Pursue endeavors which have a significant impact on the world.
I cannot change the world. I don’t believe I can. I am not that naive anymore.
Whatever I do, it’s just one small drop in a big ocean. I donate some old books to the local secondhand shop, I give money to a charity, I vote for the right party, I buy the right kind of food and right kind of clothes — in the end, it doesn’t really matter. If I do my worst or do my best, no-one but a handful of people will notice. In short, I don’t have an impact on the world. I am just a little man in a little corner of the world, doing my little things and living my little life.
I am not a bigwig, not powerful or influential, not someone who can gather his forces for a raid against the enemy. My voice is indistinguishable from the background hum of millions of other voices, the general cacophony of tiny people with tiny voices shouting from the top of their lungs to be heard.
I haven’t got anything original to say, nothing new or fascinating. My thoughts are bland and common, and my life is just like everyone else’s. A bit of this, a bit of that, and that’s it. I have no reason to believe I can add anything to the world which isn’t already there. I have no reason to believe I am any more creative than anyone else. And I don’t believe it.
Things happen all around me, and I can’t do anything about them. People cry and laugh, smile and frown, and nothing I do or say will make any difference. A bike collides with a car, I can’t stop that. A swan bites another swan, they fight, the entire scene goes from beautifully calm to bickeringly chaotic in a split second, and I can’t do anything about it. My neighbour trips and hurts her leg and an ambulance takes her away and I just stand there, looking at the scene, doing nothing, not knowing what to do. Impact? How can I have an impact on the world if I can’t even have an impact in my own neighbourhood?
How can I have an impact in the world when I have a hard time getting my sons to listen to me?
Yesterday I bicycled behind a woman in the bike lane. She had one full plastic bag on each side and one big box in one hand while she tried to navigate through the wind gusts along the lakes. For hundred meters or so, I remained behind her, feeling sorry for her, happy I had a cargo bike. Of course, my cargo bike was empty, but it was more stable in the wind and if I had needed to carry stuff, I wouldn’t have been a problem. For hundred meters or so, I stayed behind her, waiting for her to move to one side so that I could pass her.
For hundred meters or so, I avoided doing good.
But then she stopped. And when I passed her, I stopped too, and asked her if I could help. Do you need a hand, I said. Yes, she said. Yes, you’re very kind.
I put the big box in my cargo bike and followed her all the way back to her house, 200 meters down the road. She thanked me once, she thanked me twice. You’re very kind. Thank you, you’re very kind. Fedt, man.
I cannot change the world. I am but a small cog in an enormous wheel, and I hope I remain that. I don’t think my actions are important for the rest of humanity, nor that they ever will be. I do my best to do good, I help those who are stuck along windy lakes and tell my wife I kind of like her a lot. (I am still Norwegian, word like love are still too big for most Norwegian mouths, even when they’re true.) But I am not under the illusion that I will ever have a big impact on the world.
But you made an impact for 200 meters, right? You made an impact on someone’s world?
Do good wherever you are, whenever you can. Let’s start with that.
You cannot change the world? You can. It’s just a matter of how you define ‘world’.