“The world has the habit of making room for the man whose actions show that he knows where he is going.”
The other day, shortly before my flight pushed back from the gate I got an email from a reader, who I will call Julie, which read in part:
“I’ve been trying really hard to influence change and use my lever for almost three years and I’ve seen little fruit born of my efforts outside of my family. It’s beyond frustrating. So I read your posts and either think ‘Yes! I’m going to get back on the horse and move the world!” or “Forget this stupid lever! Nothing is going to convince people to put actual people at the top of their priority lists over their stupid pride and TV shows. Forget you all!”
The Scourge of the Ambitious
As I was cruising along at 31,000 feet I found myself thinking about Julie’s frustration and wondering how best to encourage her.
I know exactly how she feels.
What Julie is experiencing affects anyone and everyone who has ever tried to affect positive change in their life or the lives of others. There is always resistance in the journey to become or do something good.
Much of the resistance comes from the nagging voices in your head constantly questioning your ability and filling you with fear and doubt.
“You don’t know enough.”
“You don’t have the credentials.”
“You’re too much of a flake.”
“Nobody else has fixed this, what makes you think you can do it”?
And on and on the voices go.
Meanwhile, as you contend with those internal naysayers, outside you see the stupidity, evil and apathy of humanity on full display everywhere you go. Confronting all of this can make you feel like a tiny little nothing standing at the base of an insurmountable stone wall you know you have to climb.
Keeping Things In Perspective
Please, please, PLEASE don’t be.
The very fact that you are having this internal battle means that you are doing something right.
Winning this battle against your own fears, weaknesses and frustrations is part of the price you must pay for success.
As you fight that battle let me offer four things to think about in an effort to help you keep things in perspective.
1) You’re Accomplishing More Than You Think
Just because the fruits of your efforts aren’t immediately obvious doesn’t mean that your efforts are a waste of time.
Chances are you are accomplishing far more than you realize, but you are too close to your own circumstances to see it.
For example, Julie is an extremely busy wife and mother.
I know her kids well enough to know that they are all great little gentleman. They are polite, kind, happy, fun loving and they are very, very good boys.
As those boys grow the efforts and influence that Julie and her husband made to teach them to fight for positive change will be multiplied. Each boy will discover his own talents and passions and develop skills and relationships to go make his own difference in the world.
Julie may not be able to recognize the great foundation she’s laying in the characters of her children but it is obvious to those around her.
2) Great Things Don’t Happen Quickly
I’ve always been amazed at the fact that many of the great European cathedrals took centuries to build.
What motivated people to undertake such huge projects when they knew they’d never see them completed?
I’d like to think that, at least in part, they wanted a magnificent place for their posterity to worship and they feared that if they didn’t start it, nobody ever would.
We have largely lost that kind of long term vision in a world where too many people have a meme-length attention span.
As Lever Builders let’s not lose our long term vision.
While the results of our efforts may not come to full fruition for a generation or two, the foundation we lay may touch innumerable lives in ways we can’t even comprehend.
3) Humanity’s Problems Are Really Big
Jesus said “the poor always ye have with you (John 12:8).”
Despite our best efforts, during the 2000+ years since those words were spoken, poverty is still one of humanity’s most vexing and pervasive problems.
That’s to say nothing of the myriad of other ills that plague humanity: drug/alcohol addiction, spouse/child abuse, crime, racism, violence, pornography, greed, tyranny,war.
You’d think after millennia of this nonsense we would have figured some things out. If the whole of humanity can’t make it right, it’s going to be really hard for you to do it yourself.
So don’t try.
This is why we talk about focusing on your Circle of Influence. Focus on what you CAN do right now. Start there, celebrate the victories and then keep growing.
4) Change Occurs One Person at a Time
Change is an individual process. It always has been; it always will be.
The good news is when one person changes, it becomes easier to help others change. One voice becomes two; two become four and so on.
So don’t feel that you’re failing if you need to focus on helping/changing one person at a time.
Also recognize that building a lever and using it to make a positive influence in the world is a process. That process is as much about the growth you experience as a person as it is about the external outcomes you achieve.
So don’t get too discouraged if you aren’t seeing the external results you hope for.
Don’t forget to take a look in the mirror every once in awhile and celebrate the changes that are taking place there.
Never, Ever Give Up
So to sum all this up, here’s my plea to Julie, and to myself and to anyone else struggling to feel like they’re gaining traction: please be patient.
Be patient with yourself, with your growth, with your efforts to drive change and, yes, even the people all around you.
The weight of the world is a big burden, that’s why we need a lever to lift it.
Building the skills and relationships that form your lever takes time but like so many things in life, change starts small and then, through patient, consistent effort it gains momentum.
You can do great things for yourself, your family and those around you. Keep focused on your Circle of Influence, do what you can now and keep building skills and relationships to expand your Circle.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Napolean Hill:
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”
Keep up the great work everybody! I’m proud to be associated with all of you.