The point of individual action when you want to change systems

August 15, 2021 by Joshua
in Leadership, Nature

Part of why I act and try to lead is to develop more effective ways to communicate and motivate.

People have developed tremendous skills to dance around sustainability issues. They’ll ask for ideas of what they can do. Then they’ll respond, “but systems have to change.” Then when you talk systemic change, they ask, “But what do I do?”. In practice, they dance around five or ten issues where their answers bounce around, dodging answers more than leading to action.

“But individual actions don’t make a difference . . .”

One of the most common topics people dodge personal responsibility with is to say individual actions don’t make a difference. I’m sure they have many motivations to say it, but I think mainly because they realize it enables them to keep doing what they were while retaining their rage for others, not realizing most others are acting as little as they are, with as self-serving motivations.

I’ve thought of how to respond when they dance around differences between individual action and systemic change. I now ask:

If you want to play Carnegie Hall, which is more important, practicing scales alone or practicing performing for an audience?

Of course you must do both to master performance at that level. Likewise, you have to practice acting individually to learn the solo skills and you have to practice changing systems to develop system-changing skills.

The most important, valuable, effective acts you can do on the environment

The most important, valuable, effective acts you can do on the environment are to learn the social and emotional skills of leadership. If you want to lead others, you first have to lead yourself. Do all those individual things in part because they make a difference, but mainly to learn to lead others, to master your craft.

Do the solo things out of love and enjoy them, but don’t stop with them. They train you to lead others effectively. If someone asks why bother, ask back, “If you want to play Carnegie Hall, which is more important, practicing scales alone or practicing performing for an audience?

Carnegie Hall New York City

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