-published four books which have sold somewhere around 35-40,000 copies,
  • Had two books published by traditional publishers, 
  • Finished six hundred milers and a slew of shorter races (some barefoot), and
  • Fought a pro mma fight at the age of thirty-eight.
All of these adventures were fueled by my passion to make the world a better place. The exact methodology changed depending on the cause, but the rough formula followed the steps:

  1. I identified the change I wanted to see in the world.
  2. I made the personal changes that I wanted to see generalized to others (like Gandhi's "Be the change you wish to see in the world" idea.)
  3. I identified how and why the world is the way it is, which usually involves identifying the people that hold the power and/or serve as gatekeepers that normally maintain the status quo.
  4. I came up with a plan to affect the people at the top, which usually involved getting around (not through) the gatekeepers.
  5. I put the plan in action.
  6. I modified the plan based on progress.
That's it. That's my methodology. It really is THAT easy. If I can make as big of an impact as I've made given my decidedly pedestrian qualifications, image what you could do with your unique gifts? I guarantee all of you have even more power to create real, significant social change than I do... it's just a matter of doing it.

Still don't think you can do it? Use this trick, which I believe I got from one of Seth Godin's books: Use "If only..." statements. Fill in the sentence:

I would like to change ________________. 
I would make this change happen if only ________________________.

The first blank is the change you want to see. The second blank is the thing that is preventing you for taking action. Once you spell out exactly what is holding you back, do everything in your power to overcome that one barrier. Once overcome, you no longer have an excuse to sit on your ass.

My challenge to you: stop bitching, complaining, and making excuses and make something happen


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