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Making a Difference

A few months ago, Ernie Anastos connected to me on LinkedIn. Ernie is a longtime fixture in New York TV news. I thought perhaps he had linked to me because he knew my brother, who also spent several decades in TV news. Last week Ernie called me and asked me to be on his show to talk about a subject that has long been dear to me: making a difference, changing the world.

The request spurred me to think about my own desire to make things better – for my friends, my family, my neighbors, strangers I see on the street, the people I worked with in East Africa. The counterbalance to that desire is often lassitude, vanity, self-involvement – and the assumption that I have to do something significant.

But in fact, the desire for significance is in itself a kind of vanity. Which is not to say that you won’t be significant. Often the suffering you see in communities or among groups of people are caused by systemic problems, and individuals and organizations arise who are ready, willing and able to address the root causes. These individuals and organizations often start with a single person asking, “Why?” and “What if…”

So in preparation for my discussion with Ernie, I wrote down a few guidelines I try to live by:

  1. Open Your Eyes: Don’t avert your eyes from things that make you uncomfortable – homeless people, poverty, hunger
  2. Open Your Heart: See the world around you with an empathetic eye
  3. Be Humble: Don’t try for significance: be of service
  4. Be Courageous: Challenging the status quo isn’t easy; don’t expect people to thank you
  5. Appreciate Yourself: Look at the skills and talents you have – the ones that have enabled you to survive and perhaps to raise children, earn a living, build friendships – whatever has kept you alive and in a position to think about your purpose in the world. Use what you have, what you know – with a sense of gratitude.

And keep your LinkedIn profile up to date! To see the interview online, click here.

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