What You Can Do

Question Gus was asked on Quora: How can one single person change the world?

His reply: Thanks for asking this question – it’s an important one.

I think that only one person can change the world … and that starts with the personal decision to do so.

There’s a famous scene in the Apollo 13 movie where Tom Hanks’ character (astronaut Jim Lovell) is standing in his backyard looking up at the moon on the night in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on it. He turns to his wife and says: “It’s not a miracle, you know: we just decided to do it.”

Staying with space examples for the moment, in recent years one man, Elon Musk, has completely rejuvenated worldwide interest in getting to Mars. Of course, after he made the decision to commit to that vision, thousands of other people have been buying into it, in small ways or big ways, making it possible for plans to be laid and pursued. Nevertheless, without Elon Musk as the initiating influence, it’s unlikely anyone else would have garnered the same interest and support. What we don’t know is whether someone else convinced him it was a good idea.

We wouldn’t have had people landing on the moon in 1969 if John F. Kennedy had not set that as a goal for the whole nation in 1961. That’s a well known fact. But what most people don’t know is that it was then Vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson who convinced Kennedy this was the goal they needed to capture the nation’s imagination: nothing less.

Even then, they both had to keep selling the project hard over the next 4 years (Kennedy dying in the meantime) before it finally achieved a momentum of its own. So we have Johnson to thank, along with the thousands like Kennedy who then helped make the vision come true, that it happened when it did.

But who was it who first convinced Johnson of this? It’s unlikely that he came up with it all by himself. It could have even been someone wholly unqualified who first made the suggestion. Some young intern or somebody working on Johnson’s ranch in Texas.

History will never know the answer to that question, but it seems more than likely to me that the idea passed through several “hands” before it reach the vice-president of the United States, who then convinced the President of its likely value.

Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. -Victor Hugo

Virtually every human artefact you see in front of you today started out as an idea in one mind. The fact that it looks and functions the way it does today will be the result of many different inputs that also started out as ideas in many other minds, modifying the original conception. And many of those people may have made a greater contribution to turning the idea into a reality than its originator.

Nevertheless, without the original idea it is almost certain the thing you see before you would have turned out differently and at a later date, if at all. And the same for all the modifying inputs. Every single input represents one person changing the world a little or a lot.

The reason we don’t have more positive change occurring in the world right now is because people don’t realize how much power they can wield to do good. They let themselves off the hook by asking, Yes, but what can I do? The pity of it is that each of us can do so much more than we think we can.

All you ever have to do is see for yourself what is needed in the world around you and then try to help make it happen. It matters not whether you originate a new idea or simply make a difference to what’s already happening through your own contribution, small or great. You are still one person having some impact. Keep on trying to bring about what you see is needed in whatever way seems practical to you and you will end up changing the world too.

If you think that sounds like a good idea, here’s another Quora answer of mine that gives more detail on how to go about it and stick with it: What are some things you realize as you get older?

By the way, this will transform you too in the process. The longer you persist in implementing what you see is needed, the higher your own self-esteem will climb.


Only a few of Gus’s answers on Quora have been copied
to this blog. To see more of his insights on Quora click here.


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Posted April 22, 2019 at 2:59 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink
In: Misc