Are you working on something that can change the world? That’s the simple metric Larry Page uses according to Richard Diamonds and Steven Koller in their book “Abundance: the future is better than you think.”
What Page uses this metric for they didn’t say, but I’ll guess it’s for assessing whether projects (and maybe people) are worth his time.
Page felt that the answer for 99.99% of people is no.
is it no for you as well? Are you working on something that could change the world?
Most people want basics
I do know a few people who are out to change the world, but I think my experience is unusual. Most people are not fired up about changing the world.
Most people are happy to have a job that pays the bills, and affords some status and opportunity to make more money. In other words most people are out to take care of themselves and their families and will justify selling weapons of war, chemically laden nutrition-free food, and products people don’t need.
Someone else will handle global warming, poverty, drought and cancer.
We live in a system designed for survival not reinvention. Our universities produce graduates to replenish corporate executives and managers seeking profits, not world change
The average person may not describe herself as a pessimist, but as a realist; she thinks she can do her job well but she doesn’t see that job or anything else she’s doing as changing the world.
Which is quite a feat given that young children are natural creative-optimists. They want to build, design, invent and they will try with the slightest encouragement. Yet we successfully strangle their creative spontaneity by the time they’re half way through the school system, and most become preoccupied only with where they can fit in and what to do for a living i.e how to make money.
Real on-the-job experience further ostracises them from any sense of making a difference.
After a decade or so, most would acknowledge the workplace rarity of good bosses, autonomy and appreciation, and that what they do doesn’t matter. They tacitly accept they don’t make a difference.
The majority opt for job security because other jobs are hard to find and likely just as bad; plus it’s risky to go off on your own.
The name of the game is survival.
Charismatic leaders are often out to change the world
This is why the change the world types are so charismatic. It’s not that they are especially smarter or more brilliant than the rest, it’s just exciting to experience passionate believers. They believe that what they’re setting out to do is possible. Their passionate belief is what draws people to their cause.
Steve Jobs’ was trying to put a ‘dent in the universe’ and famously asked John Sculley “John do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
It worked. John left Pepsi to join Apple. The people who worked for Jobs all said they felt that their work meant something and many even felt they were changing the world.
Why not more of us?
It’s easy to think that the change-the-world types are a happy accidents or natural outliers. They exist in some exceptional plane and it’s normal for most to believe they can’t make a difference.
But I wonder. What if it’s possible to have the average person’s default thinking be that they can change the world? What if we had a mass movement, maybe a generation grow up believing and supporting each other in changing the world.
Larry page was at the founding meeting of Singularity University when he raised his metric because he wanted the University’s graduates to focus on the world’s biggest problems.
Let’s mainstream “Change the world” attitudes
There is an urgent imperative to take Change-The-World mainstream because otherwise only the outliers will act to change the world.
On one side will be the ones using technology and media to solve the world’s problems, and on the other will be those using same plus ammunition to bring about a world caliphate.
I think that one reason we find young men and women joining ISIS is because they see a chance to change the world. Violence is not their end game, regardless of what demagogues like Donald Trump say.
These people are joining up because they see themselves as revolutionary fighters in the same vein that the Founding Fathers were. Like the war of independence, these Islāmic fighters see themselves as fighting an unjust and mighty oppressor to bring about a better way of life for their people.
For these young aspiring martyrs it’s a fight of good against evil; and they see themselves as good.
Radical Islam is trying to change the world
My bet is that radical Islam is the first place they were actually exposed to the possibility that they could be part of a change-the-world movement.
This is the tragedy for those we’ve already lost, and the opportunity for those not yet exposed to radical Islam’s siren call.
Let’s make sure that our education and our mainstream narratives to all young people are about them changing the world by solving global problems and restoring dignity to all.
If our basic education could produce young people with faith in themselves to make a global difference, radicalism would lose much of its appeal because it would lose its change-the-world novelty.
You can make a difference
One of the wonderful things about life is that change doesn’t have to come from might or brilliance. Sometimes it’s the very small things you do that could have an awesome effect down the road.
Getting your child or some young person to believe that they can make a difference could be your way of changing the world, because they might just do that.
So I’ll ask Page’s question again: “Are you working on something that could change the world?” If you have children or deal with young people I hope you can now answer truthfully and with conviction. YES!!!