WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?!

OK, I finally gave in. After much nagging from my friends, this is my first blog. So, I guess I need to introduce myself: Here’s what you need to know:

My name is Phil Johnson. I founded an organization called Global Next. It’s a research group and leadership institute. I’m sure I’ll talk about it in future blogs, but the short version is this: I go places. I chase stories around the world – usually in non-typical places. I track leadership trends, cultural shifts, relationship issues and geopolitical shenanigans. And all of that info is used in conferences and trainings that are held throughout the US, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Here’s an even shorter explanation: I try to explain the world in context. Context is important; it gives meaning to life, to purpose and to leadership.

So the goal of this blog is to bring you the world, leadership, purpose and people – and to bring them to you in context. To challenge you to think differently about information, truth, perspective, responsibility and what really matters.

Here’s where I’ll start: Can one person actually make a difference in a world that seems to be spinning out of control?

As I write this, the US is sorting through a surge of racial tensions. The government is trying to decide the difference between security and spying on its citizens. The IRS seems to have lost is “objectivity” – to put it mildly. And internationally, Egypt (where Global Next has an office) is a mess. Revolutions or coups – depending on your perspective – are destabilizing that country and too many people have died. (And we haven’t even started talking about Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or downtown Chicago.)

With this global backdrop, you have to ask, is it even possible for one individual to make a difference? Does it always take an army of people or the heft of a huge organization? Or is it possible for YOU to make an impact. While I don’t know if you will choose to let your life spill out onto the world or not, I can offer these suggestions for those who want to increase the chance that their life will matter in a greater context:

1. Show up. Seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people fail at this first step. Just get up. Just go. Just be there. If you’re waiting for the “right” time to do something – you will not find it. If you’re looking for the prefect circumstances – get over it. They don’t exist. People who change the world always begin by showing up and being there. And I don’t care where your “there” is; I just know you need to be “there” if you want to influence anyone out “there.” In other words, most profound impact doesn’t take place on the couch, in front of the TV or while developing thumb calluses from mastering video games.

2. Stop making excuses. I would give my kingdom for people who would take personal responsibility and stop making excuses. Excuses seem necessary when there is a disconnect between the great person you think you are and the actual sub-standard performance you sometimes offer others. When those two things don’t line up, you get mentally confused, and to deal with it, you make excuses.

Another cool way to align who you hope to be with who you really are? Change your behavior! Actually be who you say you are. And when you’re not, admit it, do what you can to fix it, and move on. But stop with the excuses. And stop saying things like, “I did my best.” You probably didn’t because you probably don’t know what your best is… There is a huge difference between those who “try” and those who “succeed.” Effort is not the same as achieving. And making excuses is not the same as putting yourself in a position to impact the world.

3. Invest in others. Everyone I know who impacts the world understand that it’s NOT about them. It’s not about their bank accounts, it’s not about their pride and dignity. It’s not about winning or even being understood. People who pour their lives into others are unique folk who seem to know exactly who they are – and where their value comes from. Hint: They don’t let others, money or certain views of success define who they are. And it frees them up to the point where they have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. And when that is achieved, there is freedom to invest in others, to care about others, and to honor others above yourself.

4. Pay attention. Dr. Jeff Brown and Dr. Mark Fenske, (2011) in their book, The Winner’s Brain, discuss the idea that really successful people have a few extraordinary things in common. One of those things is a finely tuned “opportunity radar.” I think the same quality exists in people who impact and influence the world most intensely. Most of us do not pay attention. And we miss everything we’re not looking for. People who become habitual influencers are usually people who train their brains to scan the horizon for blips of opportunities – opportunities that others usually miss. And it’s often in those opportunities that we find the prospect to influence in unexpected and surprising ways.

In future posts, we will discuss lots of things regarding the world, leadership, relationships and impact. But I figured it’s a fitting way to begin this blog effort by exploring a few truths that inform those who make a difference in a broken world. So, ask yourself: “Who’s better because of you?” “What’s better because of you?” Maybe it’s time to “show up” for influence.

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