A few weeks ago, I was inspired by a story I heard. My friend, Pierre, works with low income kids from rough neighborhoods. A kid he mentors recently lost one hundred pounds by changing his diet. Here’s the kicker though: he accomplished all of this on his own and his family thought he was crazy. He did all the research, grocery shopping, and cooking himself. All the while his family looked on and made fun of him. Until they didn’t.
When they saw how dramatically he was able to change his life they began to change themselves. He inspired them with his example. He could have tried to change them. He could have complained to his mother that she doesn’t feed him right and made everyone around him feel bad about the way they were living. But he didn’t. He saw that the only thing he could actually control was himself and his actions. By taking control, not only was he empowering himself, he was empowering the people around him through his example.
It’s easy to lose sight of just how influential we are. Humans are social creatures. We are at once resistant to change and deeply influenced by those around us. Human psychology works in mysterious ways. When we feel like someone is trying to change us, we get defensive. On a deep level it becomes about protecting our identity. But when we see someone doing their own thing and rocking it, we want to be part of the fun. The feeling is aspirational, because who doesn’t want something better?
I catch myself judging others in small ways all the time. Whether it’s strangers on the street, my friends, my partner, or my parents. Whenever I see myself having an expectation that someone else should be acting differently I try to examine my assumptions. Even if I’m 100% sure that it’s best for them, most of the time the best way to get the message across is to have the wherewithal to be the change I want to see in the world.
Recently my mother and I had an argument about trusting people. I felt that it’s important to approach all people with an open heart, especially in business, and she disagreed. I spent an hour trying to change her mind and got frustrated in the process. When I got off the call I realized I was being ridiculous. The best I can do is lead by example and show that it’s possible to build a successful business career by being a trusting person. The same applies to everything else in my life – the best I can do is lead by example. I try to do this in small ways by working harder, spending less time on social media sites, buying less stuff, and being available to the people around me even when I’m busy. I recently realized that I was ordering small items from Amazon almost once a week. It’s not a big deal, but it seems wasteful to ship a book at a time so I’m trying to be more mindful of how often I order things.
There are so many things we can all do every day to create a better world. We can buy and use less stuff, recycle, be generous, practice random acts of kindness, and find small ways to serve the people in our lives. Instead of trying to change the world, how we can start leading by example? By being the best we can be we create an environment that uplifts others and creates a better world for everyone.