This is what they all have in common:
In the course of my work here in Ireland – I have met many changemakers, innovators and disrupters.
Some famous – some unknown. Many are ordinary people living ordinary lives in extraordinary ways.
The common denominator among those I have come to admire and respect, is that on some level – they are all emboldened by a commitment to serve.
Who are they?
People who seem to know consciously or unconsciously that we occupy only an infinitesimal bit of space and time between generations. They actively use their lives to leave their world better than they found it.
What do they do?
They show up.
Every day, one day at a time. They do what needs to be done in their home lives, work lives and in community.
They take no responsibility for the finished outcome – but they work to advance their own work and the work of others – which inevitably serves the outcomes of many.
Case and point – the innovators who have been working on battery technology for centuries.
The work begun in the 18th century – 1749 to be more precise- has served to inspire and challenge scientists and engineers still ‘perfecting’ them today.
Consider that changemakers are catalysts – and the reaction or outcome they ignite may never be known to them.
The 20thcentury disruptors who believed phones could be portable – challenged engineers to reimagine a longer life rechargeable battery. They didn’t need to invent anything new. They built on work begun in the early 20thcentury.
Why do they do what they do?
Most don’t set out to be changemakers.
And they wouldn’t describe themselves that way.
In a blog a decade ago I described two philanthropists – very successful entrepreneurs who said they wouldn’t have described themselves as either philanthropic or entrepreneurial – but they had needed to drive change while pursuing their professional ambitions.They were now simply – giving back. Or rather – paying their success forward to inspire, support and catalyse the initiatives of the next generation of changemakers.
The innovative social entrepreneur who organized the conference would not have described himself as a changemaker – and yet his work inspired an initiative.
Why do they do it?
Given that they didn’t set out to be changemakers – and wouldn’t describe themselves that way – why do they do it?
Usually because time or circumstances – a life event, a crisis or opportunity presented itself and they seized it.
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin – a young black man murdered by a white man who suffered no consequences – joins the ranks of more than a few such mothers in or seeking public office.
The Saoirse Foundation – with it’s three major initiatives – including Bumbleance – a dedicated Children’s Ambulance Service – was created by Mary & Tony Heffernan in service and in memory of their two children lost to an always fatal genetic disorder.
And perhaps more quietly – but with no less a significant impact – our many neighbours fundraising and supporting initiatives because they or their families have been visited by the experience of suicide, cancer, dementia, learning differences, government incompetence or abuse and far many more challenges.
Who are they?
The famous ones are the peacemakers, whistleblowers, inventors and reformers who have shaped our world.
The infamous ones differ in that they served only their own purposes.
The important ones are the nameless among us who as the famous virologist Jonas Salk described would describe their why as taking the responsibility to become good ancestors.
So what’s the difference between good ancestors – changemakers, innovators and disruptors and the rest of us?
Except perhaps where they focus their energy and what challenged them to begin.
It all begins with a commitment to show up – and face just what stands in the way of bringing the best version of ourselves to the world.
Tolstoy put it best –
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one things of changing himself.”
Choosing Change Personally
Many of us reach adulthood struggling with dis-ease or discontent. At best we wish we were happier at work or at home, or worse we’ve adopted a habit of self-medicating our disease with substances or behaviours that numb us.
If we’re numb we can ignore that pain of ‘remaining tight in the bud’ and miss our chance to blossom.
Identifying our patterns, naming our fears and adopting whatever tools or help is required to become comfortable and more confident.
Choosing Change Professionally
Change in our work lives is no different, identifying our patterns or extricating ourselves from difficult situations can be more complicated. But it can be done.
All that’s required is for us to approach it with self-confidence and humility in equal parts.
Collectively as we become more confident – personally and professionally – we can choose to join the innovators, disruptors and changemakers among us.
What’s next for me?
Begin by examining what matters most to you.
- What do you value?
- What calls you?
- In what ways might it energise or heal you to serve?
Once you have set an intention to do ‘something’ – opportunities will present themselves.
Start asking friends and colleagues what they do in their spare time.
Do they volunteer? Serve on boards? Coach? Help-out on phone lines? Fundraise for charities? Participate in clean-ups? Lobby or advocate for social, civic or political initiatives?
If something resonates – explore it.
There is no room for perfection in this process.
To quote the third century biblical sages who described humanity’s need “to repair the world through human action” – we must accept that – “ours is not to complete the task, but neither may we desist from the labour”.
For more on supporting the changemakers among us tune in to our Ask The Expert ‘Lunch and Learn’ series over the next few months where you will hear the signature stories of changemakers in education, health and wellbeing, social enterprise, finance.
You can also find more support and learning on these links below:
For a few stories of Changemakers in Ireland
Written by Eve Earley of Empowering Change and CoHost of Ask The Expert
For more info on our AskTheExpert series