I have a love-hate relationship with the phrase “self-improvement”.
While I skeptically scoff at the Dr. Phils and miracle weight loss products of daytime TV glory, my Amazon recommended books and library checkout titles tell a different story.
From How to Be Alive to The Happiness Project, Adulting, and yes, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’m on a quest to consistently improve myself, and the world around me.
Given my varied interests in mindfulness, minimalism, and Pomodoro tomato timers, I thought my repertoire of self-improvement tools and schools of thought proved fairly diverse.
But it turns out that at least one big name is missing from my list of influences.
It isn’t Oprah or Tony Robbins or even the Dalai Lama.
Nope –– it is Ben. Freakin’. Franklin.
Turns out, amidst his other notable historical achievements (and dalliances), Ben committed to bettering himself, and in so doing, improving his community, through a “mutual improvement club” he launched with some pals.
While his idea came to life in the 1700s, it’s been revived, revamped, and restarted for those of us here in the 21st century –– enter, Ben Franklin Circles.
With a little initiative and the desire to become a better person, you can follow in the footsteps of the historical heavyweight who made going to bed early cool again.
“The greatest danger to our future is our apathy.”
–– Dr. Jane Goodall
Most of us know about Jane Goodall’s work through our studies in school, where we learned of her work studying chimpanzee habitats, and her conservation and animal welfare efforts.
But far fewer of us know the many ways that Dr. Jane, a UN Messenger of Peace, has catapulted her work in a million different positive directions, from the Jane Goodall Institute –– which “promotes understanding and protection of great apes and their habitat” –– to her program for “youth of all ages”, called Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.
Through her ongoing work to help animals and other people while protecting our shared world, she activates people to take action in their communities and beyond.
Her campaigns with youth, an often-overlooked but powerful sector of the changemaking community, demonstrates how all of us have the potential to make significant change in the world around us.
We just have to start by paying attention.
“I don’t need your help.”
- Me, circa age 7 –– channeling “Miss Independent” long before Ne-Yo would write it
20 years later:
*Deep sigh* “Hey, I would really appreciate your advice on… ”
(Code: I need your help).
I’d love to say that two decades of growing up, falling down, and generally making a lot of mistakes based with my bull-headed personality has turned me into an intentionally vulnerable and humble seeker of advice from wiser beings.
Despite many years (plus scrapes and bruises) of confirmation to the contrary, I have reluctantly, slowly, painfully accepted that I can’t do everything myself. Or better put, I’ve realized that it makes a lot more sense to ask for help sometimes rather than struggle through life, learning everything the hard way.
(I almost always learn things the hard way.)
You might be a little bit like me. For that reason, I started this blog series, where I’ll bring you advice from successful community changemakers –– or people who have already launched local initiatives –– without you having to ask for it.
They’ve already done the work, made mistakes, and learned along the way so that maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to stumble (as much).
So, lower your can-do, tough exterior, and soak up some wisdom from these wise folks. They know what they're talking about.
One of the best pieces of advice I recently got from a fellow community changemaker Andrew Wilsterman went like this:
“Start with what you have.”
In other words, we’re often fooled into believing that we need to buy all this stuff in order to realize our passions and make a true impact upon the world around us.
But it’s just not true –– in many cases, what we most need is not a grant, a bunch of fancy equipment, or a huge team. No, what we need is initiative and a little creativity.
And the internet helps.
We now have the ability to access tools and information that catapult us into making projects come to life, even if we don’t have rubberband banks in our pockets, a la T.I.
So, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite (and generally free!) tools to help you get your next community project launched and in motion. These resources have supported me in launching many a community project, as well as working on virtual teams and in startups.
What are you lacking in your next community project? Maybe you’ll find it right here.
Do you know any of those annoying people who have known what they wanted to do with their lives basically since they came out of the womb?
Those people make me stabby.
I have never been remotely close to being one of those people.
When it comes to life plans and professional interests, I most resemble a confused goldfish. I’ll be all set to follow one path one day, and then I read a news article that strikes my interest, annnnd shooom. There I go, in a seemingly nonsensical, divergent direction.
Believing what some people said about my being “lost”, “selfish”, or worst, a “typical spoiled millenial” –– the doubt crept in. Was there something wrong? Why did so many interests and life paths call my name?
DID I HAVE TOO MANY IDENTITIES OR NO IDENTITY AT ALL?
While breathing into a paper bag, I found some solace re: my evolving identity mashup in a book by Emilie Wapnick called How to Be Everything, where I learned that I am a “multipotentialite”, which is exactly what it sounds like it would be, unless you are confusing it with the word “troglodyte”, in which case, it is not.
Multipotentialism means having multiple potentials, or interests, skills, and passions. You refuse to get boxed in, because as soon as they’re done drawing the box, you’ve already escaped to the next thing. (#magic)
I thought that this distressing quality of mine meant that I would always be aimlessly wandering about with intermittent spurts of interest, bounding about to whatever caught my eye, like when you unleash your dog at a park with many different kinds of pee to smell.
Bad example. But my idea stays the same –– having lots of passions, especially in the social impact space, is a good… dare I say, GREAT thing.
And can actually help you figure out the perfect job or side hustle for you –– for now.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.