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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Problem with the Phrase “Instead of Complaining… Do Something About It” — When Talking About Making Massive, Societal Change


I. To create massive change many people think someone else is going to do it. Hypothetically, the problem affects thousands if not millions of people, and someone else is going to be so pissed off about it, that they’ll be the one to solve it… but not me.

I’m certainly guilty of that on some points: campaign finance reform, the de-unionization of some of my acting work, and getting people to stop saying Diet Dr. Pepper tastes like regular Dr. Pepper (it doesn’t).

II. People think they lack the time to make change.
This is often an invisible script in a person’s head. One person taking ten minutes a day to create change might not seem effective (it is). But when that one person can inspire hundreds, thousands, or millions to take ten minutes a day… now we’re getting somewhere.

III. In the very beginning of a change movement, the two prototypes of people needed (in this order):

1) A person who has an idea to make change, who is willing to follow through, and who is willing to rally and inspire the troops as it were.
2) Someone who wields social influence. A celebrity, a queen (not that kind of queen… but maybe actually!), a well-respected person within the community. This person will affect the masses (social proof), telling them that person 1’s idea is brilliant and worthy of implementation.
Note: Point number “2” can take lots of different forms (including that person undeservedly getting a lion’s share of the credit for the work) and the person or persons from point number “1” must stuff their ego for the greater good of getting the job done.

IV. People (non-celebrities) who want to make change in an area where there is a vacuum for strong leadership, think that they have to be the leader or the idea person to make change, when neither of these qualities (leader or idea person) truly suits them.

Not true. A non-leader or non-idea person can affect change by keeping the candle for change lit until a leader and/or idea person steps to the forefront—OR they can help create the search to find the leader and/or idea person.

There is a role for everyone to affect change at some point during the movement: the seamstress, the accountant, the beer master (yea!), the wet nurse, the mechanic.

V. Humans often need to be backed in a corner, away from comfort and toward danger or discomfort, before they will work to create positive change

1) This could be a reason why multi-million dollar athletes often invent or hype up words said by an opposing player, or the coach who cut them from the team in the third grade. On a human level, they have all of their creature comforts… but if they don’t stay motivated, they won’t be able to get better as a player or score their next big contract.
2) How much are we willing to take before things get bad and we’re backed into a corner?

* * *
In fact, what I presented are not really problems with the phrase “Instead of Complaining… Do Something About It;”  but problems that exist because we humans put them there, unnecessarily so. Our species is incredibly resilient, smart, and resourceful.
Things haven’t always been this way. Someone or something else affected change to become this way. You are part of this incredibly resilient, smart, and resourceful species as well—meaning you, too have the ability to create that change you want to see in the world.