An Excerpt from Chapter One
As we stand at this crossroads, it is clear that the tide is swiftly turning toward hope, action, and a collective interest in a better world. With record youth-voter turnout in the 2008 election, we see that change as the result of our actions is possible, and we are energized and excited about this potential. Now is the time to take action and push ahead with the causes you care most deeply about. So what are your goals, exactly? The answer for everyone will be different, but now is the time to embark on explorations about how to spend your valuable time on this planet. Seize this moment to choose your own adventure.
As soon as people hear about this book, the most common (and heartening) question is, “What can we do?” My response is always, “What are you interested in?” Changing the world is deeply personal; at its core it is the quest to identify what matters most to you. What do you want for yourself, your community, and for the world? Do you want to help children learn to read? Do you want to save monkeys? Do you want to help fight malaria? Do you want to teach monkeys to read or fight malaria?
Your options are limited only by your willingness to believe in your ability to make a difference. To be sure, many of you are grappling with circumstances that limit you in some practical sense, whether they are financial burdens, health restrictions, or time constraints that you do not fully control. I am not here to deny that such realities exist, but as you will see throughout this book, people of all stripes and backgrounds have been able to do remarkable things despite, and sometimes because of, these obstacles. So while I can’t tell you exactly how to go about changing the world, I can offer many suggestions to help you answer these questions by finding interesting and creative ways to start exploring your most precious inheritance: the world.
This business of “making a difference” often seems overwhelming, and the information superhighway can often lead to a feeling of overload. Every day I wade through the barrage of news from around the world and action updates from the charities that I support. Like many of you, I often find that the volume of statistics and anecdotes available in my inbox, mailbox, and living room is staggering. My stack of books and research is now so tall that my husband uses it for cover when he sneaks off to play video games. From global warming to poverty and disease, the list of challenges we face seems to grow faster than we can track.
But within this confluence of good intentions, fluctuating priorities, and shortages of time, it is important to remember (and I will continue to remind you) that we have already taken the first step: we care. I wouldn’t have started writing my Weekly Way blog and this book—and you wouldn’t be reading this book—if that were not the case. One of the best aspects of being in your twenties is increased autonomy: what you do with your day (or at least part of it) is up to you, so start making proactive decisions about how you will spend it. Besides, doing what you love now could help prevent a midlife-crisis freak-out when you’re fifty. In an effort to avoid overwhelming you, here goes: Just start. Go ahead and pull the trigger! Too many people spend too much time getting ready or aiming.
Begin by using the rating system in this book to help you find the most convenient suggestions these chapters have to offer. Take a simple action or two every day or a few times a week, even if you don’t think it matters much. Don’t worry, I will spare you the corny talk about how a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, or how a waterfall begins with a single drop, or how, by working together, a school of tiny piranhas can skeletonize a cow. Still, even babies must crawl before they run, and they have to get up off their little bellies to do even that much.
Once these actions become second nature and you develop some momentum, you will probably find yourself looking for more to do and learn. But consider this your fair warning: knowledge and activism, like power, Facebook, and Sour Patch Kids, are addictive, so be prepared for a life of personal growth and positive contributions to your local or global community. While the world has occasionally changed in enormous and rapid ways (ask the dinosaurs), most big changes are the product of millions of little changes. You are one of those millions, and the momentum of your efforts is what will keep the changes coming. Get started by trying a few or all of the ideas detailed later in this chapter, see what works best for you, and let me know how it goes.