I’m a writer. In my mind, my essays help people think. Maybe spark a change in thinking patterns and/or a movement.
To see straight in a world that bends our perspective. Maybe, they do. Sometimes, they probably don’t.
Sometimes, I do question whether my musings (pun intended) are enough to spark a change, a movement, a mental paradigm shift.
This is true for any artist, entrepreneur, researcher and self-starter.
Most of us have big ambitions. I know I do. We want to change the world.
The problem is you can’t do it on purpose. All you can do is lead with intent.
Think about the word ‘movement’ and how often you hear it these days. Everyone seems to be starting a movement.
From your WhatsApp group of angry Nigerians railing at the government to a community policing Facebook group but these are not real movements.
They’re not real movements because they never go anywhere. There’s no cause, no destination.
They’re brands and their followers merely tolerate their presence or enjoy it at best.
A movement is about what people do after they come in touch with your brand. Do they say “okay” and open their inbox for you?
The distinction is as much a matter of motivation as it is of communication. Changing yourself is hard. Changing others is even harder.
But if you don’t tell them what change you’re here to make, why would they join? There’s nowhere to go to. No cause, no destination.
And because the cause is different from the brand, most people and companies never consciously choose one.
The brand is what people see, what you can cultivate and create the appearance of.
The cause is what people feel. What their gut tells them about why you do what you do. What changes they want to make because of you.
If you follow me, where will I lead you to? It’s “do as I do,” not “do as I say.”
And so it goes that the culture of a movement is never fully intentional. Only the cause is. If anything, trying to dictate the character of a movement hurts your chances.
It’s noble to want to leave the world better than we found it, but constantly announcing this takes away a large chunk of that nobleness.
Your cause is yours to live and yours alone. It’s on us to choose to follow.
We forget this. Partly because of our noisy, internet-fueled, global conversations have made it seem like raising awareness is about talking. It’s not.
It’s a matter of doing things worth talking about. The other reason we forget is that branding is a lot more comfortable than leading. Leading is lonely.
The truth is most of us will never change the world. Or even a large part of it.
Most of us will never start real movements.
Maybe we’re not meant to.
Because our timing’s off.
Because the spark doesn’t catch fire. That’s okay.
But we all stand for something. We all represent a cause, conscious or not.
Choosing your cause and acting on it, leading the way there with intent, will always be a big service to some of us. We all have friends. Peers, coworkers, families.
Don’t underestimate the impact of this service. It’s always worth doing, regardless of who chooses to follow.
But if you really want to change the world, leading with intent towards a certain cause is an absolute necessity.
Because 90% of it isn’t up to you, and this is the 10% that is.
Go on. Think hard. It takes time. But when you find something worth standing for, plant your flag.
Commit for the long haul.
Stay on higher ground.
Keep walking until you’re there.
And when you finally turn around, you’ll know if we chose to follow.