Change Your Culture, Change Your World

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Don't try to change the entire world. Just try to change yours.
Don’t try to change the entire world. Just try to change yours.

I have a bit of a man crush on Seth Godin.

Because he, in many ways, represents who I want to be.

I work in marketing. And Godin writes for people just like me. But what’s so great about him is that much of what he thinks about and writes about can be applied to our personal lives.

I try to view it through that prism, at least.

As marketers, we want to instill change in consumer behavior by educating or convincing people to make different decisions that will either benefit them, benefit our brand, or God-willing, both.

Yesterday, Godin wrote a post titled “Change the culture, change the world,” where he makes an important observation.

Godin said that “most actions aren’t decisions at all.”

And I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking about how we can apply his keen observations here to our personal lives.

He gives examples:

“In Reykjavik, shopkeepers keep their doors closed (it’s cold!) and if they were aware that in Telluride most stores keep their doors propped open (even in the winter) they’d think it was nuts.

“In China, the typical household saves three to five times as much of their income as a household in the U.S. This is not an active decision, it’s a cultural component.”

He continues:

“The list goes on and on. A practitioner of Jainism doesn’t have a daily discussion about being a vegetarian, and a female graduate of Johns Hopkins is likely pre-sold on the role of women in the workplace.

“If you ask someone about a cultural practice, the answer almost always boils down to, ‘that’s what people like me do.’”

Do you have anything in your life—something big—that you’d like to change? What about with your spouse? Or your children? Or your co-workers? Or your friends?

Do you make bad choices like me? Do you have addictions? Bad habits? An unhealthy lifestyle?

Because maybe picking the low-hanging fruit isn’t going to be good enough here.

Quitting Ben & Jerry’s might not reduce your waistline.

Forcing your kids to spend more time outside and less time watching TV might not improve their grades or their social lives or your parent-child relationship.

Making a date night once every couple weeks with your spouse might not fix your marriage.

“Powerful organizations and great brands got there by aligning with and accelerating tectonic cultural shifts, not by tweaking sales one at a time,” Godin writes.

You want to change your life? Go big or go home. That’s what it takes.

I wrote this to shitty husbands a week or so ago. But it applies to all of us: Don’t just sit around waiting for things to happen to you. Because while stuff WILL happen to you, very little of it is going to be good. Not when you’re passive. Take some control.

The faithful would wisely remind you that God’s in control. That we can’t do it all. And while I agree, I think a lot of people use that victim mentality as an excuse for not taking action themselves. Taking the lazy way out of accepting responsibility for their lives.

More importantly, the net result of inaction is your life flying by with you playing the victim. And when you think back and tell your life story, I want you to be the protagonist you can be proud of. A legit hero.

I play poker. Sometimes, very well. When I’m not playing well, it’s because I’m getting dealt shitty hands—life does that!—or because I’m playing too passively. I’m letting other players at the table control the action and dictate my moves.

But when I’m winning? I’m in control. The chips on the table are mine for the taking. And I know it. I mitigate my losses through thoughtful decision making. And I seize opportunities to rake big pots.

Godin has identified one of the many things that separate the winners from the losers in business. He finished his post with:

“There are two lessons here. The first is that the easiest thing to do is merely amplify what a culture is already embracing,” he said. “The second is that real change is cultural change, and you must go about it with the intent to change the culture, not to merely make the easy change, the easy sale.”

Don’t quit ice cream to get skinny. Work your ass off daily and reward yourself with ice cream occasionally.

Don’t try to be more involved in your kids’ lives by merely reducing their TV or video game time. Hell, just watch TV with them. And discuss it. Play video games with them. Or something else entirely. Be present in the moments they’re around.

Don’t try to fix your marriage with out-of-character flowers or surprise gestures of thoughtfulness like making dinner or cleaning the bathrooms. Make those things the rule. Not the exception. Choose to love—actively—every day of your life.

Give, don’t take. Ask friends and neighbors what you can do to help instead of complaining about your problems.

Because if we change the culture in our personal lives, we will—quite literally—change our world.

I don’t know what those ripple effects might look and feel like.

But I can’t wait to find out.

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