Start a Movement
There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people. —Fannie Lou Hamer
Starting a movement is key, but let’s not discount the importance of joining a movement. After all, if nobody throws in with you on an issue then all you’ve really got is a false start—so along with true leadership comes followship, which refers to the qualities we expect to find in those falling into step behind the leaders in their midst.
And speaking of followship, let’s not forget how important it is to have people around us to offer a kind of reality check. Leaders need followers to let them know if their concerns are real, if their strategies are sound, if the changes they’re seeking are even possible…basically, a kind of sounding board to determine the efficacy of an idea.
What’s needed is a collection of objective, reasonable people who perhaps share our concerns and are uniquely positioned to weigh in on whether or not we’re moving in the right direction.
Take a look and see if you can recognize some of these traits in yourself, as you seek to make a difference and make your movement matter:
1) Leaders need to have a vision: without a clear call to action that offers hope for the future, you’ll never line up the support you’ll need to get out of the gate…
2) Followers must let it be known that they share in that vision: you’ll need to know in the early going that people are responding to that call…
3) Leaders need to develop a team: there ought to be some level of consensus building, and delegating of authority, as you set off in pursuit of your shared goal…you might start out as a kind of lone wolf, but you can’t go it alone indefinitely…
4) Followers must take on subordinate roles in this dynamic until they’re comfortable stepping out in front and taking on more of a leadership role: there must emerge a group of supporters who assent to your direction and leadership, and look to enhance that direction and leadership as your cause gains momentum…
5) Leaders need to keep reinforcing their vision: it’s not enough to simply state your ideas or your objectives and then put the whole thing on autopilot…no, you must tend and nurture your mission, perhaps even allowing for a course-correction or two along the way…
6) Followers must be willing to disrupt the status quo: if it happens that you start to lean the wrong way, or reach for a shortcut that somehow undermines your stated mission, it’s helpful to have someone in the ranks who will keep you honest and help you refocus… What you’re looking for here is constructive criticism, not destructive criticism..
Be the Change Where You Live
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. —Maya Angelou
Our communities are our touchstones: we live and breathe in our commitment to each other. And yet we live such fast-paced lives, often in isolation, that it can be tough to know how our neighbors are doing, or what they’re up to. Even in our biggest cities, we can sometimes feel alone together—meaning, we’re stuck in our own orbit, focused on our own stuff, even as we’re surrounded by the folks upstairs, downstairs, next door, across the street, and clear across town. Where we should be bound by proximity and all these common points of reference, we are all too often moving to circumstances entirely our own.
Did you know studies show that casual conversation helps to keep us better connected? That’s one of the great side benefits of stopping in to check up on your neighbors. If you’ve got an elderly neighbor, or if you live next door to someone who has a little difficulty getting around, why not check in on him or her and see if they need anything the next time you go to the store? Why not shovel the sidewalk in front of their home after it snows? Or grab their newspaper from the curb and toss it onto their porch when you’re out to collect yours on a rainy day? Help fix their mailbox if it falls off its post, or offer to walk their dog when the weather’s lousy. There’s no end to the little things you can do to brighten someone’s day or ease someone’s burden—better yet, enlist your children to help in this way and maybe get them started on a lifetime of giving and caring.
These small kindnesses add up and we’ll do well to restore a sense of community and connectedness in what ways we can.
Be Prepared to Walk a Lonely Road
Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. —Eleanor Roosevelt
Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, but it almost always starts at home and grows from there—and, as often as not, it asks a whole lot from those out in front. As our leaders rise to meet their roles they tend to take on similar shape. In one way or another, at one point or another, they are all made to suffer the judgment of public opinion. They’re all made to walk that lonely road for what can sometimes feel like an interminable stretch—to stand alone or apart before the rest of the world comes around.
Whether you’re starting a movement, or simply standing firm in the face of injustice or uncertainty, you can expect to go it alone for a while. You can expect to take a whole lot of heat from those whose interests don’t quite align with your own. But know this: as long as you have a clear idea where you’re going and trust in your ability to get there, that lonely road will open up for you before long—and even if you take a wrong turn along the way, you’ll have it in you to double back, dig deep, and continue the fight.
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. —Friedrich Nietzsche
We all need time to think, right? To consider…to reconsider.
Watch the grand masters play chess and you’ll see that every move is carefully measured. The pace of play is very slow—it’s remarkable to watch, especially if you understand the game, because the precise move is not always so apparent. Every once in a while they’ll go on the clock, but for the most part they take the time to think a couple moves ahead, to plan their strategy, to weigh every possible scenario before moving forward.
not suggesting we live our lives in this methodical way, anticipating every possible outcome and defending ourselves from every conceivable line of attack, but there’s something to be said for patience and deliberation. Sure, every once in a while we’ve got no choice but to be on the clock and follow our instincts, but our baseline tactic should be to take our time, to move with care and caution, to think through where we’re going and how we mean to get there
Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. —Nelson Mandela
Resilience needs a guiding hand, don’t you think? That’s why we see athletes reach down to help up an opponent who might have fallen on the last play, why colleagues might lift each other up after a tough slog at work. And then of course there’s the garden-variety resilience we all need to tap that has nothing to do with grief or depression or injury. There’s the deep well of regret that often finds us when we fall short of a long-held goal. Or the soft fall of disappointment when things simply don’t go our way. What happens when you set out to achieve something at work or in your personal life—something you really want, something you believe you really deserve—and it remains just out of reach?
Sometimes willing it and working for it can’t quite make it so, which leaves you with a couple options. You can either pick yourself up and go at it again—perhaps with a slightly different strategy or approach—or you can set your sights on another objective. If a door has been closed to you at work, you can try beating it down and hoping it will finally open up for you, but at some point you might realize it’s an exercise in futility. After all, it’s one thing to be resilient, and quite another to fool yourself into thinking absolutely anything is possible.
Get Out of Your Silo
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. —Isaac Asimov
Why in the world would we ever stop reading, listening, learning new things, exploring? Why would we refuse to listen to someone on an issue just because we happen to disagree with them on another issue? It makes no sense and yet there are too many people who’ve become entrenched in their thinking. Worse, they’ve become complacent. They content themselves with what they already know and seem to have no desire to know anything more…or anything else.
One of the most effective communication strategies is to talk to people about something other than what we’re meant to talk about. Look out for the things people put on display and when you ask them about these things it can help you to find some common ground, which is where we need to be if we hope to move this country forward—and, as a bonus, it warms people up and allows you to talk about whatever it is you’re meant to talk about.
So go ahead and shake things up. Read a book on a subject that’s unfamiliar to you. Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine known for its in-depth reporting, one that doesn’t rely on attention-grabbing, clickbait-type headlines to attract readers. Attend a lecture at your local college or university. And while you’re shaking things up, be sure to mix things up, as well. If Fox News happens to be your thing, that’s fine, but try to balance it out with a little bit of CNN. If you read the Wall Street Journal, take a look at the New York Times, as well.
Be discriminating in what you take in, so that what you put back out into the world is thoughtful, meaningful, impactful.
Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes
We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
That we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. When we take the time to visualize and perhaps even internalize the struggles and challenges facing others, we’re better able to help them, to understand them, to support them. Sure, it’s important to be resilient.
But sometimes a person simply can’t see the sunrise. Sometimes a situation is so bleak there’s no way out of it without a helping hand. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes reminds us to be more compassionate, and more considerate, and it pushes us to a place where we can better appreciate our own blessings and think, There but for the Grace of God go I
Know That You Are Made Special
Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality. —Malala Yousafzai
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, and each other, is the reminder that we are all unique. You are special, and you were made special, and you are meant to do something with all of your special gifts that no one else is able to do because they were not made in quite the same way.
That’s a pretty awesome responsibility, don’t you think? And so, for the final step to bringing about meaningful change, become the very best versions of yourself you can be.
After all, we’re all part of the same puzzle. Our pieces are meant to fit together to create a beautiful mosaic that allows us to serve our communities and each other, and to make the world a better place. The difficulty comes in stepping back from our day-to-day and being painfully honest about how the choices we’re making line up with the choices we are meant to make, and whether or not we’re doing the most we can with what we’ve been given.