When you hear, “You can change the world!”, it’s often an encouragement, uttered to inspire. Sometimes, it’s an exhortation.
These days, it sure can feel like the world needs changing, more than ever.
But is it true? How much effect does any of us have? It can feel like a big world, and we can seem so small.
When clients and other people I meet ask me this, I tell the story of Mason Wartman, a pizza shop owner in Philadelphia.
Mason turned a chance request by a customer to buy a pizza slice for a homeless person into a movement to end world hunger. His wall of Post-It notes, vouchers for pizza slices purchased by customers, appeared on Upworthy and Ellen DeGeneres’ show. He took that attention and created a foundation that employs the homeless and feeds hungry people.
There are many, many stories like Mason’s. People who saw an opportunity to change something in their immediate world and took it. They didn’t wait. They took action. They did what they could do.
And they kept going. Persistence is your friend. When I was a kid, my parents would shake their heads in frustration, saying “You’re so stubborn!” I hope over time I’ve put that trait to good use, enduring and persisting when it mattered.
Gandhi was no slouch when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I wear that truth on a leather bracelet, to remind myself that all change, all impact that I can have, begins with me.
It begins with my decision to do what I’m afraid to do. To speak up when someone makes a racist comment. To be more visible than I feel comfortable being. To take action on my business when I’d rather mindlessly cruise Facebook.
To not let things slide and pass it off as not important.
To do the work that needs to be done to effect change.
And yes, to rest when I need it.
I’ve met a lot of amazing people doing all of that in recent years, since my intentional nomad days in 2011.
Entrepreneurs like Mason Wartman, Phil Haid, and Alisoun Mackenzie who have impact on their minds as they grow and expand their companies. Impact through how they treat their clients, with respect. Impact in how they give their team members space and encouragement to have their own impact. Impact in how they reach out in the larger world.
Non-profit leaders like Kate Groch, Mallika Dutt, and Indrani Goradia, who see so much and give so much. Creating an organization out of their vision, and impacting so many lives in the people they serve with education and support.
Even politicians like Esther Manheimer who are working for good. Being collaborative and compassionate even as they do their best to work within what is often a dysfunctional system. And sometimes they even succeed in changing it.
They all began by changing what they saw around them. They saw a need and reached out to learn more. They took action. They formed or joined a circle of connection, because none of us changes the world alone.
You can change the world. Your world. And once you do, that impact ripples out.
If your world is big enough, if your idea is big-hearted enough, you’ll change a lot of people’s lives.
So, in answer to the question in the title of this article, “You can change the world” is not bullshit. It is a kind of fertilizer though. One that feeds and nurtures your own desire to make this world, your world, a better place.
I bow to you and walk with you. Let that be enough for us to begin.
Interviews with all of the people mentioned in this article are available on the Work Alchemy podcast.
To start changing your world, click here for the Alchemy Assignment!