It’s rare to hear someone believe they’re set to change the world. Usually those doing so are yelling their proclamation at a passing pigeon, whilst not wearing any pants. I remember probably six or seven years ago, a friend left me dumbfounded by saying he thought we both shared the same belief. I’d always privately thought it, but no one had ever been so grand, so bold and brash enough to actually admit it. Out loud, as well. And I wasn’t a pigeon. And he was wearing pants.
In books and films, we’d form a bond, discuss our mutual passions and, despite shadowy figures in dark alleys and behind the scenes corporate bastards hatching a takeover, we would be victorious and become braziliones!! We would then help others too to reach their goals, each one of us taking over the world, passing a baton between us like Atlas carrying the world on our back!
I Am Iron Man!
But this declaration had the absolute contradictory effect: I realised that most people probably shared the same dream, and that most people will fail, including myself. The fact is not everyone can be Albert Einstein or Leonardo de Vinci, it just doesn’t work that way. At the time I was trying to complete my magnum opus, punishing myself to publish by the time I was 30, and miserable at my failure. Writers exult the importance of finding your voice: mine wasn’t even a dead-parrot’s chirp. Then followed years of avoiding writing, getting regularly drunk and sleeping with a tremendous amount of . . . ermm, woman. I mean, perhaps solving the world’s problems and being the beacon of light for mankind maybe a step too far for someone that regularly locks himself out of his own house. My girlfriend now leaves me reminders.
Chatting Up Birds
I think many people start off with the same ideal, but don’t know quite where to start. Not knowing what to do or how in fact to do it, you bumble along for a few decades and then poof! Life has passed by and you realise the only life-changing vision occurred after a particularly dodgy vindaloo. This adds nothing but regret, unhappiness and a blocked cistern. Yet the realisation of perhaps not taking the world and spinning it on its axis like a basketball, flicking it around my back and shooting from downtown for a 3-pointer was a bit of a sigh of relief. It’s a lot of work! Over the years, I came to realise that most successful people probably don’t set out to change the world at all: that way only leads to one place, and the pigeons have confirmed they’re sick of hearing about it.
Change itself is a funny one. We are taught in a corporate environment to embrace change. There are Change Managers, Change Analysts and even Change Agents that . . . well, they rent out change, or something. You must be seen to love change, to hug it like a puppy until its eyes bulge. I am not one of those people, unfortunately. If I come to work one day and someone moves my desk into a toilet cubicle and puts ten-inch nails on my seat, I shall not raise a vigil in thanks to the Change God. I like improvement, not change. They are NOT the same thing.
So let’s change (ha!) the phrasing: improve the world. Now we’re getting somewhere, that’s clearer. Perhaps we should be a bit more specific on the world too: who’s world exactly do you want to change? I mean, you can’t even see the world unless you’re in space, so if instead of the entire world, what if we focused purely on the world around you? You can see that, for a start. It’s far more tangible and a truckload less daunting. This ultimately leaves the original Change the World Atlas-weighted statement to simply “Improve the World Around You.” No longer are you taking on Goliath, but perhaps a few kittens that have big wellington boots on. Yeah, I’d embrace that.
The World Around You could just be you. As the sage Michael Jackson said, perhaps start off with the Man in the Mirror. Compassion for others is one thing, you need to be compassionate with yourself. Or it could be the world for you and your family. What could you do to improve the lives of the people around you? Be a millionaire and move everyone to a huge mansion! Well, yes, you could do that . . . but how about starting with the washing up? How about mowing the lawn? How about lifting people up when they’re down, and giving a kindly word when you see someone feeling the weight of Atlas.
What about helping those in your immediate vicinity such as neighbours, community, school, hospital? Does someone in your street need some groceries once a week because they find it hard to get out at their age? There are many things you could do to improve the world around you, and if you did that, perhaps others would too, and you’d each make the world a better place to live. Pigeons included.