How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff

We often think that it is impossible to change the Earth and therefore don’t bother trying at all. Changing the world can bring about much satisfaction for us. You should be confident that you are able to do something. This book is full of anecdotes from famous people who have changed the world. Actions of everyday people can have an impact on others.

Overcoming Defeatism. We are making a difference all the time. In any case, our actions all produce effects. Even great men couldn’t have done the stuff that they did themselves. History is the combination of many small factors. The Berlin Wall collapse was due to many factors, and not just the contribution of leaders. We can change regulations that suppress us. We often forget that we have the power to change things. Government and employers are not the almighty. Gandhi saw the need for passive change and building of determination. Disobey laws which are in conflict with my conscience. Sometimes, disobedience is justified. There were non-violent movements against the Nazi Germans at the time of the war. What should you be doing today?

What Drives Us? We all want to do something, but we don’t know what. We must understand what drives us. Kant believes we act morally only when we stem out desires or inclinations. Hume opposed Kant’s view. People use death as a reason for living as best as possible. People who recover from near death experiences are enlightened. Some people behave like they are immortal. You can find meaning in your meaningless existence. You need to have the attitude of empowerment and growth. Humans have the ability to rise above his condition. Search of meaning precedes the search of happiness. Meaningful tasks provide a great sense of satisfaction. Ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ Live by your intrinsic values. Write down steps to be taken before you die. The stuff you do shouldn’t be dreary obligations. Find what excites you. Keep asking whys within whys until you get to the root of the problem. Recall the times when you made a difference to someone’s life. Because can all view a task differently. Sometimes, we have to make grand gestures. Cultivate a habit of mindfulness. Helping others can provide a great sense of meaning.

Authentic existence means accepting our inevitable death, and cosmic insignificance – and deciding to live purposefully all the time. – John-Paul Flintoff

And we refuse to accept our cosmic insignificance because to focus on it can be terrifying: our entire world is just one planet circling around one star in a galaxy that contains about 300,000 million stars and is itself one of several million galaxies. The sun will eventually grow cold, and life on Earth will come to an end, but the Universe will continue, utterly indifferent. – John-Paul Flintoff

Some thoughts on strategy. Set a list of priorities which you should focus on. Write down a list. Once you have done that, explain why it is good in the broader perspective. There are 4 types of problems: 1) Problems that affect everybody, but which nobody can imagine a remedy; 2) Problems that affect minorities; 3) Problems that affect everybody, but are only acted upon by a minority; 4) Not problems, but opportunities. Ask yourself what would you do if there was no such thing as failure and that you were guaranteed to succeed. Strive for clear goals. You must understand the problem clearly. To help a cause, you must also identify a clear approach. Hope is a call to action. Companies pollute because they don’t care and because others are doing so too. Vote for the party that will ‘enact’ the right laws. Even the passing of a law may fail to protect minorities from prejudice and discrimination. People need to decide that they want to comply. Some people call for major change but are too lazy to do anything. Gene Sharp compiled a list of non-violent methods to push for change. Some of them require physical bravery. Non-cooperation or boycott is one of the ways. How do you decide which technique to use? Brainstorm and put your ideas down on paper. Just put down whatever that comes to mind.

If you want people to feel that they have the capacity to change things, it’s extremely important to draw attention to the ways they can do that themselves. – Rebecca Solnit

Bearing Witness. We can pass on news to others that matter and which needs fixing. You can change things just by sharing with others what you have seen or something that happened. To get someone to do something, the only way is to make them want to do it. Emphasize areas of agreement first. See things from the other person’s perspective. Do not start by lecturing people. People need a sense of purpose to cope with adversity. Make hope possible. Spread awareness about the people in society which have been marginalized. You can help an alcoholic by referring him to Alcoholic Anonymous etc.

What You Will Need. Both physical and mental resources are important. Look for potential in your limits and shortcomings. Be creative and look on the bright side of life. Come up with reasons to be cheerful. Draw maps with support networks. It is unlikely that you will be able to succeed alone. Valuable relationships are those where people support each other and it is two-way in nature. Once the map is done, approach the people on the map.

Taking a First Step. A big movement can be broken down into a few steps. There are games you can play which will make you feel larger than yourself. Small change by someone in the game can have large consequences. It feels easier to be a spectator. Going first can make all the difference. We can change the ethos of those around us. Give positive encouragement to others and the dynamics around us changes. Rosa Parks wasn’t a leader, but her actions had influence on other women, like the Woman’s Political Council. Many people like her changed the situation together. Charismatic leaders will not free us. It is the people who need to realize that they are leaders themselves.

One reason we hold back from doing what needs to be done is that nobody else seems bothered about it. This comes down to something fundamental about human beings: we’re social animals and we learn the right way to behave by observing others. – John-Paul Flintoff

Don’t worry about other people. If you put enough energy into your own efforts, soon enough they may find it impossible not to join you. – John-Paul Flintoff

Add Beauty – And Fun. Sometimes, the noble tasks seem too difficult to accomplish. If you feel bored, then you know that the activity is not enjoyable enough. Even if you want to increase pleasure instead of decreasing suffering, that is very noble too. You might indirectly influence someone that life is worth living again. Works of art are ways to build a meaningful community and should be valued. Changing the world is important, but you need to take your skills into consideration. Enjoy the process and make it as fun as possible. You can even follow someone’s idea and make it awesome. Everyone can do art. Re-connect to your sources of energy and engagement. The world will be a much more beautiful place that way.

How Does Money Fit in? Is there a trade-off between doing good and making a decent living? We can do good even at work. We are making a difference all the time. One way is to think about how we make a living. Are we serving people’s needs or our artificial desires? There is basically no way to classify what a ‘good’ life is from a ‘bad’ life. It is meaningless to attach the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to individuals. Whatever it is, it is easy to be judgmental towards others. Look at yourself and ask yourself whether you have a ‘right livelihood’. Right livelihood is a matter of collective responsibility. Avoid judging others as much as possible. Even for donations, are they effective all the time? Actually, you will realize that you are very rich if you compare yourself with people from neighbouring countries etc. Sometimes, being born in the right place matters alot. Like medical interventions, the same dollar spent in two different procedures can have varying outcomes. You can carrying on in your career and still benefit others out there. We need to think about how the money is going to help others and the beneficiary etc. Instead of money, you can share time and expertise. Give without being boastful.

Make It Appealing. Let people see the upside in challenges. Build network of friendship around problems. People tend to pursue personal interests more than duty. Identify social benefits to giving as well. The social instinct is very powerful. Send yourself postcards and deliver them sometime in the future. Local communities will be a lot more close-knit that way. Love your neighbour. Do not make despair convincing. Extend your network to unexpected places. I gave vegetables to those my neighbours and the habit caught on.

Love Helps. Sometimes, all people need is love. Money doesn’t solve everything, especially for neglected homes. Long term psychotherapy and involvement can reverse the effects of neglected children. For such children, they need to re-learn what empathy means. It is possible to help others as an individual too. You do not need to incorporate a company all the time. It may not be in your power to build a school, but you can always offer more love to someone in need.

Aim for a Peace Prize. Very often, we hate our competitors and want to destroy them if possible. Sometimes, the language you use can suggest hate and hurt. Some gestures like taking a walk together can indeed calm the nerves a lot. Peaceful negotiation can help to solve problems. Talk in a context whereby both will see each other as human. Forgive, forget, and move on. Change is possible even in unlikely circumstances. Learn to respect the other person as an individual. There are consensus systems that work in negotiation settings. Compassion is the key to changing the world. Being compassionate will make you feel larger than yourself. Loving your enemy is the supreme test of compassion. The things that important people do are really not more important than what we do nowadays.

Conclusion. Sometimes, even the best efforts may have unintended consequences. Change the world with a sense of humility. Do not do things at the expense of others. Accept the fact that you can’t fix everything. Enjoy the process as it goes along. Ask yourself: what can you do in the next 24 hours? Always start off small. Make each step enjoyable. Ask yourself what you have achieved at the end of each week. Enjoy small victories in their own right. Ask yourself what you might have done better. Try to look for the upside and make use of resources in ways you couldn’t imagine. Focus on the long term benefits as well!

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2 thoughts on “How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff

  1. I also want to change things. I suggest you to check out Switch:how to change things when change is hard and write a review on it. I think with this book I can to change the world. “The one book to read if we want to change, not only ourselves but the world.”

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