What do you think Felix Baumgartner felt like when he was standing there at 120,000 feet above the earth and had to take that first step?
I know exactly how he felt.
If you don’t know, then it’s time to get yourself ready because it will be the step that changes your life.
For me that first step was about seven years ago and I was at a Rapport Leadership course called Eagle Quest. Eagle Quest is a three-day course that teaches you many things, most of which you didn’t know you needed to learn but you do if you want to follow your dreams and your passions. The final day is a high ropes course and for someone like me who is terrified of heights, that alone was a challenge. Except the weekend was spent preparing us for that day on high and the truth of the matter was that what I though was a fear of heights was anything but that.
Let me take you right there to that moment.
I was about 40 feet above the ground with one foot on a horizontal telephone pole with my arms wrapped around a vertical one. Even with my fear, I was the second one up the pole and I was all strapped in with wires and a helmet and I knew in my head that nothing could go wrong. I stood there with everyone in the course down below watching me – some were getting ready to follow me and others were cheering me on. I put my foot out to take that first step with my arms wrapped tightly around that pole when a voice in my head said:
“You can’t do this Simon. Who are you kidding? Get down now while you can.”
I looked out, I looked down, I took a deep breath and I held back the tears and called down to the instructor:
“Can I climb down?”
There was silence as everyone looked up at me and then she said very quietly:
“You can do whatever you want to Simon….”
I stood with one foot ready to go and holding on to that telephone pole with all of my might and I couldn’t hold back the tears any more. I thought of all the other times in my life that I had climbed down.
I thought of all of the opportunities that I had let pass me by, the chances I hadn’t taken. I thought of all of the situations I had stayed in because it was easier and safer and all the things I had wanted to do, but I was too afraid to do.
Then another voice from somewhere deep inside of me said:
“You can do it Simon, it’s time!”
And I took a deep breath and I let go of that pole and I took a hold of the guide wire that would help me get across to the other side and I took that first step. And when I took that first step I let go of all of the times that I had held myself back. And I took a second and a third step and I walked across that pole and I never looked back.
There were two more courses to get across and I did them one after the other.
The final test was a 40-foot telephone pole to climb up and jump off of. I did that too. When I got to the top our instructor called up to me that I didn’t have to stand on it because at that point I think she knew that in my head I thought I could fly! At 6’2” to climb up and stand on a 40 foot pole was just too much and I had made my point to myself, I had let go of the fears that had been holding me back and I had unleashed the passion that I had buried so deep inside of me for so long.
I sat on the top of that pole, looked out as far as I could see and then I jumped. I was so free when I flew threw the air. Free because I had found the courage to take that first step.
The photo I have included here I keep on my desk at the office and when things get tough or I want to give up on anything, I look at that photo and I smile and I get the same goose bumps I got that day. I get them now as I am writing this. That day is anchored deep inside of me and I hold on to it with great joy. If I am not at my desk when fear starts to invade my head and “those voices” try to make themselves heard, I think of that moment and I move forward and once again I take that first step.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because these days I find myself in situations and doing things that I never thought I would have a chance to do or quite honestly was capable of doing. I find myself able to do all, yes all of the things that I have wanted to do in my life and some of which I never knew I wanted to because I was too busy holding on to a telephone pole afraid to take that first step.
I can tell you right now you don’t have to sign up for a high ropes course or launch yourself in to space. All you have to do is let go and take that fist step. Let those dreams and those passions you have buried so long ago come out and live where they belong to be shared with the world around you. If you have already taken that first step, then do everything in your power to help others to take theirs.
It may seem like the hardest, but I can guarantee you, that first step will be the one you won’t ever forget.
I want you to go and find a mirror, look at yourself and ask the question: What do I want to do with my life?
If your answer is:
Exactly what I am doing.
Then don’t read any further.
If that is not your answer then stop doing what you are doing. NOW.
Stop being afraid.
Then kill it.
You heard me: KILL IT!
Are you going to wait until you are looking back on your life with your partner or your kids or grandkids and have regrets?
I can’t right now.
I have responsibilities.
If you have something you want to do, something that you know is going to make you the happiest person in the world, then why aren’t you doing it? It doesn’t matter what it is just DO IT!
Patience and passion
I worked for twenty-five years doing something I didn’t love. I hated looking in the mirror every morning. That’s the truth. I tried to quit many times and I was too afraid. I had too many responsibilities and too many excuses. I finally did it. I finally stopped whining and crying and blaming others and stopped being afraid.
Now I get up in the morning with a smile on my face and go to bed with a bigger one. I have never worked so hard in my life except I would never call it work. My days are absolutely perfect in every way even when everything goes wrong. Shit happens. Shit makes life fun. Life is fun. No, life ROCKS!
This isn’t anything new. Go back a few hundred years to our good old friend Shakespeare and his friend Polonius. He was telling us the same thing:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82
If you take care of yourself, and find the happiness that is there for each and every one of us, then you will pass that same happiness and love on to those around you.
Realize your perfection and live with it.
Now let’s start this day again. Go back to the mirror and be honest with that person starting back at you. It’s about time isn’t it?
A few years ago I wrote a post about being JUICY (Are you juicy? – June 2011), and I published it again here on this blog on Sunday. I am finding these days that being juicy just isn’t enough.
1. Having or showing exuberance and strong determination
2. Touchy and aggressive
Juicy seems to be the first part of the definition of feisty. I thought it would be enough to get me through life with a smile on my face. These days I think I need to go to Step Two: Touchy and Aggressive. Except I don’t really think it is about being either Touchy or Aggressive, I think it is more about being honest and saying it the way it is.
I keep finding myself in situations where I WANT to say:
“You are going to talk to me like that and think I believe a word you are saying?
“It has been three months since you got back to me, and now you are saying you want to work with me because business is a little tougher for you and you need my business?
“You told me one thing last week and this week you are telling me something completely different and pretending that you never even had that conversation with me?”
And you know what?
I AM SAYING IT EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS!
I am being respectful and honest and only using the F-word in my head (that is F-U-C-K and not F-E-I-S-T-Y) but interestingly enough the response is quite refreshing. Well actually there is a lot of stuttering at first, long pauses at the other end of the phone, and many lines of apologies in the e-mails with closings that have gone from “Kind regards” to “Let’s talk soon!”. The end result is a stronger relationship and the knowledge (and relief) that both sides may be straight up with whatever they need to say.
Here is my advise on being FEISTY:
1. Listen to what that voice in your head is telling you – that you are being given a line, played with, or given the run around.
2. ALWAYS BE RESPECTFUL, POLITE AND HONEST IN WHAT YOU SAY. Remember, you don’t want to play their game or be mean or rude or condescending.
3. Ease into feistiness. It is a bit addictive, once you start; it’s hard to stop.
4. Start with being JUICY. If you haven’t mastered that you will never be able to be FEISTY!
Have a FEISTY day!
“I failed my way to success.” Thomas Edison
That is certainly what it feels like sometimes. A lot of failures and not too many successes. Starting a new business with your own money is certainly differently from working for someone else. My life has been spent in start-ups. I didn’t always see it that way because I was in it and we didn’t call it that when I started working 30 years ago, they were just new businesses. Now we put a name on it: start-up, and give the whole thing this glamour and possibility of huge growth and an eventual IPO. In reality it is just a new company starting out and who knows where it will go. Even when you think you do or plan for it, it may not go where you think it will.
When I was working for these other start-ups, they weren’t mine. Often and always it was my blood, sweat and tears, well okay my sweat and tears that helped to build them, but it certainly wasn’t my money. Interestingly enough when it wasn’t my money those setbacks that we encountered along the way were never failures. They were just setbacks. There were lots of them and we always found a way out: with the sweat and tears and unfortunately too much yelling, but we got through them and turned them into what most of us call successes. Financial success equal success right?
Now as I find myself doing the same thing but for myself, it seems very different. Instead of having someone on top being the motivator, it’s me. If things are tough, I have to be THE TOUGH to get going. You know what else? It’s work. Hard work. Or it seems that way in my dramatic ol’ head. The reality is; if and when I am capable of stepping back, as I am doing right now, it is not hard work at all. It is a lot of fun. I have surrounded myself with an amazing team who all have the same drive and passion that I do and they want the success as much as I do. We laugh a lot, eat whenever we can, drink way too much coffee, don’t yell, care incredibly a lot (if that is English) about our customers and customer service and being THE BEST at what we do. We are wiling to learn and to learn again until we get it right. I have built relationships with vendors and suppliers who work as hard as I do and want success as much as I do. Not for the money or the fame (fame?) but for the fun of it. The ones that don’t see things like this don’t last long. They aren’t quite sure why I end those relationships when I do, because they just don’t get it.
DREAM BIG. WORK HARD. GET IT DONE. PLAY FAIR.
HAVE FUN. MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
I don’t think Thomas Edison got it either. There are no failures in business or in life. Unless you are so deep in them that you can’t see beyond the end of your nose.
When I left my career in the fashion business I vowed that when I got up every day I would see each day like it was the first day of a new job. Do you remember that feeling? When you are filled with wonder and excitement. Nothing less and often so much more that you just can’t describe it. That is success for me. I see that I found it.
How about you?
I haven’t written here in a very long time. The last time was just after the New Year in fact. Then recently I received an e-mail from WordPress asking me to renew the domain for this blog. I had to make a decision if I should continue this blog or close it down. I have been doing what I am quick to criticize everyone else of doing: nothing. Well not nothing exactly, but I have been so busy wrapped up with work that I haven’t been doing anything else. Sound familiar?
I have been in the garden watering and weeding over the last few days. It has been hot and beautiful, perfect weather to be a gardener. I love the process of the planting and I love looking after the garden once it is done – the weeding and the watering. For me it is like meditation. There is sitting and walking meditation, could there be gardening meditation too?
I learned how to garden from my father over forty years ago as a child. I had my own garden in our backyard and he would help me plant pansies and marigolds. He showed me how to take the seedlings out of the pots, how far apart to put them, and then how to dig the hole, put the young plants in, and then fill in with the earth and finally to water them. It’s what we would do my Dad and I in the early spring after the May long weekend in sunny old Winnipeg.
I usually forgot about the garden as the summer progressed and we headed down to the lake for July and August. When I would come back after the Labour Day long weekend for school I would run down to see the garden and it would be bright with pansies and the marigolds would be strong and high. My Dad looked after it all summer for me.
My father passed away in January and I am wondering if that is why I stopped writing my blog. I think I always wrote it for him. I don’t really like to admit that, but I know it is the truth. It gave us something to talk about, something that kept us connected as we each grew older. I know that he didn’t always agree with what I wrote but he loved that I wrote. When my brothers and I were cleaning up his things we found files of everything that I had ever written. Not strange for a parent to do that, but I found it strange for my father. It was not how I thought of him: sentimental. Perhaps I didn’t know him as I thought I did, or I am more like him than I thought.
My garden this year is quite spectacular. There aren’t any pansies or marigolds, but I planted it exactly the way my Dad taught me to. I get out there on the weekends and I prune, deadhead, weed and I water. Just as I know my father did when I was down at the lake for the summer. He was there making sure it would be there for me when I came home.
I am not sure that writing this blog, or life, for that matter is any different. We need to be consistent, and work at it and give it the love and respect that it deserves. A garden, a blog, or life: You water it and weed it and give it some love. You work at it. I thought my father was showing me how to garden when I was a child, I think now that he was simply showing me how to live.
From a purely external point of view there is no will; and to find will in any phenomenon requires a certain empathy; we observe a man’s actions and place ourselves partly but not wholly in his position; or we act, and place ourselves partly in the position of an outsider. ~ T. S. Elliot
We hear a lot about empathy these days as if it is the driving force to help others. But is it? The word empathy was only created somewhere around 1905. Does that mean that we didn’t have empathy before that? Was there not the need for it? Is empathy something that became necessary after the Industrial Revolution and the world that developed from it at the turn of the century? Why the need then to create that word?
Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person’s thoughts and feelings, whatever these might be […]There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the cognitive component: Understanding the others feelings and the ability to take their perspective […] the second element to empathy is the affective component. This is an observer’s appropriate emotional response to another person’s emotional state. ~ Simon Baron-Cohen
I would argue that empathy is not enough or not even natural. Is that our driving force? Are we not out for ourselves first? Must we not be taught and learn how to give and to share? Or have I got it all wrong and that innately we are empathetic? But that is not what I see today. I see entitlement as the buzzword of this generation where it is I first and everyone else second? With all due respect to the late Steve Jobs, where is the empathy in IPhone, IPad, or IPod – it looks like we are all being taught that it is all about me me me.
In the end, it seems that empathy just gets in the way of getting things done. If we didn’t have to put ourselves in someone else’s mental shoes wouldn’t life be a lot easier? Couldn’t we get to our goals much faster without worrying about someone else’s feelings? If we didn’t have empathy before 1905 why do we need it now?
Nobody is against empathy. Nonetheless, it’s insufficient. These days empathy has become a shortcut. It has become a way to experience delicious moral emotions without confronting the weaknesses in our nature that prevent us from actually acting upon them. It has become a way to experience the illusion of moral progress without having to do the nasty work of making moral judgments. In a culture that is inarticulate about moral categories and touchy about giving offense, teaching empathy is a safe way for schools and other institutions to seem virtuous without risking controversy or hurting anybody’s feelings. ~ The Limits of Empathy by David Brooks
Empathy is not enough. We must look beyond to something that we are usually far too afraid to affront, that which is deep within us. It is our fear that we cannot that must be tackled to allow ourselves to help others. Who needs empathy if we would simply learn to put ourselves second instead of always first?
At this time of year most of us sit down to make new years resolutions for the coming year. We decide on all of the things that we are going to change, do differently and resolve to do better. Most of the time these resolutions revolve around losing weight, spending less money, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, or changing our lifestyle or habits in some way.
What if you were given the chance to do something bigger than that?
What if you were given the opportunity to do something that you have always wanted to do?
The only requirement is that it cannot be about you, that you have to look beyond yourself and your own goals to a bigger vision. You have to change the lens on your camera from the usual one to a wide angle one that will take in all those around you and go even farther than the lens or you can see.
What if someone said to you: What do you want to do?
What would you answer?
Would you have an answer?
Or are you too wrapped up in the everyday problems that surround you to look beyond to something that you may have always wanted to do?
If you don’t ask
I don’t ask you these questions without asking them to myself first.
My answers I am sure are like yours and revolve around my small world and me. Yet that is not what the true answer is if I am honest with myself and slow down long enough to think of a real answer and not just the one I am supposed to give to pass the test.
This isn’t a test.
This is life.
And it is precious.
And it seems to be getting more and more precious each day, each week and each year.
So let’s challenge each other and ask the question now:
What do you want to do?
Now answer it.
Let’s mark our calendars for next year on this same day and time and see if we did what we said we would do.
I dare you.
The mission of The Social Effect is: through the Internet and through Social Media platforms, to help each other connect, learn from one another, and share information to make change in our communities where and when it is needed.
Back in August I came across a Tweet from BraBankAppeal that said:
Determined to make a change for Africa’s females, arm them with bras and new found security need support and advice…
And so I asked BraBankAppeal, what they wanted to do exactly and to see if there was a way to help.
At the moment I want awareness of the issue and of my Project so that when the time comes to start collecting underwear people will respond.
So I did a little digging and found out that there was a Facebook Page and what the Bra Bank Appeal is all about.
I also sent a direct message to Beth, the woman behind The Bra Bank Appeal, and we started to exchange emails. In learning what Beth was doing, I wanted to help if I could.
Here is an interview I did with Bethany Staff about her project The Bra Bank Appeal.
What is The Bra Bank Appeal?
The Bra Bank Appeal is a small project I started before I went to Uganda to work in an AIDS orphanage in July. It aims to collect underwear, the new and old, (the decent and the not so decent) to send to countries in the third world (Uganda to start with) to protect their women from sexual abuse.
Why did you start this project and where did you come up with the name?
A few months before going to Uganda I was desperately researching ‘what Uganda needs’ so that I could do my bit, no matter how small to take something with me… I managed to find a website which listed the order of which the containers (full of used goods) that are sent to Africa are emptied: shoes were first (I thought this was fairly obvious) then second was bras… I was intrigued by this and did some further research and found out that women who wear underwear are less likely to be raped. Also, bras sell for roughly three times the cost price (more than any other used item) and so were very much so a luxury item. So I spoke to my amazingly artistic best friend who designed lovely posters, I revamped card-board boxes I was given by local shops in to hot pink ‘Bra Banks’. I got the mums of friends to put posters in their work place and store bras in their car boot and posters and Banks placed all around my college, local schools and the local tourist information office, I had an advert in the local newspaper, I was mentioned on peoples twitter accounts, I walked around local clothing outlets and begged for help and I just watched the message spread. The response was phenomenal!
The name, I knew it would be the bra … something! So I rattled around a few ideas ‘Bras for Uganda’, ‘The Bra Box’ I finally settled on ‘The Bra Bank Appeal’ as I felt it was simple, like the cause, nothing fancy – it’s a necessity that we take so for granted and sexual abuse is a subject close to every women’s heart. So it simply had to succeed! Well, that’s what I had to tell myself during the first few quiet weeks!
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am 18 years old and I am studying the International Baccalaureate in Cornwall (UK). I hope next September to go on to study Economics and Spanish at university. My ultimate dream is to forge links between western governments and successful organization and those in South America to try to improve their economies and give advice to businesses. Basically when I was little, I decided I was going to change the world, now I’m just trying to climb that ladder!
It looks like you want to affect change in our world – why?
This question looks complicated but it’s actually very easy! Someone has to, so why not me?
Do you think this is everyone’s responsibility?
I think everyone should try to do their bit, even if saving the world isn’t on the top of your priority list, there are so many things that you can do to help! For example, it astounds me every time I get on public busses how very few people will give up their seat for the elderly or a child anymore! Little things you do can just keep the world ticking over a little more smoothly.
Is changing the world your goal?
In an ideal world – of course! In reality, so I don’t feel like I’m not achieving anything, I’d prefer to say that making a difference is my ultimate goal. Whether that is to one person or to an entire country, it’s still an improvement! If I protected one girl/woman from a sexual attack with the underwear I took with me then I will sleep easy! But there’s always more you can do…
What do you find most challenging about your project?
I’d have to say before I went to Uganda, were the critics. I know every notion of change will always face criticism, but people said that I was naïve (which with my age, I expected), that I had not researched this enough and that by giving the Ugandan women and girls underwear I would encourage prostitution and rape and men would see it as ‘an exciting challenge!’ Needless to say I was outraged and informed the relevant people that I was incredibly and personally offended that someone would accuse me of encouraging the very thing I set out to prevent!
Today it is the day to day running of the social networking, juggling this project around the floods of college work, a family life, a social life and working part-time is a definite challenge!
Tell me about some of the people you have met doing this that have had an effect on you.
Being in Uganda itself was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life! For me the most memorable people along the way were some of the ladies I gave underwear to, I asked all the orphans of bra wearing age, the ‘mamas’ (a women is in charge of each orphan house on the village) their daughters and the women of the village to come and choose themselves some underwear one afternoon when we covered our ‘Mission House’ with underwear. The women who were unable to attend that afternoon I invited to come any time before then. One girl who was my age came to me excitedly one afternoon, bringing with her, her mother and the mama who had been cooking for us during our stay. I showed them all to my room and opened some of the massive bags of underwear, the mother stripped off down to her knickers and proceeded to try as many bras on as she could, the mama looked down at her chest then grabbed my boobs, thought for a second then said: “Yes, I think I’m your size help me find things that would fit you!” And the girl burst into tears and told me that God had finally had mercy and that may I be blessed. Unforgettable!
What do you do when you are not working on the Bra Bank Appeal?
Generally, college work! I do also work in a wine bar, sing, meet friends, play the guitar, spend time with my family spend time with my boyfriend. To be honest I’m just your average teenager!
Is The Bra Bank Appeal full time?
I wish it could be but I’m strong believer in education and it being the key to everything else I want to do with my life.
What networking do you do to help get more goods?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter, I’m probably a disappointment to my generation but I really don’t know where to start with these things! My heart’s in the right place though!
Did you have a strategy when you started this project?
Ha! This is where I wish I could regurgitate some very complex strategic plan to you… No I really didn’t at all, it was a cause that I believed spoke for itself so just went for it and kept my fingers crossed! (This probably is not recommendable to others thinking of starting something similar!)
What is your greatest fear?
Failure. Failure in anything and everything, when I choose to do something I put so much of myself into it, I really put my heart and soul into everything I do!
What is your goal?
To forge links with organizations that are able to help me to transport bras and knickers across the globe, safely and directly into the hands of those who need them most.
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
Besides carrying home bin bags full of underwear (which are very heavy I’ll have you know) every day? Definitely dealing with the criticism, I remember bursting into tears when I was criticized, it makes you doubt everything you are doing!
You had an idea to help others, what gave you the push to take that first step, what would you suggest to anyone else who had an idea to help others?
Definitely, having a brilliant cause for doing it! If I had an obscure issue that not many people could relate to then it would have crashed and burned. My advice would be to do your research, be able to fire back answers to any questions you could be asked and above all else, have a damn good cause that you are passionate about – and don’t be ashamed to show how important the cause is to you, people will follow a worthy cause!
Do you ever feel like giving up?
Not give up, but not bother to do more… yes everyday! We all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and have a seemingly never-ending list of things to do, but then I remember the overwhelming feeling of crying with woman after woman while they pray and thank the lord for the underwear I brought them. I have never been a theist myself but their faith was astonishing. Also I remember playing with a tiny little boy on a woven mat; his mother was kicked out of her home after falling pregnant due to being gang-raped on the way to collecting water for her family. She was 14 years old. So no, I won’t let myself give up.
What do you consider your greatest achievement (s) so far?
Getting over 2000 items of underwear to Uganda without exceeding baggage allowances!
Who are your heroes?
The 14 year old girl I have previously mentioned who had to mature beyond her years to live alone, caring and providing for her little boy. She is a beautiful mother.
Also an elderly woman I met in Uganda who has a paralyzed torso and walks on her toes and knuckles, she cares for her four grandchildren in a small mud hut. All of her children died due to AIDS.
What would you like to be remembered for?
For helping people when they needed help, for making people happy when times are hard, for giving, advising and for being someone that people would turn to.
Where do you see The Bra Bank Appeal in 6 months or a year from now?
I would love for ‘The Bra Bank Appeal’ to be a flourishing charity with underwear being sent all over the world with various organizations who would offer to help. Not making a penny but making a difference.
The philosophy at The Social Effect is it only takes one person to affect the world and that person is each one of us. We must make a cultural shift to see the possibilities we each hold and to learn first to give and to help each other, which in turn will help those around us. Beth and her project illustrates this perfectly. Thank you Beth for all that you are doing to help others.
If you would like to help Beth and her Project I would encourage you to ‘LIKE’ The Bra Bank Appeal Facebook page, click here.
If you are on Twitter, follow the BraBankAppeal, click here.
You may also contact Beth at email@example.com
(All photos are the property of The Bra Bank Appeal)
I went to New York this past weekend for work and for fun. In the back of my mind I kept hearing a nagging voice:
Occupy Wall Street – are you going to check it out or not “Mr. Each One of Us Can Make a Difference
Sunday was a beautiful morning and I headed downtown. First stop was going to be to see Ground Zero and second stop: Occupy Wall Street. No need to mention the appropriateness of the two side by side. That is the whole point of where the occupation is. I never got to see Ground Zero, I didn’t have photo ID with me, but I did get to see Occupy Wall Street, actually I got to smell it as well.
There in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan were I don’t know how many people sitting, talking, making posters, eating, doing what you do when you live in a park protesting against the divide between the have’s and the have not’s. I am not going to explain the movement, you can Google Occupy Wall Street and you will have more links than you will be able to read or watch. This is just about what I saw on Sunday when I sat down with a few of the protesters to do my best to understand this.
Hey, my name is Simon, I am from Montreal and I have a blog called The Social Effect which is all about the idea that each one of us can make change in our world if we want to….and I guess this what you are doing here. Mind if I ask you a few questions about what this is all about and why you are here?
I usually added in, I am an old guy from…. as to most of these kids, I am sure that is what I was. And that is part of what this is all about. But I am getting ahead of myself. Each person I spoke to talked to me about the obvious reason that all the protesters were there, the financial chaos that they see affecting the world and the need for regulation to stop this. But there is more to it than that. Much more.
The first person I spoke to was Trista, she is 23 years old and came up from West Virginia and had been there for three days. She knew the ideology behind the movement and was certainly the right person to speak to first. Here are her thoughts:
This is a movement for occupation, an opportunity to rebuild and to fight against the enemy. Who is the enemy? Those trying to oppress. We are fighting for a better world, for the essence of what it is to be human, to reconstruct.
I asked her if she was afraid of anything.
Fear is optional. This is an opportunity.
She was a little intense for me and I did feel like she was trying to indoctrinate me and perhaps herself in everything she was saying, but in any grass roots campaign must there not be the zealots who believe, who fire up the others, who keep the message clear and protected? That was Trista.
I made my way along and sat down next with Brendan, who is 20 years old and he had been there for five days, he studies history in Connecticut.
Money is buying the politicians. There is no true voice because they have been bought and paid for and the one with the biggest purse behind them always wins.
He spoke to me about poverty and about not wanting to live in a country that based itself on money alone. He was heading back home that day.
Next I sat down with Collette, who is 37 and from the Lower East Side. She was surrounded by a group who seemed not too impressed with me, but once we started to talk they opened up. Collette was quick to point out that she has a job and lived near there but believed in the cause. She hadn’t slept there every night but she was there as much as she could be when she wasn’t working. For her this wasn’t about the 99% versus the 1% this was how the two could unite. She had seen a big change since Giuliani had been in power.
We don’t talk to each other anymore. The dividing line between rich and poor is so great that we don’t care anymore about just being people. I stop now when I see garbage on the street and pick it up. I talk to people. This really is about feeling part of something, about not being alone.
I got that. I started to feel like I was getting more and more of what this is all about.
Next I sat down with David, 23 years old and from California and had spent one night there. He hadn’t known anything about this but his Mom had told him about it and he and his friends were doing a tour of the country and thought it would be cool to check it out. They all had matching red, white and blue velour track suits on and I wasn’t sure if their hair was real or they were wearing afro wigs from the 70’s.
There is no unified message here. We need higher taxes for the rich and more regulation on the financial side.
He didn’t know quite what to say after that. I wasn’t sure if he really knew why he was there or it seemed like something to be able to say he had done on his trip.
Then I saw a group all wearing blue t-shirts that had “Blue Crew” written across them. I sat down with Sean, 20 years old who was studying sociology from Cincinnati. Sean talked to me about job loss and foreclosures, about the poverty in Appalachia.
Whoever has the money wins. We need to touch hearts, to make change. This is about greed. But no one is really able to articulate the movement.
I know what I heard as I talked to each one of those protesters, I heard myself back in college thirty years ago. I heard myself saying:
I would never be like ‘them’. I would be different. The world was wrong. It wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t be like that. It doesn’t have to be like that. I would make it different.
But I didn’t. I finished college and got a job and bought in to everything I said I wouldn’t. I gave up. I forgot what I believed in.
That’s what these protesters are doing, fighting for what they believe in.
Is this a revolution?
It is certainly a voice that is getting stronger and stronger and spreading as I write this.
This is an opportunity for all of us to make change.
What if we didn’t make fear an option and chose change instead?
It is your choice, and in many ways I think that is what this movement wants to give us, a choice.
So what’s yours?
What would you do?
Would you change your job?
Go back to school?
Go on a trip?
Do something that you have always wanted to do?
Better yet do it.
We all spend a lot of time here on the computer.
Since I started The Social Effect I have done a lot of things I never thought I would do.
Things I thought I was too afraid to do is the real answer.
I have learned that there really is nothing to be afraid of.
It has also taught me that if I let go of my fears then I help others.
Givers gain. Always.
That’s all we have to do.
Why be afraid of that?