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Articles filed in: Worldview

The Will And The Way

My grandmother was fond of repeating the proverb: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way.’ She’d say it to encourage us to try.

I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated its power until now.

Seeing how our communities and local businesses have adapted to the pandemic restrictions is proof of how innovative and resilient we are.

If someone had told you six months ago: I’ve lost count of the number of times in recent weeks I’ve heard these words in conversation.

There are so many things that none of us could have predicted at the start of this year. Probably most surprising and wonderous of all is how we can and do adapt in service of the collective good.

When it matters we find the way.

Image by Mika Baumeister

On Influence

Many of us go through life feeling powerless to change things. After all, not everyone has leadership status or power conferred upon them. We sometimes believe that influence is a top-down construct—that we can have the most influence from a position of authority.

Let’s challenge that assumption.

Think about someone whose impact helped change how you see the world.

My uncle Larry was that person for me. He was the youngest of my grandmother’s eleven children—born with a genetic disorder that caused many health issues throughout his life and his premature death. Larry never knew his father, who died as he lay sleeping in bed next to him and my grandmother when he was a year old.

When he was thirteen, Larry’s headmaster told him he was too tall to be at school and instructed him to leave. That was the end of his formal education. It was hard for him to find manual work because he was often sick. He learned to love reading and was curious about the world. He chain-smoked and spent hours tinkering with big motorbikes.

Larry introduced me to the library when I was seven. I grew up in a house with no books, so joining the library changed everything. Larry was the one who unlocked the magic of books for me. He taught me to play chess and ride a bike without training wheels. When I went with him to his outpatient hospital appointments, we sat in the canteen over lukewarm tea and Club Milk biscuits watching doctors and nurses coming and going in the corridors. ‘You could be a doctor or a nurse one day,’ Larry said. He was the person who encouraged me to expect the most for and from myself.

I’m willing to bet the people who’ve had an impact on you rarely had the authority to do so. Each one of us, regardless of our status, can choose to be an encourager—an agent of possibility for others.

Image by Seth Stoll

The Right Thing

Long before digital platforms, social media and online reviews we’ve had the incentive to do the right thing.

The need for the protection of our tribe and a sense of belonging to our community meant we adhered to rules and norms for the benefit of the collective good. We needed to do right by others, not just ourselves if we wanted to belong. In the past, it was difficult to say one thing and do another.

In a digital world, this is not the case. We can pay lip service in public on occasion without doing the hard, often unseen work of caring every day.

There’s a difference between being seen to do the right thing and doing the right thing. Everyday actions speak louder than occasional words.

Image by Dan Meyers

The Future We Want To See

Sometimes we fail to act because we’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

So we say and do nothing and wait for the discomfort of the moment to pass.

It’s easier to turn a blind eye than it is to simply say: ‘This is not okay.’

But the future we’re building together depends on every one of us being brave enough to say those words.

The courage to say and do what’s right is the foundation upon which we will build the future we want to see.

Image by Guy Bassabose

Stories For Good

Stories are our most persuasive technology. The stories we tell can be powerful catalysts for change. But the stories that silence us are the most potent of all.

The stories we choose to believe and believe in are the making of us.

We can use our voices to raise the voices of those whose stories have been ignored.

We can choose the narratives that survive and thrive.

We can use stories for good.

Image by Tamarcus Brown

Start To Finish

Conventional wisdom states that you can never have too much information when solving a problem or executing on a plan.

But we all know that information and data alone won’t get us to where we want to go.

All problem-solving and innovation require us also to imagine a future we can’t yet see. And perhaps harder, to have the courage to act despite what we don’t know.

Knowledge allows us to get our bearings, but it’s imagination and action that give us the forward motion we need to to start and finish.

Image by Gaelle Marcel

On Ambition

Before I went to high school, everyone in our year sat an aptitude test. We were eleven years old, and the assessment took place over three hours one morning early in summer.

The goal was to identify each student’s potential and stream girls into year groups based on their IQ. The theory being that matching teaching to students’ abilities would deliver better educational outcomes.

It wasn’t only a pronouncement about our aptitude for learning that was consolidated in our minds, that summer. There was also a levelling of expectations about what was possible for each one of us—not just from our teachers, but in ourselves. Our ambitions were set at the age of eleven.

Career guidance conversations about going to university to study medicine and engineering rarely happened with girls who were not in the top stream. During the five years I was in high school, I saw only a handful of girls moved from one stream to another. Mostly down, hardly ever up.

In subjects like art and music, students’ potential was also identified early, so resources could be devoted to helping those most likely to succeed. We learned very early on to keep our ambition in check—to keep pace as much with our perceived limitations as our proven ability.

These lessons learned at a young age are hard to unlearn. The stories we tell ourselves can make us fearful of being ambitious for the future. Like some of our teachers, armed with the knowledge we have in front of us, we fail to see what might be possible.

Our mistake then, and still now, is our inability to be ambitious for each day. To match our effort with what we aspire to be and change now—not with some projection of our future-self or a future we cannot yet know. We shape the future we want to see in the present. One day at a time.

Image by Victoria Heath

The Human Advantage

Consider the things we value in our interactions with others—kindness, honesty, patience and empathy, for starters. Now, think about how often you experience them.

How many opportunities will you have today to amplify these qualities in your everyday interactions? How many will you take advantage of?

We get to shape the future we want to see—one ordinary, everyday moment at a time.

Image by Rachel

On Failure

I don’t know, are three of the hardest words for fallible human beings to say.

We avoid them at all costs and at every turn.

Because in our eyes, giving the wrong answer is worse than having none at all.

But mistakes are not failings, they are data we can learn from.

Every failure inches us closer to progress.

A wrong turn is simply a sign that you’re still on the journey.

Image by Marcel

The Unremarkable

Lately, we have come to recognise the remarkable contribution of the people many considered unremarkable.

The people who stack our food on the supermarket shelves through the night. The truck drivers who get behind the wheel every day ensuring deliveries reach us. Those who wake early to clean our hospital wards. The workers who once felt disposable, now suddenly seen as essential.

We’d begun to equate remarkability with visibility.
It turns out the two are not the same at all.

Sometimes it’s the thing we do that gets the least applause that makes the biggest impact.

Image by Martijn Baudoin