How to Make a Difference in Your HometownPosted: August 31, 2014
This is it, everybody. Time to make a difference. We’re done clicking like buttons, we’re done saying “you know, what they should do is…”, we’re done sitting on the sidelines watching our towns go down the toilet. It’s time to do… what?
What do you do with all of that pent up energy that is dying to make a difference?You have to act, and you have to act quickly, or else that shouting will become a whisper lost in all of the rest of the noise. You almost wish that there was a blueprint that read, “Every city, in order to reach its highest potential must complete these steps in this order. Number 1…”
But there’s not. Bubble burst. However, I do think that there are 3 steps that you, personally, can do to prepare yourself to make the biggest impact whenever the opportunity strikes.
STEP 1: Kill Your Own Demon.
“BUT MY TOWN SUCKS. IT’S SO BORING AND LAME.”
Listen, your town doesn’t suck. If I hear you say that your town sucks again, I’m going to punch you in the throat. Through the screen. That’s how serious I am. Change your thinking; if you are not happy, find things to do and people to be with that make you happy. What is a city if it’s not a gathering of people. And until you’ve met every single person in your city and had a beer with them, there is plenty of fun to be had.
“BUT I’M SO BUSY!!!! HOW COULD I EVER MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN MY COMMUNITY WHEN I’M SO SWAMPED WITH WORK????”
This is a big glaring smelly one. You know, when I first started all of this nonprofit stuff to begin with, I got in a big raging argument with my mother about the role of “work” in a normal person’s life. Long story short, I argued that most people tend to live a very circular life that started at exhaustion and led to unfulfillment (made up word; who knew?). Wake up, work 9 to 5, get your paycheck, buy shit on credit that you don’t need, pay back credit with interest, get stressed out, wake up earlier so you can go into work earlier to get that bonus to make up for the interest for that one thing you don’t need that just makes you OH SO SAD.
I argued that I just didn’t want to take part in it, so I loaded up in a van and drove around yapping about social justice for several years. Then I came home as a poor guy and got a 9 to 5 job. However, maybe, just maybe, there’s a secret passageway out of all of this muck. What if we stop the cycle at buying shit we don’t need? What if we worked 9 to 5, stashed the money, let it compound, stashed more money, let it compound, and before you know it, that whole job thing is entirely optional. I realize this sounds crazy. But it’s there, in the numbers. We’ll look at it, pinky promise – just not today. What I need for you to take away from this is that we control our lives – our stuff does not control our lives. When we take control of our lives again, all of the color comes back into the world. And, I would argue that at that point, we are in the best – really, the ONLY – place to make a meaningful impact on our community.
STEP 2: Surround Yourself with Awesome People.
In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins made a wonderful analogy. Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus. Get everybody in their right seat. THEN figure out where the bus is going.
“I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START!!! SHOULD I VOLUNTEER AT A SOUP KITCHEN, TEACH KIDS, WHAT?!?”
Awesome, that’s a perfect place to be. And until you have the perfect team around you, you’re probably not ready to jump in full force yet. So the priority is finding the best people in the city and becoming friends with them, then becoming do-gooders together. The obvious question is, “what’s the type of person I should surround myself with?”
I like to ask myself, “If I was going into a 50/50 business partnership, would I want this person to be the other 50% of my business?” We’re looking for drive, we’re looking for follow through, we’re looking for at least a decent mastery of the English language.
Now, I’m going to be honest – the answer to that question is going to be a giant NO much more often than the answer will be yes. It’s just the way it is, everybody. Don’t kill the messenger. Focus on making yourself that desirable partner, keep your eyes peeled, and go to functions where you’re likely to meet those outstanding individuals. Oh, there’s a Boys & Girls Club Fundraiser Banquet next week? Better buy tickets and look sharp, because we’re going to mingle!
STEP 3: Let the Project Present Itself.
“I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOOOO!!”
Here’s the magical thing about finding the right people. When you’re with the right folks the solution creeps out of the closet, grabs you around the waist, throws you over its shoulder, and body slams you right into the position that you need to be. You just can’t keep the RIGHT people from doing good. You just can’t. Don’t believe me? Just try it.
Your conversations will go something like this, “Hey I was volunteering over at such-and-such and I overheard what’s-his-name talking about how the English department doesn’t have the funding for one of those thing-a-ma-jigs. How’s about we throw a fundraiser?” And the conversation will take off from there.
So, with all of that said: What are your thoughts? Willing to give it a try? If not, why? If so, let me know how it goes. This stuff (like Rome) doesn’t happen in a day and each of these steps could (and do) have books written about them. Patience and perseverance – that’s what it’ll take.