The idea of being a world changer is a fairly modern concept. It’s enabled by the globalization and technological advances of recent decades. It’s reinforced by millennial idealism and hustle culture today.
Our society is hungry for rags-to-riches stories. We’re enamored by the prospects of social media celebrity and startup IPOs. Anything seems possible these days. It’s the American dream on steroids.
Unfortunately, this distorts our outlook on life. People act as though they themselves are startups. If something doesn’t offer immediate return (in the form of cash or followers), they “pivot” to something else. Some repeat the process in the hopes of finding that one breakthrough idea. (Spoiler: few ever do.)
Others are paralyzed by fear, lest their idea isn’t big enough or won’t scale. They want to be visionaries carrying messianic messages. They aim to start a movement, not another small business or local nonprofit. It’s a fail-fast culture, neglecting consistent value creation in favor of singular, headline-worthy moments.
Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a sizeable impact. But like Dr. Sachin Jain, a health system CEO, comments on his industry: “I worry that underneath the smoke of health care innovation, there is no real fire, but individuals motivated less by real change than by profit or worse, recognition.”
Some only want to be on the winning team. They want to work on industry-disrupting, world-changing initiatives. They don’t concern themselves with projects they deem “too small” to be worth their time.
Yet many of them don’t end up accomplishing much at all. From afar, they appear to do impressive work. But a closer look reveals little real benefit to others. What they have in ambition, they lack in results.
Certainly, if you have the skills and opportunities to bring monumental positive change, by all means, go for it. But don’t chase legacy for legacy’s sake. Don’t let ambition be the barrier to meaningful action in the everyday—small, consistent, value-adding actions. It’s better to make an impact where you are—and through the people you affect—than to spin your wheels and waste your life.
Start changing your world today.
This is the first post in our series: Challenging Your Self-Limiting Assumptions.