Evolve to some new plane of existence…
This is what our culture tells us has to happen before we can even think about starting to make the kind of fundamental system wide changes that are going to be necessary if we expect that culture to survive the next, let’s say 100 years. What’s always bugged me is this – Why?
Why do we have to wait for everybody to be on board? Why can’t we, imperfect beings that we are, start making changes right now? I initially set out to find a source quote for that catchy bumper sticker slogan, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Most Prius’ I see it on attribute it to Ghandi. Turns out there’s no source for this. The closest thing to this little slogan to be found in his actual writings is this:
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.
Source (emphasis mine)
What I take from this version is simple – Be disruptive NOW. This way others will see your example and stop feeling like they can’t do anything. (Side rant: Disruptive as a word gets a bad rap due to having been co-opted. To me, it simply means NOT doing what everyone else expects you to do.) We can only change what we don’t like with the power of many, and it only takes ONE person to show the rest the way. This has been proven many times over the years, from cults to political movements to Occupy.
I recently read about several studies that looked at how people handle situations that make them uncomfortable to react. For example, researchers staged a situation where someone feigned having a heart attack on a public sidewalk during the lunch rush. Out of the dozens of witnesses, nobody would do ANYTHING until one person made a move. Once that first responder acted, several others jumped into action offering additional aid. This study has been repeated in several variations, in several countries over the years and the results are nearly identical. It only takes one person to kick start a chain reaction.
How does this translate to being disruptive? It means find your cause, the one you’re passionate about, and get out there and do something about it. If you believe strongly that Keystone is a BAD idea, find a rally, paint yourself a sign, and get out there. If you believe public transit can work for more people than currently use it, prove it by commuting on it. If you believe less driving is the best way forward, sell your car. If you believe that your city needs better bike infrastructure, get yourself out there on a bike and prove it. Don’t wait for the busses to get better, or for more bike lanes to be painted. Make the first move.
Use your skills and abilities to their fullest. If you’re a software developer, make an app that helps people find ridesharing options in your city (I’m using RideScout in the DC area, it’s fantastic). If you’re an artist, find a business who supports your cause and see if they’ll let you paint a mural and express yourself. If you’re a facilitator (like me) find a way to make your mark. I’m working on an idea for a coworking space in my neighborhood. These spaces allow people who are self employed, or who telework, to work in a supportive, collaborative environment. It also gives small businesses with maybe one or two employees a way to have a mailing address that’s not one of their homes, shared conference spaces, and other amenities that usually come with being much larger. This is my way of fostering innovation and encouraging more people to do what they do, just better.
The end point of this wander? DO SOMETHING. Don’t wait for someone else, they won’t move until you kick start that chain reaction.
In case you’re wondering, this post was inspired by my recent decision to defer my enrollment in a Sustainable MBA program in order to see what I could learn in other ways, and how I could make a difference without going into debt. Also, that comment about being a facilitator reminded me that I have more to say on that, I love when a good rant leads to a whole ‘nother tangent…