On most mornings I speak to you about some type of injustice going on in our world – and Lord knows we have an endless number of cases I could pull from, but this morning I’d like to mix it up a bit and go in a very different direction.
We live in a time where we are more informed of what’s wrong in the world than perhaps we’ve ever been. For most of human history, we didn’t have 24 hour news networks. For most of human history, we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook to send a constant barrage of information into our world. For most of human history, we didn’t have cell phones to take all of that news and information with us – everywhere we go – all day, every day.
And those things have changed us far more than we understand. I think there are a few benefits to being hyper-informed like we are, and as a leader and a journalist I’ve tried to use those benefits for good, I try to make sure you get the news you need, I try to point us in the right direction, but I’ve grown to think that the problems and drawbacks of so much information coming at us 24/7 causes a few problems that are absolutely jamming us up.
Instead of just being really well-informed, I think we are overwhelmed. I really do. And I think Donald Trump and his core group of advisors understand that overwhelming us with non-sense and ugliness and foolishness is actually an effective strategy to prevent us from organizing the way we need to organize to make the progress we need to make.
So this morning I wanna give you piece of advice. It’s probably the most important piece of advice I give, but I can see people struggling more and more with actually putting it to work in their lives.
Here’s the advice – then I’ll break it down.
You have to pick one issue in the world, one problem, that you truly, genuinely, throw your heart and soul into, and give that issue everything you’ve got. Too many of us are doing a very little bit, a tweet here, a small donation there, about a whole lot of issues, and I understand, because a whole lot is wrong in this world, but if most of us just do a tiny little bit on each issue that disturbs us, the truth is that we won’t have anything to show for it in the end.
I spoke in Lewiston, Maine at Bates College last year and gave this same advice – and a wonderful young woman came up to me after I spoke to tell me she just didn’t have that luxury. Let me explain….
She told, Shaun – I am a Somali immigrant. I am a Muslim. I am Black. And I am a woman. I don’t have the luxury of just caring about one single issue.
And she’s right. I’m not asking you to care about just one issue. I’m not even asking you to tweet about just one issue. What I am asking you is to choose one issue that you are determined to actually make a significant impact on. Choose one issue to become a full fledged expert on. Choose one issue and determine that you will become a genuine change agent on that issue.
As I travel the country, I continue to hear from good people that they are frustrated that they aren’t really seeing the change they desire on the issues they care about the most. And I get it – I feel the same way, be it on police brutality, the quality of education in our communities, economic inequality – pick an issue – too many problems are either staying the same or getting worse.
And hear my heart here – we do have enemies. We do have people who mean us harm. But I’m at the point where I am worried less about them and more about us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still concerned about the outside forces working against us, but if we haven’t taken the time to learn how to truly impact the issues that impact us, and then make the decision to work until the wheels fall off on those issues, then I am 100% sure nothing is going to change.
Let me close with a very practical thought…
I care about the environment. But I don’t have the time to be leader on environmental issues. So, I have chosen to amplify those who do.
I care deeply about education. I used to teach middle school and high school. My wife is a lifelong educator. I support teachers and principals every chance I get. I support the Tom Joyner Foundation, but I need education to be Tom’s passion, my wife’s passion, because it’s not my primary cause.
My primary cause is police brutality and racial injustice. What’s your cause? What’s your primary passion? What issue have you put your foot down on and decided you are going to make a difference with it?
Because here is what I know – your ability to make that decision and stick with it – determines just how you can change the world.
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