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Opinion Editorials

It’s easy to change the world, just do it

In a recent TEDx talk, a respected innovator describes what separates those that change the world and those that don’t. We take a deeper look to add our own thoughts about accomplishing great things.



byron reese

byron reese change the world

Why some people change the world and others do not

At a recent TEDx talk in Austin, author and entrepreneur, Byron Reese spoke on the topic of accomplishments, challenging why some people change the world and others do not. Reese speaks of various accomplishments from small to large, pondering why Benjamin Franklin was able to invent so many things, and why Mother Teresa was able to touch so many lives. Were their circumstances because they were geniuses, or because they had money, or perhaps they were well connected? The two people serve as an example of extremely different circumstances, which Reese opines is an indicator that it is not actually a person’s circumstances that dictate whether they can change the world or not.

But let’s revisit that phrase, “change the world.” If someone tells you they’re going to change the world, we’ve been conditioned as a nation to have a cynical knee-jerk reaction, but changing the world doesn’t necessarily mean curing AIDS or inventing a psychic robot, no, it can be much more local and start with one deed.

My favorite part of Reese’s speech (featured at the bottom of this editorial) begins at 11:47, and while I encourage you to watch the whole video, at least watch at 11:47. “Greatness is not a destiny granted to a few, but a decision available to anyone,” Reese says, basing his opinion on lengthy research. “The main difference between people who change the world and people who don’t is whether or not they’ve made that decision.”

Just do it: change the world

I’m one of those people that is always busy. I was born busy. Some call it workaholism, but I call it keeping busy. Even when idle, I have to be doing something, it’s in my DNA. When I’m standing in line somewhere, I’m responding to emails from my phone. When I’m watching tv, I’m working on my laptop. I can’t sit still. I’m not only the Chief Operating Officer here, directing a digital newsroom, I run operations for Spark of Genius Business Camp, the Big Ass Social Happy Hour, I’m a family gal, I am a runner, I read endlessly, attend Mass every week and on Holy Days, and do as much charity work as we can cram in (to the free time we know we’ll never have, so we make it up).

Recently, we began the groundwork for the philanthropic arm of AGBeat, and are in the process of founding a charity, and a program for high school students. Both are very different, but both are programs we feel called to start because they just don’t exist. Like many inventors or entrepreneurs, we create products, content, events, charities and the like to suit our own needs.

Is this changing the world? I don’t know, probably not, but I’ve always thought on a more local scale. My grandmother quoted Mother Teresa to me when I was very young, saying “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” I’ve always understood the ripple effect of small changes.

How YOU can change the world

As Reese challenges people to consider the excuses they’re using for not just getting off of their butts and actually doing what they are capable of, I would add that changing the world doesn’t take much. Really. You can give away your entire company’s playbook, and you’re still likely the only one with the gumption or passion to actually do it.

There is a tired inspirational quote derived from the Pareto principal that you may be familiar with, that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes, or sometimes it is said that 80 percent of all business in [X industry] is done by 20 percent of [X professionals]. You’ve also heard the famous Edison quote on posters in offices across the globe that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Take any combination of the two and you come up with the same conclusion that Reese has – you can’t change the world if you don’t do anything, so just do it. It’s seriously that simple.

When people ask me “how do you do it all, Lani?” it feels like a silly question to me because it’s just my nature to do. It’s hard to understand that it isn’t ingrained in all people, but my grandmother was right in indoctrinating me with Mother Teresa’s theory that changing the world is feeding one person. So how do I do it all? I stay focused on the one mouth, be it a literal charity case, or a small business sputtering along in a bad economy that reads just one story here and finds something actionable with which they will find success.

I’m not special, I’m not doing anything special, I’m just doing. Will I change the world? I don’t know, but honestly, I don’t really care – I can’t, because I can only worry about staying focused on feeding the one. Anyone can do. Just do it.

Byron Reese on Achieving:

[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”XfCaArxitpM”]

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.



recession squeeze

There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.



strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.




It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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