“What is inevitable?”
If you’re like most people, something pops into your head when you read that question. You don’t even have to think about it.
Go ahead.. say it.
Now, how do you feel about that inevitable future you imagine?
It’s time to change history.
Chances are, since you’re on a site like this (and you’re human, and you care about shit, and you want to do good in the world), you don’t feel happy and optimistic thinking about what’s inevitable. It scares you. It stops you. You grasp for change that doesn’t come, and end up moving in the wrong direction. In one way or another you’re stuck.
Or perhaps you aren’t stuck at all– you’re sliding fast down a toboggan run, picking up speed, wondering if you’re headed for a crash.
Congratulations. You’re normal.
Which is to say, just like the rest of us, you’re screwed up in your own special ways. And I don’t care. I don’t. It’s a fact, and it’s fine. But I’m not going to ask you to ignore it. I’m going to ask you to get right up in your own face and say, “this is not good enough.” Screw being normal.
From my 43 years of trying and fucking up, here’s something I know:
You have power in you, and you better damn well use it.
There is more to this world than “happiness,” than “productivity,” than hacking your way to some idealized achievement. Your job is not to bliss out and at the same time somehow get all your shit together like you live in a glorious Pinterest board.
Your job is to be a force for good in this world.
That’s the only job any of us has, whether we know it or not. Most of us, everyday, shirk that responsibility in pursuit of lesser things. Selfish things. We waste too much of our lives on things that don’t matter.
Choose. Act. Make mistakes. Begin again.
That’s what you have at your disposal. In fact, that’s all any of us have: choice.
The choices you make– to act, react, create, recreate, start, stop, hesitate, listen, acknowledge, ignore, question, confront, avoid, begin and finish– these are the moments in which your life could change. Choosing the kind of person you want to be and making the impact you want to make is up to you. And choosing to live with yourself and all that comes at you is not an event, but an evolution.
Evolution is underway.
There’s only one species (that we know of) which can evolve within its own lifetime. There’s only one species that can transmit knowledge across space and time. There’s only one species that can bend the planet to its liking, for better or worse. There’s only one species that can make new ones. Can you say robot babies?
I’m not being hyperbolic.
You feel it. For all our progress, we humans get a lot wrong, too. And I don’t mean in some metaphysical sense– I mean we sacrifice greater goods for lesser things, every day. The very things that make us so “powerful” often lead to our undoing. And we’re undoing things faster all the time: jobs, relationships, natural resources, social contracts, our own mental and physical wellbeing…
Civilizations end, as history shows us. Is that inevitable? What about your own little flaws? Your habits? Your unintended consequences? Are they also inevitable outcomes of your brief presence on the planet? Are you here merely to entertain yourself and ride it out? To maximize pleasure and minimize pain?
Or are you evolving… consciously, intentionally… choosing something different, taking action, making mistakes and beginning again?
All life evolves, but not all lives do. Quite miraculously, you get to decide if you will.
Multipliers Make, Dividers Take
We all consume resources. Especially those of us in the rich western world. That’s an issue we all have to reckon with– or be forced to, in one way or another– while the poorest among us bear the greatest burden. Taking from the planet and dividing wealth into ever more concentrated pockets serves what purpose, exactly?
“I got mine.”
That’s noble, I guess. Getting “yours.”
Does it also serve you to get “yours” in competition with your co-workers? What about your neighbors? Friends? Family? What do you give up of yourself in the pursuit of “more?”
In a zero-sum view of the world, there is only so much and you want as much of it as you can get. The math says others must get less. And the ego wishes for it, and strives to make it happen. Popular culture, financial instruments, public policy, racial, ethnic and gender biases, and even many new startups that yield massive investment returns are built on this view. And they work, with cruel efficiency, taking and concentrating resources, often without purpose.
What survives this? Are we no different than a colony of army ants?
The latent power inside you– inside all of us– is to evolve into a multiplier.
While you might be seeking more productivity and some so-called advantage to compete better on your field of play, if your goal is to carve out resources for yourself, you’re only accelerating your decline, and all of ours, with you.
To be clear: I don’t think capitalism is all wrong. I’m a capitalist because I believe meritocracy can work. And I think in many ways, competition in general induces us to create incredible new work, from art to athletics to science and technology. The pinnacles of human performance are astounding.
As I said earlier, however, too often, we sacrifice greater goods for lesser things. That is our default. Striving for things that don’t matter. Using resources without purpose. Wasting time on habits that drain us. Seeking entertainment over knowledge. Putting up emotional barriers to save fragile egos rather than opening up to being wrong, and becoming better.
To be a multiplier, is to be of service. To imagine that your choices should never be an exception, but the rule. To will, in fact, that billions more people behaving like you would make the world better.
Can you say that today? I can’t. Not by a long shot. I think I’m honest and I have integrity. I care about those around me. I think I’m a good person and I’m environmentally conscious, whatever those mean. Do they mean anything?
Adding to the world takes action. It requires we find new ways to do better, be better, in ways that sustain us, both as individuals and as communities, not at the expense of others. It requires we break with old habits, biases and assumptions, because the way things were and continue to be, is not nearly good enough.
You can’t optimize your way to fundamental change. Things have to break first. But the status quo is breaking, anyway.
Ready or not, your future is coming. It’s inevitable.