Can you change the world?
Do you even want to?
The whole notion of having that kind of impact – whatever your definitions of “change” and “world” might be – can to some be inspiring, to others daunting, to still others an audacity bordering on hubris.
Some lean back and admire those who have done it (especially or even only if the iteration fits the one in our minds), but it is a vicarious exercise, a comfortable venue for bystanders. Others talk a good game.
However, I believe there is something deep in the human spirit that responds to game-changing people and moments. True leadership – whether of our personal lives or our enterprises – is not custodial. The intellectual, emotional, spiritual and even physical atrophy that can set in when we are not moving forward is crippling – to more than just ourselves.
What does it take to change “the world?”
Passion. We always hear that, but the passion I evoke here is not some indulgent, disconnected emotional swirl but a determined and resilient belief that carries us through the barriers, doubts and distractions, a belief that infuses our thinking and our actions. A passion where you lose track of the clock, where the energy comes from somewhere deeper. If you don’t really care passionately about the organization you lead or the choices in your life, why are you doing it?Purpose. The kind of purpose that changes the world is the trowel that gets to the root of who we always meant to be or wish we could be. Purpose is not market share or brand awareness or even the typically listless expressions of mission and vision. It is about magnifying our own interests to stir the pot of the human condition, to make life better, to represent an ideal or a dream that most people have long ago stuffed in a lower drawer for another day. People follow people of purpose. They remind us of the need to explore our own.
Proficiency. An uncomfortable reality, but you cannot change the world unless you bring a skill, a craft, an art to the task. Otherwise we are dreamers without efficacy. When you look at the people who have changed the world – in politics, art, business, society, sports or the broader human condition – they worked really hard at sharpening their skills. They were great for a reason.
The “world” is a big place to imagine you can change. That’s not the real challenge, It’s the world right around us – the one close at hand where the stakes are highest – where we can begin.
And even finish.