I think a lot of people want to change the world, mostly because it’s more than slightly depressing when you take it at face value. Or at least that’s what I thought when I was 7, and learned about the concept of global warming. I spent the better part of 2 weeks, thinking I had to singlehandedly come up with a solution otherwise we would all die due to a lack of ozone layer (yes, these are the videos I watched when I was little- I think it explains a lot). Anyway, after two weeks of intense thinking/worrying/hoping that I would come up with something in time to save the planet, I ran to my dad one morning because I had finally come up with the perfect solution. I think my overwhelming emotion was…relief. Yes! I have something and now we don’t have to die! Phew! My solution? Putting a plant at the end of the exhaust pipe of every car so it would suck up all the carbon dioxide before it went out into the atmosphere. When my dad, very gently, told me that it was a good thought, bur probably wouldn’t solve all our problems, I just broke down and started crying (a lot) because I thought we were all going to die and there was nothing I could do about it.
Where am I going with this?
I think at some point along whatever journey we take, we feel like 7 year old Anu. It gets really really depressing if you look up and see this ridiculously huge problem you’re trying to solve and get frustrated at not seeing change, or feeling like you’re not contributing, or maybe you don’t even know what to do. And in this day and age, everyone wants to see results, and everyone wants to be the person that cures cancer, or eradicates poverty, or I don’t know- does something else really awesome. But sometimes, I would even say MOST of the time, we just don’t see anything. For a really long time, if at all ever.
And it sucks. A lot. It makes you depressed and sometimes it makes you cry a lot and sometimes it makes you want to just curl up in fetal position and just sleep for a really long time and eat a lot of chocolate during the periods when you are required to be up because you have guests in the house (may or may not be speaking from personal experience…) The point is, it’s just all bad.
So what do you do about it?
Well, I think the biggest thing is that you can’t pin your happiness on results. Let me say it again- don’t pin your happiness on outcomes. This seems counter intuitive right? But really, it’s the only way you’ll survive. And if you think about it, all great people who did great things followed the same path. For example:
- Google: They were just two guys who were doing this side project and wanted to build this really cool thing. Did they set out to build the worlds largest and most recognized search engine? No. They just focused on doing what they could do, and they rocked at it. (Read all about it here)
- Michael Jordan & The Chicago Bulls: They sucked ass prior to their first championship in 1991. And to be quite honest, Michael Jordan wasn’t very pleasant either. He knew where he wanted to go but he actually took each day as it came. He didn’t even worry about the next day. He broke a season into multiple games, and he broke games into 4 quarters, and that’s what he worried about. How well he did that quarter. Literally, that’s all he thought about. Well, that and making his team perform. But game time was game time. And that was his focus. (Read about it here)
- Paul Graham: In one of his blog posts, basically lays down the game plan for changing the world. And that’s exactly what he says. One thing at a time. Don’t worry about the big picture. Otherwise you’ll just fail. (Read the relevant excerpt here on the NextDrop blog at the end of the post)
There will always be work to do and problems to solve, and really, if you worry about the big picture all the time, it’s the fastest way to go nowhere. So whatever you do, just keep on doing it. Just make sure you enjoy that bit of it. If you would still do what you do every day (even if you never see any results) would you still do it? For me, the answer is yes- because it’s not perfect, and nothing may ever come of it, but I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile- and it’s the best I can come up with. And I truly believe that most people fall into that category- whether you’re an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a mechanic, an artist, a parent, a friend, whatever it is. You’re doing your part to keep the world going. By just being a good human being, you’re doing your part. By doing the best at your job, you’re doing your part. That’s the only thing you have control over, and that’s the only thing you should really care about.
And if we get lucky- like Michael Jordan or the Google Guys- and we actually see the results of what we do, then that’s just a bonus.
But if we get lucky, or if we don’t, it doesn’t matter. Because we can at least be happy in knowing we tried. And that, I think, is the most important part.
Be Good, Be Happy, Be You
3 thoughts on “A Realist’s Guide To Changing The World”
After I read a book about how the Amazon Rainforest was being cut down, I was convinced that everyone should go live in caves so they would stop using up so many resources. It was my mom that told me things weren’t that simple.
Anyways- great message.
Maybe you should share this video with your dad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxjgyFiBLMg
He’s also a fellow Forbes 30 under 30 in the energy category: http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2012/30-under-30/30-under-30_energy.html
So, hey, maybe your advice on just following your path and focusing on excelling is right on! 😉
Great message! And Happy Holidays to you too ❤