You’re here to save the world.
That’s quite a responsibility, isn’t it? Are you up for it?
Man, I hope so.
Truthfully, it took me a long time to accept this responsibility, but I’m ready for it now.
In order for me to become ready, I needed to learn a life-altering lesson from a complete stranger first.
I’ve always believed that all of us are teachers in our own special way, and there is not a teacher alive who would not give anything to have the kind of impact on his/her students that this complete stranger had on me.
My hope is that he’ll do the same for you too.
If the lesson is successful, you’ll be ready to accept your incredibly critical role as a “world-changer.”
And as a “world-changer,” part of the gig is realizing that you’re here to save the world.
I know that it sounds overwhelming, but don’t worry–you’ve got this.
Either way, one thing is for sure:
There is no one else besides you who can do it.
The Encounter With an Unlikely Teacher
My mom would always tell me that people enter our lives either for “a season, a reason, or lifetime.”
This particular man entered my life for a very real reason.
During a three-week period a few years ago, I passed by this man each morning as I hurried to my office to start another workday.
Usually, I would notice him sitting on the sidewalk dressed in rag-like clothes or rummaging through a nearby dumpster for food or empty bottles as I walked past him each morning.
Regardless of this man’s situation, he would frequently smile at me when our eyes connected. Without fail, every time our eyes met, the drama that was waiting for me at the office didn’t seem all that serious when I saw him smile in light of his less-than-ideal circumstances.
I mean, let’s be real–how many of us could consistently muster up a smile if we were forced to dig through dumpsters for food?
There was a valuable lesson in his ability to keep a smile on his face, but believe it or not, that wasn’t even his most important lesson for me.
Little did I know that on one nondescript morning, the real teaching was about to begin.
As I passed by this man on that average morning, I noticed something very different about him.
His smile was gone.
Instead of simply looking unkempt, he looked sick. I knew that something was seriously wrong with this man. I don’t know how to describe it, but I could just feel it.
After passing by this man without saying a word for close to three weeks, he weakly looked at me and broke our mutual silence for the first time.
“Do you have any spare change, sir?”
I reached in my pocket and gave him the remaining two bills in my wallet. It was only then that my curiosity got the best of me.
“Hey man, are you okay?”
He feebly smiled and said that he was fine. Although I didn’t believe him, I smiled back and offered a bit of unsolicited encouragement as I headed to the office for another busy workday.
“Good thing that you’re here in West LA (Los Angeles) because there are a lot of people who can help you if you really need it.”
That’s when this man purposefully locked his gaze with mine and stared at me in focused silence for 5 seconds or so.
His apparent weakness was replaced with a deep conviction that spoke clearly through his deep brown eyes. Even though each second of our shared silence felt like an eternity to me, I couldn’t turn away. It was clear that this man had something very important to say to me.
I was right.
What he said next is still burned into my consciousness to this day. It is no understatement to say that his words changed my life.
“I’ve been here in the same spot for weeks, and no one has helped me besides you. I hate to tell you this young man, but there is no one else.”
The Greatest Myth of All
The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” -Sir Robert Swan
As I sat alone in my office on that morning a few years ago, I was shaken. That man’s words haunted me.
There is no one else.
This isn’t about whether or not I should have helped that man, or if he should have helped himself. The point of his lesson is so much deeper than that.
All I knew was that for three weeks, I walked past a man who I could have easily helped more than I did, but I chose not to do it because I figured that someone else would do it for me.
So many times in our lives, we count on someone else to step up and do the dirty work. We hope with fingers and toes crossed that someone else will do the right thing so we won’t have to do it ourselves.
Being completely real with all of you, for most of my adult life, I was hoping that someone else would create a “positivity movement,” so that I could be a part of it and help to make the world a nicer, happier, and better place for all of us.
After years (yes, literally years) of waiting for this positivity guy/gal to magically show up in my life, I finally reflected back to the man on the sidewalk’s brilliant words and asked myself a very important question:
What if there is no one else?
I’m here to tell you that someone else is a myth. It may be the greatest myth of all–especially if you have any real interest in living an exceptional life and helping others to do the same.
Someone else isn’t going to do the dirty work. Someone else isn’t going to do our push-ups for us. Someone else isn’t going to stand up to the sociopathic office bully who is currently making your work life a living hell. Someone else isn’t going to ensure that kids in Africa will have clean drinking water. Someone else isn’t going to pull you out of your toxic relationship. Someone else isn’t going to magically make this world a better place for all of us.
Simply put, someone else isn’t coming. Ever.
There is only one person who is here and able to show up every single day to make this world a better place for you and others.
And yes, you know exactly who that person is too.
Saving the World is Your Job
Making this world a better place in your own unique way is your responsibility. And truthfully, the previous sentence is true whether you want this responsibility or not.
So, since you are a world-changer, I’m going to ask you this:
What gifts are you keeping from the world because you think that you’re not ready to share them?
Please know that in the not-so-distant past, I believed that I wasn’t qualified in the slightest bit to create a blog about positivity, but here I am writing it and here you are reading it.
I wouldn’t have believed that either was possible a few years ago.
Maybe you’re reading this blog post and you currently have a dream of making this world a better place by helping others too.
Perhaps your dream is to help victims of spousal abuse, or to mentor disadvantaged kids, or to rescue neglected animals, or to ensure that everyone on this earth knows the difference between “your” and “you’re” once and for all (side note: if you’re willing to take on this challenge, I’ll love you forever), or to share your art/writing/talents with the world, or something else that is unspeakably awesome.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter what it is.
If it is your dream to do something that might seem out of reach, please don’t talk yourself out of it because there is someone else out there with more connections, more money, more knowledge, and more credibility who could share your gifts far better than you think you could do it yourself.
It took me years to realize this, but that imaginary “someone else” doesn’t exist.
But do you know who does exist?
The people out there who need your help. They’re very real, and they need you now.
They need the encouragement that only you can provide.
They need the unique insights and experiences that only you can share with them.
They need a hug that only you can give.
They need to enjoy the talents that only you possess.
They need the passion that only you have.
Each day that goes by where you keep your gifts to yourself due to fear, insecurity, or lack of belief in yourself is another day where you’re not fully doing your part to make this world a better place.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Every world-changer from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. started as a “nobody” who believed in their gifts more than their anonymity.
And because of that, they changed the world.
While that’s very true, you don’t have to become a household name to become a world-changer.
Just the commitment to help others by being the best parent you can be, the best employee you can be, the best neighbor you can be, the best friend that you can be are all ways to positively change (and save) the world.
No matter how we slice it, this is for certain: If we all relied on “someone else” to do these things, it would be impossible to make this world a more positive place.
That’s because there is no one else who can do it.
It has to be you.
No More Waiting
I have not seen “the man on the sidewalk” since our only conversation. Years later, I am left with only his words to reflect on.
There is no one else.
Maybe I could have helped that man more than I did, but as you already know, I relied on a person who doesn’t exist to do it for me.
I relied on someone else.
When it comes to living our best lives and helping others to do the same, the lesson that “the man on the sidewalk” taught me is now crystal clear:
Waiting for the perfect time to start, waiting for the ideal circumstances, or worst of all, waiting for “someone else” to do it for us, are all a complete waste of time.
The time to act is now and the person to make it happen is you.
I believe in teamwork more than anyone, but the other dangerous extreme is relying on other people to do the things that we are very capable of doing for ourselves.
Lastly, a few words of thanks for the special man who I will likely never know or see again:
I owe you big time for helping me to learn this incredibly valuable life lesson.
There was no one else who could have done this for me in the way that you did.
It had to be you.
Are you ready to accept your role as a “world-changer?” What are the special gifts that you’re keeping from the world? What is your unique way of making the world a more positive place? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!
16 thoughts on “There is No One Else”
I love that the blog comes out on a Monday. Positivity seems to always be in short supply on the 6-letter word that signals the start of the week!
I’m taking an employment plunge this week, and I drew some courage to make that leap from this blog. I’m starting a new job as a clinical supervisor at a program for people court-ordered into residential treatment. With this job comes great responsibility, and although the greatness does not come with a lot of zeros in the salary, that part was, for the first time ever, as marginal as possible to my decision (given that a girl’s gotta eat, and a 6-year-old’s gotta have Legos).
At the same time, I was also offered a higher-paying job at a local college. It would pay more, without the heavy responsibility of overseeing a counseling staff, interns, and assessing people who don’t want to be talked to about at all about their problems, much less evaluated for treatment.
Here’s the thing, though – any number of people can do that second job. It’s an admin job in a program office at a university. Probably anyone that they interviewed can do it decently. There isn’t anything special that I have, or can do, that will mean much to that position, nothing I can shape or change, nothing that is greatly affected by hiring me rather than someone else. The only thing that’s “better” at that job is the money. I wasn’t blown away by the team that interviewed me and got a downright bad vibe from the Director.
Not so long ago, I would have taken the second job despite misgivings and despite there being nothing special to it…I would have convinced myself that the money is more important, that I don’t really have what it takes to be a supervisor, that being a supervisor is going to be a lot of hassle for not enough money, and that having a family means I have to choose whatever is most practical financially, regardless of whether the job and I have anything to offer each other – or will even LIKE each other.
I have a very different attitude today. Especially in the last year, I have opened my eyes to the idea that you have a relationship with your job – not the walls, or the coworkers, or the fax machine, but the job itself. Your job may not have corporeal form, but your relationship with it stands to have all the drama, nuances, pitfalls, joys and sorrows as any other connection in your life. Hating your job, or even just being indifferent to your job, feels awful because you’re in a bad relationship, and when you are in a terrible relationship anyone who cares about you will urge you to get out, move on, find something better, and don’t settle for less than you deserve or settle for being less than fully appreciated. These days I am looking past the paycheck to see whether the job and I have any “spark.”
The second rationale is tied into this blog – I need to take this supervisor job because my interview was not even so much an interview as a meeting to convince me to take the job. For the first time in my life, my reputation (and a sterling recommendation from my supervisor) preceeded me. I walked into an interview where they were prepared to pull out whatever stops they could to convince me to take the job. And it took me a few days of thinking it over (I still have some steep learning curves) to figure out why:
Because they know, and they need me to know, that I’m the person who really CAN do this. Because they know I have pushed myself to be fearless about talking with people about suicide, about sexual assault, about child abuse, about incest, about their darkest hour and the worst thing they have ever done. Because I don’t flinch when someone tells me something that might send someone else running from the room. Because I can roll with whatever the person in the other chair has the courage to put into words. Because I have guided others to be better counselors and clinicians through example and through being open about my mistakes. It’s something I have always been able to do – listen without prejudice, hear the worst and reflect back the best, listen between the lines, and help people use their own words to tell themselves what has to happen in their lives. I’m not afraid to say that I screwed up and ask colleagues to hit me with their best shot to make sure I do better the next time around.And…holy shit, man, they WANT that person in this job.
And it’s terrifying, and exciting, and heavy, and worrisome, and thrilling, and nervewracking, and flattering, and surreal all at once. Taking this job is my acknowledgement to myself that I have a skill and a gift that was given to me for a reason. I honed it with training and experience, but you can’t teach some of this, as I know all too well from encounters with mental health professionals who entirely lack empathy or tact.
I just made a decision based not on money, or comfortable work environment, or guaranteed downtime, or benefits package. I am taking a job because I’m one of the few who can do this and do it really well. I want to do it, and I have to do it if I want my gifts to matter. I’m terrified. But this is my corner of the world to save, and here I go!
Heather, this comment is just ridiculously awesome in every conceivable way. You are so right about the second job–really, the only thing that’s “better” about it is the money. And like you said, there are lots of people who can do that type of stuff. But honestly, there is no one else who can listen to horrific stories of rape, incest, and other unspeakable forms of abuse with the poise, intelligence, and empathy that you can. Like you said, this is a huge responsibility, but it’s one that you’re more than ready to do. There’s a reason why the interviewer wanted you to get this job so badly. It’s because there is no one else with the unique skill set and ability that you have to help these people in a major way. Just like you, I’ve seen far too many mental health professionals who completely lack tact and empathy, and that’s why you were called to do this. Not that you needed me to tell you this, but I’m SO glad that you chose the supervisor position. It’s work like yours that will truly change the world. You are AWESOME, my friend!
Shola, I come again 🙂
I had a revelation as reading several lines of the article: It is in our duty to give the world the best gifts we have been given from life.
Hey there Chris, welcome back! Yes, it is our duty to share our gifts fully with the world. It’s so easy for us to tell ourselves that we’re not ready or that we’re not good enough, but we are ready and we are good enough. Your Read and Get Rich blog is an excellent example of you showing the world your excellent talents. Keep it up, my man!
Thank you! What I noticed is that you are a really good writer because the content is very readable and the topic is very engaging. This is what I call one of your major core competencies and you should build on that.
And I guess it’s just not me who thinks you’re a really good writer!
The timing of this post is uncanny! Yesterday, while celebrating my birthday (early) at my parents, I told my minister father about a particular “man on the sidewalk” that my husband and I see every time we go downtown. I said that I always give him money but that the last time I saw him (this past Saturday) that I wished I had given him more. My dad said “but what if he is a drug addict and he used it to buy drugs?” I replied that he walked with a limp and was missing most of his teeth. He was obviously suffering. To me, it didn’t matter if he abused drugs or alcohol. It wasn’t my place to judge him. If the money I gave him was spent on his next “fix”, if that took away some of his pain, then I was helping him get by. My minister father looked at me, shook his head and agreed that I was right! I told my dad that when I retire from teaching, I want to help the poor and homeless, perhaps volunteer in a soup kitchen in the inner city. My grandparents were Salvation Army missionaries in South Africa (where my dad was born). My dad said “perhaps there is a bit if a Salvationist” in you (my dad left the SA to become a United Church of Canada minister). I said that perhaps I did have some Salvationist zeal! I kind of surprised myself. I don’t want to convert people, I just want to help people experience less pain and hunger and have a roof over their heads. I couldn’t sleep last night, worried about where “the man on the sidewalk” was going to lay his head.
Colleen, believe me, I know exactly how that feels. I spent a lot of time worrying about the well-being of my “man on the sidewalk” too. For some reason, a lot of people justify not giving money to homeless people by saying “he’ll probably just use it to buy booze or drugs.” But like you said, who are we to judge? All I know is that if someone needs my help, and I’m in a position to provide that help, then I refuse to do nothing in hopes that “someone else” will do it for me. To me, that’s just incredibly weak. Props to you for being willing to help and for making a major positive difference!
Thank you for the inspiration.
This is helping me to reframe what I do for others.
I may not be a rocket scientist, but I help rocket scientists (and others) get their messages across to those that matter so they can have the impact they need to change the world.
I may not be a cancer researcher or doctor, but I help them get their message across so they can change the world with their ideas, findings, thoughts, and work.
Thank you, Shola.
You’re so welcome, Linda! And thank you for all that you do to make the world a better place. The title of “world-changer” isn’t just reserved for the rocket scientists, physicians, and researchers of the world. It’s for people like you and me who are making a concerted effort on a daily basis to help make the world a more positive place in our own special way. Keep doing your thing my friend, and believe me, your work is deeply appreciated.
Great reminder/challenge Shola! It’s so easy to just walk on by and think “Oh someone else will do something about that.” It applies to a lot of things really. Just think about all of the people who witness bullying and don’t do anything. Sometimes it can be scary to step in, whether it be to help a homeless person or stop a bully or whatever else the situation may call for. I can’t say that I am any different. From now on I will try to be! Have a wonderful week Shola!
So true, Spring. I’ve spent more time than I’m willing to admit thinking “someone else will pick up the litter in the sandbox at the park” or “someone else will stand up to the bully who’s being a complete ass.” But these days, I truly look at it differently. If everyone counted on “someone else” to do the right thing, then the right thing would never happen. That’s why I’m committed to act as if there is no one else who will step up to do the right thing. That is all of the motivation that I need to act. I’m glad that you’re up for the challenge!
This post is incredibly profound. An absolutely marvellous piece. Shola, I’m very grateful to you that you wrote it.
In fact, this post is a life changer for me. What an inspiration you are!
It might even be as simple as truly listening, listening deeply, to another person and not interrupting them or hurrying them along in their story that brings a sense of peace to that person. There are many people on this planet who feel unheard and, consequently, unimportant.
Wow, thanks Cecilia! Those are incredibly kind words and I am honored that this post has touched you. Like you said, simply bringing peace to another person by authentically listening and being present can be a world-changing act. Helping people to feel truly heard is so uncommon, and if more people did it consistently, it would bring so much more positivity to this world. Thanks for being part of the change!
I live in Santa Monica (the so called homeless capital) I see many people living on the street everyday. Sometimes I get irritated because they set up camp in my carport or use the alley next to my building for a restroom etc. However for the most part I try to help when I can. The point of my comment is my experience with one particular man. Some people I see all the time others I see once and then they are gone. As I was walking down Lincoln Blvd. one day coming back from the store a man approached me and asked for money, followed by a deep apology for asking. Something in his eyes told me he was sincere. All I had in my wallet was $5 – I gave it to him and he proceed to thank me profusely and felt comfortable enough to share his delusion. He obviously suffers from some kind of mental illness and what he was saying involved mythical or cosmic beings…I soon realized there was some truth in his rant. I listened and simply said “but we are all connected in the divine…we are divine,” his eyes widened and seemed to say that I got his message. He grabbed my arm and kissed my hand and said thank you. I smiled and went on my way thinking…sometimes the world we live in sucks the soul out of us and we are left with emptiness and no where to turn. Then I thought that maybe he isn’t delusional, maybe society is with all the fascination with, and reward of mediocrity (Kardashian nonsense, reality TV). A false life that money and power make you more valuable. What really makes us valuable is how we embrace the people around us known or not, and remember that divinity is within all of us, we just need to recognize it.
Hey Kat, I hear you! As your neighbor in West LA, I’ve had many encounters with the homeless population that I ever had when I lived on the east coast. I’m so thankful for these encounters because they helped me to learn lessons in tolerance, kindness, and gratitude that I’m not sure I would have learned without them. What you said is SO powerful–beauty and divinity is within all of us, we just need to recognize it. It’s when we choose to be open to the idea that everyone has something to offer us, that we’re then able to receive the fullest of what life has to offer. Your story is a perfect example of this, my friend. Thanks for sharing!