I have renewed vigor to solve every problem the world has ever had.
Some of my earliest memories are of working out how to eradicate homelessness, global hunger and war. Obviously, I didn’t succeed. My parents have always taken refuge in the religious idea that God would solve these problems, and while a part of me wasn’t super happy to hand over all of the problem solving to someone else (even God), I wasn’t quite sophisticated enough to argue for any better alternative. What resulted, however, was my belief that all the problems of the world WOULD be solved and it was just a matter of time. Homelessness, global hunger and war were in good hands.
As an adult, I went through a time of self-discovery that didn’t include a loyalty to the religion of my youth. Not a whole-sale rejection, but I definitely no longer believed saving the world was something I needed to wait on. If I wanted to see global hunger taken care of in my lifetime, then I was going to have to help facilitate it in some way.
On top of this realization (which was a big one, by the way), I had finally reached an age where I could recognize the quantity, scope, and sheer complexity of world problems. It was up to me to solve them, and they were HARD. This may sound stupid and idealistic, but at some point in my twenties I truly held the belief that it was up to me to do it all. There was a moment when the question first hit me, “How in one lifetime was I going to accomplish this?” I just zoned out on the couch with my eyes the size of saucer plates and the word “whoa” playing on loop in my brain.
In the same way the 10 year old entrepreneur realizes that in order to make a million bucks they just need to get a million people to give them a dollar, I had a slightly more complex version of this epiphany hit me in regards to saving the world: I didn’t need to solve every problem, I just needed to find people who were passionate about ONE of the problems I wanted to solve, and then do whatever I could to help THEM.
There is a lot – and I mean A LOT – of wasted human energy represented on the planet right now. We focus on the most basic necessities, get those covered and then call it good. Am I surviving? Well, I’m not dead yet. Are my safety and security needs met? I have a roof over my head, and food in the fridge. Do I have people who love me and accept me in my life? Yup, have a “Friends and Family” plan on my cell phone. All good.
And then they just… stop. Stop being ambitious, stop seeing the more they could be offering. Now, granted, it’s not exactly EASY to get all of those needs met, and a fair bit of energy is required to nail down those three things (survival, safety/security, love and belonging). But if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s not the burden here in the United States and in other developed countries that it is for most of the world. On top of that, we’re not only lucky compared to the rest of the world, we’re extremely lucky in THIS time period of history. We have it extraordinarily cushy when you think about it, living better than Solomon in most respects.
That means this is the best time in history to capitalize on our circumstances and start REALLY looking at solutions. Sure, we still have “first world problems,” and sometimes they hurt. But let’s put things into perspective. We don’t deal with death on the scale that people did even 100 years ago, we generally have extraordinary freedom over our time (even if you work full time) since it doesn’t take, say, four hours to do laundry and we, as a culture, have gotten a little ‘soft’. That’s okay – I’m all for acclimating to a high quality lifestyle. That said, if our ancestors are any indication of what human beings can accomplish, we’ve got more inside of ourselves than we acknowledge, and often times way more than we’re actually giving.
So, let’s get back to how other people are going to save the world for me.
No one denies there’s a need to come up with solutions. Even the most zen of zen masters knows the world is mostly asleep, even if they’re accepting reality non-judgmentally. Qualitatively good or bad, there are challenges on this planet and they need people to create solutions.
No one denies that we, as a species, could be doing more. And no one thinks it’s going to happen magically. It’s going to take creativity and work from us as humans, and us as individuals.
Happily, that’s where you come in.
I have three questions for you:
1. If you could eradicate one problem on this planet, which one would it be? (Malnutrition? Sex trade? Animal cruelty? Pollution? Domestic violence? Curable diseases? Incurable disease? Be specific.)
2. What is your actual level of passion for giving value back to the planet? On the scale of “drop everything to work on the solution” to “total and complete apathy,” where do you fall?
3. What can I do to be of assistance in helping you a) develop passion to solve this challenge, and b) equip you to make it happen?
As a student of complex human systems, I’ve been blown away by the usefulness of models to solve major challenges. A lot of why we waste our energy as human assets is that we simply don’t know how (and where) to funnel our energy. We’re willing, but we very rarely feel able. And in this state of confusion and indecision, our energy slides away into a cosmic drain. But as Einstein said, if he had only an hour to save the world he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem. Having a full understanding of ourselves first, a well-defined problem to solve next, and then a full grasp on how these two components can and should interact is the key. Understanding systems is an incredibly powerful tool when faced with the level of challenges we’re addressing here. It’s just one tool, but I feel it’s one that goes woefully forgotten, and it’s my ambition to equip every passionate, mission-driven person I come into contact with with this powerful information.
Why do I have renewed vigor to save the world?
I just had a baby. Tomorrow she’ll be two months old. I’m your stereotypical mid-thirties woman who was never going to have kids, got knocked up and now can’t imagine life without my amazing child. As I was looking at her alien-like, squishy newborn baby face one night, it struck me that I absolutely have to help save the world in any way that I can.
Not because I want to save it for her. I mean, yeah. That would be cool. But while I was marveling at the beauty and innocence represented in her squishy face, it struck me that every person on the planet was once a newborn baby. Not only totally dependent on others for its very existence, but a miracle for some mother all too happy to deal with exhaustion and new demands to make it happen. For every person who didn’t ask to be born but was anyway, and for every person that has to slog their way through a life of struggle based on bad luck or bad timing, I want to save the world for them. And for their mom, who only wanted the best for them.
I know, that sounds warm and squishy. I’m not usually a warm and squishy person.
However, if a renewed vigor to save the world is part of the package of new momhood, then I’m down with being a bit idealistic.
For the next few blog posts, I’m committing to writing (and recording) some of the absolutely most high leverage and helpful models of human development and behavior that I know of to assist anyone who has read this post and said, “YES. Saving the world. Sign me up.” So, keep your eyes peeled.
In the meantime, indulge me by answering those three questions below in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.
p.s. If anyone is interested in coaching to help you get to the next level in any context shoot me an e-mail at Antonia@PersonalityHacker.com.
Antonia Dodge is a co-founder of Genius Awakening, a business designed to help people leverage their own mental processes to optimize productivity, communication, job satisfaction, and most importantly – happiness. She has over 10 years in applied psychoanalytics, profiled hundreds of people, and consulted for companies such as Zappos, Zappos Insights, Hot Topic Media, Oracle and Voyage Media. She has helped developed over 20 high level trainings, products and resources and served on the leadership team to plan and orchestrate TEDxSinCity, an independently organized TED event held in Las Vegas, Nevada.