Chris Brogan had an interesting post titled “ What Human Businesses and the Social Web are all About” and it got me thinking, as usual.
Tom Friedman has talked about how the World is Flat and the boundaries that have long separated people are evaporating as we can communicate and do work 24 x 7 with the advent of broadband and web communication. Hospitals send radiology reports to be interpreted overnight to India. I do work with many people located around the Country; Google Analytics tells me people around the world read my blog and listen to my podcast; my social group extends beyond my town, my State and my Country.
As the borders and boundaries that separate people from one another dissolve, information flows freely. Ideas flow freely. Some take root and catch on, others don’t. Information and education has fundamentally changed the way people see their situation, their company, their government, and more. We can’t hide injustice and tragedy, because everyone can upload the raw data and information to the web, to let others interpret and decide for themselves.
Yet as much as this sharing, the lack of borders, the lack of walls lets us know more than ever before, the question then becomes, “Now What?”
-So you see devastation on the other side of the planet-the aftermath of natural disasters, poverty and more- what are YOU going to do about it?
-You see that government or healthcare could be more efficient and it seems silly that it’s grown up in such a convoluted manner- what are YOU going to do about it?
All the information and data you could possibly want is pretty much out there and just waiting for you to take a hold of something, anything, and make one little part of the world better. What are YOU going to do? Because guess what? It’s not just someone else’s problem- it’s all of ours.
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about the troubles of the day, to bemoan the fact that our government isn’t perfect, and those other people across the Globe aren’t perfect, either. There may not be any one right answer. There’s not one right way to approach a problem, but that doesn’t give us a pass for doing nothing in the interim.
In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath talk about the problem of third world hunger and soliciting money to help a charity address the problem got much better results when the problem wasn’t discussed in broad strokes, but was personalized, so that a person could help one other person, one child, and make their life better. This is because when we look at the whole problem-“the whole forest”- it can be overwhelming, and the problem seems truly impossible to tackle and see any progress. But when we look at a tiny problem -an individual tree- the problem becomes much easier to tackle. We say “I can do that” and we pick up a shovel or our checkbook, or whatever and get to work.
I often joke “Talk is cheap until you starting talking to a lawyer.” While great things always start with talking, with sharing ideas like we do on the Web, the real change comes from putting verbs into our sentences and actually doing things to make change happen. It means getting our hands dirty. It means just picking a spot and dig in. Every small step takes you closer to your goal. Failing to take any action leaves the project and change undone, left for someone else to do instead of you.
It can be tricky where the rubber meets the road. There’s all sorts of friction, all sorts of problems, nothing is easy. But without action, without that friction, you’ll never make any progress at all- all you’ll do is spin your tires, hoping some day, that there will be some “grab” and you can start progressing forward.
Pick something. One thing. Donate an hour of your time. Make one small area of your community better. Or go to Kiva and give someone a microloan so they can create traction for themselves. Do something that’s not all about you. Help someone else with a problem they have. You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make for others, and for yourself at the same time.
Everyone can do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big or grandiose. It can be taking the time to help a friend. It can be donating a can to a soup kitchen. But knowing you are making an effort to help beyond yourself- that’s where the real satisfaction in life lies.
If you hate the health care system, don’t just complain- learn why the system is the way it is, what challenges are faced, and think up ways to fix it, or make it better. Can volunteering at the hospital teach you this while you do good for others? Maybe. If you hate the government and politicians, why not run for office yourself? Figure it out- everyone who has that job had to figure out how to get there- you can, too.
Ask for help. Read. But for goodness sake, put verbs in your sentences and become the change you want to see in the World. It sounds trite, but it’s true. It all begins with you.