Fear the macro or fix the micro?
What is your platitude of the moment?
"This country is going to hell...."
"Can you believe what a moron Donald Trump is...."
"Hillary Clinton is a career politician, and Washington insider...."
"There is so much crime today....."
"Remember the good old days when...."
All of the above comments are easy places to hide. We are all so caught up right now "how bad" everything is that we have pushed ourselves into paralysis. Are there big problems facing our country and planet? Sure. Are you capable of fixing all of it? No. Is complaining about it fixing the problem? I'd wager some serious money the answer is 'no'.
The internet is great. It has and continues to democratize access to information and connect people that would have been much likely to meet. It has given rise to movements like: Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring. It gives people a sense of community and inspiration. It also gives people a place to whine, shame, and loathe non-stop. From our social media pedestals we lament the stupidity of some guy in New York or woman in Georgia. We point a finger at 12 people causing a scene rather than take stock in the 10s of millions that are working to be good people and citizens. We shame the 12 that are immediately at fault into complete submission and from there, we take to the digital airwaves to cast a warning. You're next. We share articles we haven't read because surely the headline alone makes the point. Details don't matter. Our thirst for 140 characters has lead to that level of commitment to issues we espouse to care about.
And we wage campaigns of fear, shame and nostalgia from the comfort of our couch with "House of Cards" on in the background. #Hashtags have shown they can make a difference. But they also give the allusion that we've done enough. Rather than go meet with local politicians in your community, help with improvements at your local park, or sit on the board of a charity, we lament the state of these things and wish that they were better.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to hear the founder of the infamous travel site, Priceline.com speak. He reflected on a moment he saw a local news story of a shelter for battered women that was closing due to funding issues. He recalled that as the story wrapped up his first thought was, "Wow. Someone should really do something about that." A few minutes later, he had what I see as pretty profound revelation. His inner-monologue switched to, "there is no they." He realized he couldn't wait on someone else to do something. Rather he needed to take action.
We are in a tough time in our country. We are in the middle of a vile election battle, news stories follow us everywhere that show us all the negative things and leave out the positive. This is not to discount the battles left to fight. Not at all. My dream is that we will all be empowered to move from inaction or inadequate action to a state of positive action.
Speaking of another low point in history, I am reminded of the moment when President Nixon finally admitted to the Watergate scandal. It was a moment of vindication for so many and marked a historic moment. A president would resign. But what I remember is President Nixon saying, "I let down our system of government. The dreams of all those young people that aught to get into government who now think its all too corrupt".
Its worth re-quoting, "The dreams of all those young people that aught to get into government." When we disengage from an issue that bothers us, we acquiesce to letting what happens happen. When we take the easy road out, rather than digging in and "doing the hard work" (h/t Steven Pressfield), we allow what will happen next. We sit around and wait for "somebody" to show up and fix things rather than rising to the occasion.
I'll give you a bit of relief here. There is no need to put this all on yourself. Don't try to solve poverty or education on your own. Tutor one child. Be a part of your neighborhood association. Volunteer with a cause that is important to you. What if we all took half the time we spent on social media and dedicated it to something we can impact right now?
No one is ever quite ready when its time to take the first step. You just take it. And that is how your life as a change-agent begins. Don't wait for the mayor, your best friend or Opera to call you. Because they're not going to. I will leave you with a quote from Seth Godin, one that I used in a Pecha Kucha talk I gave (clip here) a couple years ago. "No one is going to pick you. Pick Yourself."
Our city, our country and our world are not made better by us waiting for something to happen. Its made better by us making something happen. What will you take action on?
Go Forth Boldly