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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.

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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.

Opinion Editorials

The *actual* reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. So it is easy to see why they are so popular now

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startups meeting

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When an employee can find themself personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits of the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth, thus allowing them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters; instead, it’s a clue that work environments which facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

People saying “I love you” at work casually – yay or nay?

(EDITORIAL) Is saying “I love you” in the workplace acceptable in the current harassment and lawsuit climate? Let’s take a look at the factors.

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love shared

Anyone who works in “The Office” knows sometimes there is a failure to communicate. Per email conversation, context can get lost in translation.

So, why then, in the age of the Me Too Movement, are coworkers saying: I Love You?

I’m guessing it’s thanks to our digital lifestyle?

No, I’m not a Boomer. Thank you very much. That’s a different editorial. But, I’ve been working since way back in the day. A time when we wore tennis shoes with nylons. Wait, that’s still a thing?

Alas, I digress.

If we consider the culture of work, particularly in the case of some start-ups, it’s not uncommon for there to be beer in the workplace, casual dress – meaning you have clothes on – and possibly a more youthful expectation around communication.

So, f*ck yeah, dude, I love you!

With the use of workflow apps like Slack, where people can text you – while on the toilet, no less. I mean, who hasn’t told a colleague, “OMG! You are a f@cking ?” after dealing with a challenging situation/customer/boss/client and that colleague comes to the rescue.

Just me? Oops.

Maybe it started back with the I Love You Man commercial, which also became the title of a bromance.

If the bros can have their bromance, then why can’t we all say those three words in the workplace?

I’m not gonna spoil the party and say never. I’m just going to suggest some things are better left unsaid.

First, words are powerful.

Because this is the era of Me Too, it’s easy for there to be misinterpretation. What if a woman says it to a male colleague. A boss says to a much junior employee.

Can you say harassment?

One of my former managers didn’t even like me saying her name. I can’t imagine what she’d do if I said: “I love you.”

But, here’s a real reason. People are happy with us one day and not the next.

Keeping it chill and professional is important. For example, I once called my co-worker – and very good friend – a nasty Spanish word and it almost resulted in a knife fight. What I learned is one day you are joking around and your friend isn’t.

Second, a laissez-faire attitude toward communication can become second nature. You can’t be accidentally telling your client, you love them, now can you? I mean, beyond being authentic, those words mean a lot to some people, just tossing them about shows a real lack of judgment and can result in an extremely negative response.

Which leads me to my last point.

“Et, tu Cheryl”

One company I worked at hired Gallup to do a survey of staff. One of the questions was about having a work BFF, which is important in the workplace. Often we have our work husband or wife or sister, even. We all need someone we can lean on.

In the workplace, depending on the culture and environment, it may be a good place to keep it 100 or, if too toxic, a better place to fake it. Even people who seem to be on your side might be just waiting to pounce.

Get too close, say the wrong thing and Cheryl gets your office with the window and the red stapler too.

All I’m saying is keep it real, but maybe not too real.

Oh, and btw, I <3 U.

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Opinion Editorials

Audi paves the way for how to thoughtfully reduce a workforce

(BUSINESS NEWS) Audi has a new electric car plan that will eliminate 9,500 employees…but in a shocking twist, we’re not even mad. WATT’s going on here?

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Audi E-tron

12 billion motivational posters/yoga tops/specialty ziploc bags can’t all be wrong: Positive change always comes with loss.

For German Audi workers, the company shifting gears to focus on manufacturing electric vehicles will see employee losses to the tune of 7.5k people being Audi of a job there. In the next five years, another 2,000 jobs are expected to get the axe as well.

So they should be panicking, right? Audi workers should mask up and be out in the streets?

Well, considering the general state of the world, yes. But if we’re isolating to just this change, no!

See, Audi’s not actually shoving people out of the door to make room for younger, sexier, more fuel-efficient staff. The jobs they’re cutting are going to be cut due to employees leaving on their own for different pastures and retirement. As in, no one’s getting laid off through 2029.

Now there’s an electric slide I can get behind!

Audi’s top brass, in an Ohm-My-God twist (see what I did there), actually sat down with worker reps and talked this move out. This kinder, gentler, distinctly NON-assy arangement will save the company over 6.6 billion dollars over the next decade, and all of that cash is going to boogie-woogie-woogie into their ‘lightning car development’ piggy banks.

Yay for them!

And yay for us.

See, Germany has a (recent) history of not being horrible to their employees. It’s why Walmart’s attempt to claw its way into Deutschland went up in so much smoke. And that history is accompanied by a reputation for stunningly positive change for everyone from white tie to black apron.

With a brand as giant, trusted, and drooled over as Audi is managing to conduct massively profitable business without schwantzing anyone over, everyone here in the US has a shining example to point to and follow when making massive company moves.

Notably, Tesla, America’s favorite electric car company is almost cartoonishly anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-running dress rehearsals on expectation/glass shattering exhibitions. The prevailing thought is that it’s a necessity to be some kind of moustache twirling villain to get ahead because so many businesses insist upon it.

But that chestnut cracks here.

No more ‘Businesses exist to make money’ excuses. No more ‘You have to be ruthless to get ahead’ BS. Those selective-sociopathy inducing phrases never made any sense to begin with, but now, we’ve got a shining example of towering projected #GAINZ for a company doing right by its people without a single head rolling on the factory floors or a single decimal point moved left in the ledgers.

Ya done good, Audi.

Here’s hoping more businesses stateside follow in your tire tracks.

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