in Personal Reflections

Taking Initiative and Instigating Change

Flower amongst chaos on a wall in Hue, Vietnam

After reading my last blog post, Pemala, a Nepali friend and a regular reader, left the following note on my Facebook Wall:

Reading “The Revolution Starts Here” was very insightful. It gave me the moral support that is lacking in our community.

I have had enough with the Nepali community leaders in Boston who were fighting among each other for position. I took a stand and voiced my opinion in front of everybody. I thought, I could go home and talk about it or I could take a stand and let everybody in the community know what was happening.

I am planning to gather [the] younger generation for suggestions to improve the organization and have more youth involvement. And, I am going to propose that they help organizations like Nepal FREED who is doing something worthwhile for Nepal.

It was incredible to see how writing a blog post could help someone feel motivated to take action and possibly translate into things that would help the children I visited in a remote part of the world several months earlier.

Pemala’s message caused me to really dig deep and consider the far reaching effects of our actions. It made me analyze the reasons for my own inaction and gave me the missing piece to the puzzle of why I’ve been feeling stagnation in my life since returning from my trip overseas.

Her message allowed me to see the role initiative plays in instigating change.

The Need for Initiative

The word initiative means to have “the ability to assess and initiate things independently”, to “use your initiative, imagination, and common sense”.

Think about that for a moment and ask yourself how often you’re initiating and how often you’re just reacting to the situations around you or waiting for someone else to take action.

To take initiative, you need to be fearless. You need to be so fed up with the status quo that you’re willing to risk everything in effort to change it.

In my previous post when I talked about the revolution starting right here, within each of us, I was talking about how we need to become the initiators. We need to revolt against inaction and take initiative.

When we see something that needs changing, no matter how small, we need to lead the charge and take initiative.

Setting an Example (or How I’m Not Setting an Example)

The best way to affect the world around you is by taking the initiative to make changes to your lifestyle so that you become a walking, talking, breathing example of the changes you wish to see in the world.

If you hate to hear about animals being hurt, you should not eat meat. If you want to stop the pollution produced by burning gasoline, you should not be needlessly driving a gas guzzling vehicle. If you’re not recycling, you should not be complaining about garbage polluting the planet.

It’s easy to claim the desire for change without actually taking initiative, but that just makes you a hypocrite. If you aren’t doing everything in your power to make your own life a living example of the change you want to see, then your words are just full of air and you’re a fake.

I’m sorry if this sounds harsh or confrontational, but it’s as much for you as it is for me. I need to say these things publicly to put myself in the spotlight.

I catch myself talking about change — talking about taking action and living a healthy life in harmony with nature — but then I find myself doing the exact opposite purely out of habit or laziness.

I talk about the incredible benefits of meditation and yoga, but then turn around and sleep late instead of doing either. I’ll choose to drink coffee over tea, even when I know the extra caffeine is unhealthy for my body. I’ll spend money on lattes that I really cannot afford, all because it’s easier than breaking the habit.

I talk about the benefits of recycling, but then do nothing when I see my family throwing everything into one trash barrel. I’ll talk about overcoming fear, but then turn around and be too afraid to start a conversation with a stranger.

What happened to fearlessness? What happened to courage? What happened to taking action and starting a revolution?

Just Get the Ball Rolling

Talking is easy, but taking initiative requires courage. It takes real commitment and dedication. It takes perseverance and passion of epic proportions. You need to be so dissatisfied with the results of inaction that you’re prepared to risk everything to see something change.

When I quit my job and moved to India seven months ago, I did it because I was so tired of not following my dreams. Just like Pemala got fed up with going home and complaining to her family about the problems in the Nepali community, I got fed up with dreaming about what my life could be instead of actually doing something to change it.

But once I took the initiative to change things, everything else began falling into place. One thing led to the next and the inertia of completing each step pushed me forward; it helped put me in a position to take action on each succeeding step.

Staring at the mountain and feeling overwhelmed that I cannot reach the top in one giant step will just lead to discouragement and more fear, but breaking it down and focusing on just one small step in the right direction leads to instant progress.

That’s not to say it’s easy sailing once we take the first step. I left home seven months ago without a backup plan. I sold all my stuff and emptied my savings account to make that dramatic lifestyle change. Now I’m back at home with no possessions and an empty bank account. I’m searching for any type of work I can find and trying my best to stay on my feet.

But the ball is rolling and now my dreams are no longer just dreams. I know where I’m going; I know what’s next and I have unrelenting enthusiasm to keep moving forward regardless of the challenges I may face. I feel unstoppable because I took the big first step and got the ball rolling.

From further discussions with Pemala I know that her single action of standing up and voicing her opinion has also led her to take further action. Now she’s well on the way to creating real change in her community.

If she was still going home and venting her frustrations to her family, nothing would be changing; no balls would be rolling and inaction would still be dominating the situation.

4 Places to Start Taking Initiative Today

There are lots of places to start, but here are four general areas where I think everyone can find something. Choose an area where you feel the most frustration in your life and then analyze what tiny improvement or change you can make.

1) At home

I have always preferred to wash dirty dishes by hand. As soon as I bring something to the sink, I wash it. Everybody else in my family seems to let them pile up until the sink is overflowing and eventually someone loads them into the dishwasher.

But that doesn’t deter me. Twenty years have gone by and I still prefer to wash my dishes by hand instead of leaving them in the sink for someone else to wash.

Changes at home aren’t always easy, but they are an excellent environment to practice the dedication that’s needed to make changes elsewhere. It’s a perfect place to test the commitment to your own lifestyle changes.

While family members might be the most likely to resist change, they are usually the most receptive to your thoughts and opinions. If you speak with love, they will listen with love.

In the four spheres of influence — yourself, your family, your community, the planet — being able to implement changes at home is practically a prerequisite to implementing changes in the community or the planet. It’s not a requirement, but the skills and lessons that you learn will prepare you for bigger challenges.

Start small, speak with love, and explain why the change is beneficial. Most of all, don’t just participate in the change, lead the way. Be the initiator. Any flakiness in your own commitment will translate into excuses for others not to follow.

2) At work

Do you have suggestions for how things at work could be done differently? Bring your ideas to management or directly to your boss.

Be mindful of the attitude that you bring to work. How do you relate with your coworkers? How do you greet them? Do you take your stress and anger out on them? Take a deep breath and try converting all your negative energy into love, kindness, and compassion.

If your work environment isn’t conducive to health and harmony, ask yourself how it could be changed. Talk with your coworkers and see what they think could be improved or changed. Collaborate with each other and be the one to take the initiative to lead.

3) In your community

Pemala saw that change was needed in her community and she found the courage to stand up and voice her opinion; she took initiative where initiative was needed.

Communities are everywhere. Your family is a community. Your office is a community. Your neighborhood and your circle of friends are a community.

Do you see something they’re doing that is contradictory to what you believe is right? Take a stand a voice your opinion. Ask yourself how you could approach the situation to initiate change.

If the community isn’t ready to change, or if they refuse to take your opinions into consideration, make a stand by leaving that community.

4) In your lifestyle

Changing your lifestyle isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably the hardest thing to do, especially if your desired lifestyle is a lot different from what you’re familiar with or if you don’t have any good lifestyle role models.

However, modifying your lifestyle is also the most effective way of initiating change.

When you learn how to become the change you wish to see, you empower yourself with the confidence and fearlessness necessary to initiate further change around you.

I’ve already mentioned several areas of my own lifestyle that need changing and from this day forward I’m going to take initiative to change them. Instead of just thinking, dreaming, and talking about the changes, I’m going to work on actively implementing the changes.

This process has already begun: My decision to sell all my possessions and become a nomad was at the top of my lifestyle redesign todo-list. But now I need to continue building that list and checking off items. I need to continue implementing changes, refining and redefining my lifestyle so that it constantly reflects the changes I wish to see around me.

It’s Time To Take Action

It all starts with taking one step. One step towards changing something that you wish was different. Ask yourself, what’s the next step? Then focus on completing that step.

It doesn’t need to be the most dramatic thing or the step that will create the most change. Taking any step in the right direction is better than being frozen in a state of inaction.

What’s one thing in your life that you want to change? It could be an element of your lifestyle, something at home or at work, or even something in your community.

In the comments below, please describe one thing that you want to see change and then describe the next steps you’re going to take to initiate that change. Let this be your public commitment to take the next step.

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51 Comments

  1. I’m going to implement a composting system at my parents house and get my family to start recycling by taking the initiative to set up the system and educate everyone, including myself.

    Then I’m going to take command of overseeing its regular usage. I’m even going to occasionally go through the trash to make sure there isn’t anything in there that shouldn’t be.

    • Hi Raam,
      We’ve had water restrictions in my community for several years now because of drought, and this has taught me to be very conservative of water. We’ve had good rain this year, and although the restrictions are going to be be eased, the frugal use of water is now a habit ingrained for life. Part of this is to have what I call a “swill bucket” that I keep in the sink to catch every drop of water as I wash my hands, or rinse dishes, or peel vegetables (the peels go into the bucket too), etc. Nothing organic goes to waste, but is emptied into the compost. The swill bucket sits in a plastic bowl – that fits perfectly into the sink – for washing dishes. The grey water from that goes into the compost too. I’m vegetarian, so there’s no meat or grease from that to worry about.
      Do you have recycling bins in your community? We have the usual rubbish bins, but also a larger bin for recycling paper, tin cans, plastic and glass bottles. I very rarely need to put out the rubbish bin because at least 95% of all my ‘waste’ is recycled. If you don’t have community recycling, that might be the next step/initiative after educating your family. We also have a ‘green’ depot at the local tip for recycling garden prunings, etc, which is then chipped and sold commercially as mulch.

      • Hi Honour,

        Thank you for sharing your water-saving techniques. Making a habit out of simple things like that really saves so much — it just needs to become something that everybody does without thinking. Right now it seems like for so many people, resources that are scarce in many places are taken for granted because they cannot see the long-term side-effects — for those with the power to do so (the richer countries), the bad effects are delayed and pushed into the future for as long as possible, thereby hiding the need for sustainable solutions. But that will all backfire when it cannot be pushed off into the future! There’s only so much water on the planet and it’s a resource that everybody needs.

        As for the recycling in my town — I actually don’t think they do very much. Unfortunately, most of the down is rural enough that everybody needs to take care of their own trash — there is no town collection of trash. Each home has to either deliver the trash directly to the town dump, or pay a private business to pick up the trash for them. The trick is going to be figuring out how those private businesses can benefit from also providing a recycling pickup.

        From my initial research, it seems like the town actually charges you to recycle… which in my opinion is absurd. I have a lot more research to do, but I’ve already started! :)

  2. Great read, Raam. What Pemala did is a very important step, and it’s cool that it was your post that led to it!

    One big change on my mind is to create a business that consciously focuses on staying small and earning less. Just enough to live. I think it’s time for us affluent Westerners to stop dreaming of 6 and 7 figure income and rather try to find alternatives to our growth economies and leave a smaller footprint on this planet.

    I already reduced both my financial and ecological cost of living quite a bit, and will thus focus on really building this business. The first step for me is to get more organized. I believe in the possibility of habit changes, but we have to go step by step and give them some time, or we will fail easily.

    Of course, this is probably a weird change to propose, but I actually think it can make a difference. It’s of little use to write about frugality and the importance of idleness in our lives if I don’t manage to show it’s sustainable on both sides, i.e. in income AND expenses and concerning the planet AND ourselves.

    • Thank you, Fabian.

      I couldn’t agree more than we should give up dreams of 6 and 7 figure incomes. I think as long as that’s our focus, we’re really not seeing the bigger picture — we’re not seeing what’s really important in life. Finding ways to strive for growth while leaving a smaller footprint on the planet and reducing unnecessary expenditure is exactly what we need.

      I love the idea of building business(es) around the idea of intentionally staying small while serving a useful purpose. Everett Bogue’s idea of a minimalist business is somewhere along these same lines, but I think we need more everyday solutions that solve real-world problems (as opposed to a business model that just involves selling digital products).

      I think the final answer to this will be to build smaller communities that support each other, while using the wisdom of bigger communities to advance themselves.

      • Hi Raam,
        The step I’m on at present is to initiate a “Teach the homeless how to build” program. I envision selected homeless people creating a cooperative community; helping each other to build their dwellings out of a material called ‘Papercrete’ – a mix of waste paper and cement (that they would make themselves, and later have a cooperative business making papercrete blocks to sell). Once they make the blocks (which are very light, but very strong, with fantastic insulating properties), a half a dozen or so people can put up a dwelling in days. I also see them having a community organic garden for healthy food, and being solar-powered and with their own water tanks, so they can be as self reliant as possible. A dwelling can be built for hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands.
        Papercrete structures are also the answer for quickly and cheaply rehousing people after natural disasters, and helping them to help themselves.

        • Honour I have never heard of Papercrete. I’m curious are there restrictions as to how big or coordinated those building it would need to be? Can it come in different colors or otherwise be customize? Lastly where can I learn more about it?

          The reason I’m asking is that I’m looking into finding some project that I can either get involved with or create that would help not only the overall community but would be something that individuals with various disabilities might be able to do. As there is a very high unemployment rate among disabled persons in the US. I would assume that this is even more true in other parts of the world.

          I would truly love to both help make a differance in the lives of those like myself facing disabilities and having enough of an income that I no longer require a government handout.

          I would appreciate any info you can give me.

          • Hi Gary,
            A couple of months ago I was looking for books on cob-building when I discovered papercrete, and bought the definitive book “Building with Papercrete and Paperadobe- A Revolutionary New Way to Build Your Own Home for Next to Nothing”, by Gordon Solburg. Check it out at:
            http://papercretenm.com

            I’ve just done a search on ‘papercrete’ and this site (below) is awesomely creative, it’s very “Gaudi-ish”, but it shows how versatile papercrete is.

            http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/eves-garden-papercrete-palace.php

            Another interesting link is about a mansion built out of papercrete in Brazil:
            http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/600692/n/Renewable-Home
            if you also click on the ‘links’ on this website, there is a link to Michael Reynolds ‘Earthships’ – houses built out of tyres.
            These links should answer all your questions, but I suggest that you do a Google search on “Papercrete’ too.
            Let me know if I can help you further.

        • Hi Honour,

          What an amazing coincidence: I was walking through the city of Cambridge this evening and looked at the homeless people on the street and wondered to myself: What could be done to give them a community where they could not only live better, but thrive? What’s missing?

          I think what’s missing is organization, know-how, and a willingness to bring such people together to create something better. I’m not sure where someone could start with this and I’m sure there’s already a lot of organizations that do a lot of good things for the homeless, but I wonder how we could do more.

          Like Gary, I’d love to hear more about the stuff you’re working with. Do you have a website we could visit to get more information?

          • Hi Raam,
            You wrote: “What an amazing coincidence: I was walking through the city of Cambridge this evening and looked at the homeless people on the street and wondered to myself: What could be done to give them a community where they could not only live better, but thrive? ”
            Is there any such thing as coincidence I wonder? ? ]:]
            What’s missing is probably Vision: seeing what needs to be done, and taking a step in that direction, no matter how small. My Vision is to help people to help themselves – and each other. This will both empower the individuals and build a sense of community and belonging, as people learn by working together (under the guidance of an experienced papercrete builder) to build each others homes, and then go on to grow much of their own food.
            “I’m not sure where someone could start with this” Neither am I Raam!!
            So I’m just starting where I am; working with my vision and with what I’ve got, now (which isn’t much!!).
            “and I’m sure there’s already a lot of organizations that do a lot of good things for the homeless,”
            The homeless need to become independent, not recipients of charity. Building their own homes and self-sufficient community will give them self respect and self-esteem, and skills that they could turn into cooperative self-employment. The Prototype has fantastic possibilities for being replicated in all sorts of situations.

            “Like Gary, I’d love to hear more about the stuff you’re working with. Do you have a website we could visit to get more information?”

            No, I don’t have a website, I’ve only just come up with the idea! My project to “Teach the Homeless How to Build” was inspired ‘out of the blue’ a month or so back, by something I read in the “Building with Papercrete and Paperadobe” book (see reference and links in my reply to Gary above).
            About 11 days ago, I bit the bullet and did a ‘brainstorming’ (otherwise known as mind-mapping, or clustering, or branching) with a few friends to get ideas about organizing such a project. Two of the ideas that I’m excited about is to do a documentary on the project, and/or a TV Reality show. I’ve been putting all the suggestions (23 topics so far) onto a word-file, so that I can then work them into some sort of a plan for a prototype. Then I’ll possibly create a blog for the plan so that people can have input to develop the concept. I’m really just feeling my way in the dark, one step at a time. I welcome any encouragement, ideas, and/or support, because I’m pretty much on my own with this at present.
            I’ll let you know when I get a blogsite happening Raam.

            • Thank you for the reply, Honour.

              Great point about the homeless needing to become independent instead of recipients of charity. I think many of them are independent, but they slowly become dependent on society because a lot of times their lives depend on it. Unfortunately, the papercrete example wouldn’t really work for the homeless people around here, especially since a tiny 10′x10′ piece of land near the city can go for $100k+ (and I think in the United States, the homeless congregate in the cities because that’s where they’re most likely to survive) .

              However, I think that if there was some way to provide jobs + housing for them — something that basically gave them no excuse to be living on the street begging — that would be fantastic. Of course the question is, what kind of jobs? I think it should be something that is beneficial to the community or in some way helps people, but again, I’m lost as to exactly what that might be. It would be tough to provide jobs that require labor, since a lot of the homeless have disabilities that would exclude them from such work.

              I look forward to hearing more about your ideas and I can’t wait to see your blog. Let me know if you need help with hosting (I run my own web hosting business) and blog design/setup (my buddy Ali Dark does awesome work and he’s very helpful).

              • Raam you and Honour have inspired me to think of things. Personally I’m drawn to having a cob house myself. Not sure what it is but it seems right to me.

                Now making papercrete, paperadobe or adobe blocks isn’t that bad an idea. really you can devise ways to sell them for walkways and steps maybe. even in the city people still want brick blocs for their gardens and outdoor parts of their property.

                Another interesting possibility for both the homeless and those with disabilities might be to take an abandom commercial property and turn it into a indoor aeroponics and or hydroponic farm. Them sell the produce to city dwellers. I would make sure to mention that you are first buying locally(get the locovores) second mention that by buying with them you are helping to solve the homeless or chronic unemployment (this is true of most people with disabilities).

                these are such crazy thoughts but oh well. I hope someone will be able to make good use of them.

                • Hi Gary; you wrote “… Personally I’m drawn to having a cob house myself. Not sure what it is but it seems right to me.”
                  I like the idea of sculpting my home with my bare hands into a work of art, which both cob and papercrete are suited to. I found out about Papercrete while looking for info on Cob building, as that has been a dream of mine for decades. However, Papercrete can do the same as Cob, and more; and it’s a lighter material to work with, plus it has better insulating qualities; plus you can use mud instead of cement with the paper if you want (paperadobe); plus utilizing the waste paper sits well with me too.
                  “Now making papercrete … blocks isn’t that bad an idea; you can … sell them for walkways and steps …even in the city people still want brick blocs for their gardens and outdoor parts of their property.”
                  That’s right; it could be very commercially viable.
                  “Another interesting possibility for both the homeless and those with disabilities might be to take an abandoned commercial property and turn it into a indoor aeroponics and or hydroponic farm. Then sell the produce to city dwellers. I would make sure to mention that you are first buying locally(get the locovores) second mention that by buying with them you are helping to solve the homeless or chronic unemployment (this is true of most people with disabilities).”
                  This is an excellent idea Gary, not at all ‘crazy’. Believe in yourself, eh! Perhaps you could get a few friends together and brainstorm on your dream? That’s how I got started with this project/dream, and all of a sudden it’s looking like I just might be able to realize it, as in ‘make it a reality’. Thanks for your input Gary. :]

                  • Hi Honour Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad I haven’t completely lost my mind.

                    On the cob versus the papercret/paperadobe can you remodel your interior like you are supposed to able to do with cob. I have read that you can moisten say a wall and pull out the cob to make a niche or add moistened cob for artistic effects.

                    You said that papercrete is lighter to work with than cob. I tend to think that the notion of a nice 2-3 foot think wall is a rather nice feature. Especially if you don’t want to disturb others with the loud noises or be disturbed by loud noises coming from the outside.

                    the only real problem i see with papercrete/adobe is that it assume that there will be a never ending supply of waste paper. I know that personally I try not to use paper and paper products unless completely unavoidable. I just thinking long term.

                    On the urban aeroponics notion of mine I just thought of the abandoned commercial building idea as here in the states there are many such buildings that are not being used because the economy bellied up. As such I’m still in the woolgathering stage of this very newly hatched scheme. Also I’m not exactly full of money or have many friends for brainstorming but I will see what I can come up with.

                    Thank you once again for this very interesting discussion.

              • Hi Raam, You wrote “Unfortunately, the papercrete example wouldn’t really work for the homeless people around here, especially since a tiny 10′x10′ piece of land near the city can go for $100k+ (and I think in the United States, the homeless congregate in the cities because that’s where they’re most likely to survive.”
                - Yes Raam, it’s the same here in Australia, but there are options that can be explored re getting land for the project. Because it will be a social experiment that provides practical solutions for escalating homelessness and other governmental problems like social cohesion; health; suicide rates; or Remote Aboriginal communities; I could try for a government lease or grant. Another possibility could be to receive a bit of land as an outright gift (I have a certain Australian philanthropist in mind). There is also a local church-backed charity that has provided nearby farmland for the unemployed to grow their own vegetables, and a small bus for transport from & back to town, and there may be a possibility that they might be interested in my project as an extension of that. As it will be a prototype, I’ll be keeping it very flexible as I develop the concept. But there’s no point in pursuing the question of where and how to get the land to build the village until I get to that point in developing the project: one step at a time, eh! :]

                “However, I think that if there was some way to provide jobs + housing for them — something that basically gave them no excuse to be living on the street begging — that would be fantastic.”
                - Once the people have made the building blocks and built their dwellings, they will have the skills and equipment to form a building cooperative – making blocks for sale, and/or building sheds, studios, doghouses, garden walls etc., for the general public. They could also start an organic nursery, seed-bank, or market garden, and/or free range eggs; even beekeeping. Again, the idea will be for them to get together and call upon their combined resourcefulness to come up with their own ideas for self-employment, either individually or as a group. As for disabled people, the internet has many and varied opportunities for setting up a passive income. I envisage that the prototype village will have its own monetized blog, promoting its set-up DVD, and its ongoing developmental ‘story’ so that others (world-wide) can be empowered to create their own do-it-yourself papercrete villages.

                “I look forward to hearing more about your ideas and I can’t wait to see your blog. Let me know if you need help with hosting.”
                -Thanks, Raam, I just might take you up on the offer! I’m nearly ready to start looking at which way to set this all up. I’ll want any internet site I settle on to be very interactive, so that the concepts can evolve universally in the light of people’s experiential learning and input.

      • You are right, Raam, not everybody can make a living selling digital products (although many people won’t probably *want* to do that, neither).

        I agree with your emphasis on communities. The neighborhood is a very important sphere of influence, and it’s here where changes can be easily implemented. An exchange with larger communities and peer communities all over the planet would then certainly help in the development.

        This is, as far as I can see, also a strategy that could help the poorer regions in the world. Instead of focusing on hyper-consumption, governments should try to support local artisans and businesses. While that’s easier said than done, I think it’s an important chance for national governments to prevent their own abolishment in the long run. Otherwise, if they continue to provide less and less benefits and let multinational companies undemocratically run the country, people will create alternatives (of whatever kind).

    • Fabian I’m completely in agreement with Raam. Your idea of a dream of enoughness based business that serve your community sounds great. Since I have never really been attracted to all the six figure income stuff. I have never really bought into the need to own every trinket on the market either(I admit I was more materialistic as a kid).

      I would be interested in seeing how this goes. Like Raam I have encountered Everett Bogues Business model. I don’t exactly have much to sell though. But I like it’s premise. But your notion of taking such a business model to the real world is very intriguing.

      Good luck and I know I am looking forward to more such dreams.

      • Thanks for your comment, Gary! It’s good to see that there are more people caring about these matters!
        As you, I currently don’t have much to sell (or I don’t want to sell it!), especially as I’m more a text/art/thinktank person than a good-with-my-hands-person. This in combination with a quite critical stance towards traditional business doesn’t make things easy, but we’ll see where it will lead me. My main thought is creating a business that at least in part will be virtual, but continue to work voluntarily in local NGOs and communities.

    • Hi Fabian,
      Here’s something to think about Fabian: I’ve avoided money like the plague all my life because of unconscious programs I’ve had running, but I’ve only just this year realized that the more money I have, the more good I can do – as I am philanthropically inclined. So, money can be very empowering if you have the integrity to use it for helping make this world a better place, which it seems that you have. If/when I get lots of money (now that I’ve realized it’s okay to do so), I’ll be putting it into a non-profit benevolent foundation, and just draw a modest wage from it for my services. In that way my sense of integrity will remain intact, and I’ll also be empowered to make a difference. :)

      • Honour, this is a cool approach, as is your housing project! I personally have an item on my bucket list of at least giving a one-year scholarship to an artist in need I meet during my life. So yes, for this I will also need the money… and I like your idea of building a foundation. This would be a much larger effort, of course, but it’s cool to see you working towards this!

  3. I’m going to move every day…at the very minimum, I’m going to walk for 30 minutes every day, rain or shine. Hopefully, I’ll inspire my girlfriend (who is diabetic) to move every day too!

    • Welcome, Sarah! That’s an awesome commitment! A few years ago, I was working in an office on the 5th floor of a building five days a week and one day I made the decision to never take the elevator. The first few weeks that I took the stairs up, I was sweating and totally out of breath by the time I got to the top. But then that slowly changed and soon I was beating my elevator-taking coworkers to the top! :)

      Finding ways to add little bits of exercise into your existing routine really has incredible benefits and the positive side effect of not requiring much energy to form the new habit!

    • Hi Sarah,
      Good luck! If it’s raining or hailing cats and dogs, you’d still be moving by dancing to your favorite music for half an hour, just for variety. I need to move more too, but half an hour is too daunting! Maybe 15 minutes could happen! :)

  4. Odd synchronicity here, Raam.

    In the past week I’ve become sick of the provincialism and the ignorance about the breadth that the world can offer people in my school. My peers, unfortunately, are rather short-sighted and school officials just want them to shove off to college to experience the “real world”, without actually telling them what their college degree will get them in life. Odds are, if they’re lucky, all they’ll get is a typical 9-5 job in the same towns they grew up in.

    Of course, I know better – I’m much more worldly in my outlook and see so many choices out there (at least, in terms of cool businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities) that it seems like my peers are being brainwashed. I’ve sat and complained about it long enough…

    I’ve decided, then, to make an impact. I’m going to create a short manifesto about how they’ve been lied to, and how school doesn’t really determine performance later in life. In fact, it just makes people conform and listen to instructions. Those kinds of factory jobs don’t exist any more. Creativity and ingenuity win the day now.

    It’s my job to spread the word if no one else will. Hopefully my manifesto changes at least one life for the better. If it does, my work was a success.

    Timely post, Raam!

    • Hi Brett,

      Great points and I love your passion. I think such a manifesto would be extremely valuable and really help open the eyes of a lot of people who may think a college degree is the answer to success. However, I think it’s also important to remember that not everyone is entrepreneurial. Some people really enjoy more menial jobs or even just things like creating art in their basement (or researching scientific stuff or becoming a doctor, etc.). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having no desire to be entrepreneurial or start your own business, but I do think there’s something wrong with being misled.

      I’ve never gone through the public school system so I cannot speak from experience, but it seems to me like the school system is set up to drill certain subjects into your head, give you a piece of paper, and then release you into the world where you need to start from scratch and learn how the “real world” operates. I think a manifesto that explains the bigger picture and recommends developing a global perspective, possibly even going as far as doing some international travel, would be an incredible resource and very valuable tool.

      If you need any help writing the ebook or want to rack my brain for ideas, I’d love to help! :)

  5. Hi Raam, awesome post.

    About my lifestyle, I would like to change many things but, this is the most meaningful in which I really need a change.
    I need to change the fact that I’ve to eat more vegetables, fruits and drink a lot of water, because is necessary for my stomach health. I try sometimes, but I know that I need to be disciplined to achieve the change. The daily routine sometimes not let me to do it but, If I truly want it I know I’ll make it.

    Steps to make the change:

    1. Consciously thinking in what needs and not wants my stomach.
    2. Start with a glass of water every hour or every two hours.
    3. Try to eat vegetables like a salad. ( My mom loves salad. She prepares it all the time and I refuse to eat it. Well, sometimes) :)
    4. Not eating too late; and replace the evening meal for a fruit.

    Finally, thanks Raam for this opportunity which means, a therapy and a challenge to realize, the need of the change that we should have in many areas of our life.

    • Thank you, Viviana! :)

      I love the way you broke down your commitment into four steps — just drinking more water will have a huge affect on your digestion and overall health. I think the biggest part of eating healthier is learning to prepare food in advance and plan our meals a little bit. It’s when we’re hungry and we don’t have anything healthy around that we fall back on less optimal choices.

      I used to buy those bags of baby carrots and then put a handful of them in a ziploc bag every morning before leaving for work. I’d do the same thing with a handful of almonds and then munch on the two of those throughout the day. Celery with peanut butter is also a favorite! (If it sounds weird, try it before you dismiss it!)

  6. Hi Raam,

    Wonderful post as always. I truly believe that all notable change happens because we LIVE the change we want to create (see). For us to absolutely see the change we want to happen in the world, and to direct the course of that change, we must live it, actively, in our lives right now, every day.

    I love your idea of picking one thing. My husband and I recycle all plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, etc (and try to avoid as much of all of these as we can). We also use only one car, and also public transport, car pool, train, and bicycles. We grow a small organic garden, do almost 100% of our clothes shopping at Goodwill secondhand store (by choice), and use only eco-friendly cleaning products, unscented….everything. As well as make earth friendly diet choices. There are other things we do, but we are always trying to find new ways of changing our world.

    Also, we question our values. When I lived wild, I lived so spartan that I completely forgot about “things”. And since being in society I feel a great hunger to simplify my life. I have more things than I will ever need. I tell people to not give me anymore things. I think money can be a powerful tool and I think there is nothing wrong with making money as it can be used to help others. But I often become worn out with the “ra ra ra” of more is better, and that success equates to a fancy house, car, vacations, expensive clothes, etc. I’m not saying we can’t look after ourselves or our families, nor that we should suffer, but I do think we need to reassess our values, and redefine success. The “American Dream” is not realistic anymore; I seriously doubt it ever was.

    My husband, who is Mohawk Indian and is a professor at a Native American college, once told me that the best way to teach others is through example (or role model). I never forgot that and have since experienced the effect of it’s truth. We all have the opportunity to teach through example, through the way we live our lives. You are a blessing and a wonderful role model.

    I have so enjoy your posts and deeply related to your post about your “reentry” into western culture. It was much the same for me after living in the wild. As I read that post, I felt in my bones how you felt those first few days, weeks and maybe still. I felt it as if it were my own experience. It was.

    With deep gratitude,
    Robin

    • Hi Robin,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and in-depth reply! It sounds like you’ve lived — and still live — quite an interesting life! I’ve got a bit of Native American in my ancestry and the Native American culture has intrigued me for as long as I can remember (when I was young I used to listen to a lot of Native American music and even played the flute for a while). I’d love to meet your husband some day. :)

      Your comment reminded me of something I wrote for Karol Gajda a few weeks ago. He wrote a free manifesto called The American Dream is Dead and asked several bloggers to email in and describe what we thought the American Dream meant to them and what they feel it means now. Here was my submission:

      The American Dream meant individuals had the freedom to create their own future; it meant they had the power to forge a long-lasting legacy regardless of their religion, social status, education, or current financial standing. But that dream was lost when they decided to hand over that power and freedom in return for comforts and easy access to simple pleasures.

      We now have a new opportunity to rekindle the American Dream on a global scale — to make the American Dream a Global Dream. New technology has given us unprecedented access to knowledge and resources never before available. As children of this new era we have the responsibility to take this opportunity to create a future that generations after us will be proud of.

      We’re all free individuals when we make the choice to become free from our own preconceived notions of how the world is supposed to work. We’re all powerful individuals when we choose to be creative, to use the resources available to us, and to keep an open mind. We all live the American Dream when we choose to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism, materialism, and ignorance; when we choose to have respect for life and a passionate drive to live life to its greatest potential.

      I totally agree that it’s our priorities that need to change — and the way we define success. I think so many of us are just following the well-worn path not because we’re stupid, but because that’s all we’ve know and that’s all everyone around us knows.

      But I think that’s changing and I think conversations and comments like those in this post are proof of that. The ball is rolling and things are changing. Lets each find how we can play our part and keep things moving in a better direction. :)

  7. Hi Raam,

    We all need encouragement to keep moving forward. Thanks for the encouragement.

    There will always be a gap between who we are and who we wish to become (until enlightenment). I feel it’s important to accept our imperfections and contradictions with a sense of gentleness, spaciousness, and humor, while also striving to become better. Thanks for coming “clean” so to speak, but please don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have a lifetime of habits to overcome and we will.

    Again, thanks for the encouragement.

    • Dear Sandra. what a lovely piece (“peace”) you have added to this picture!! I agree 100%. You wrote: “I feel it’s important to accept our imperfections and contradictions with a sense of gentleness, spaciousness, and humor, while also striving to become better.” Yes, in ALL things. I just love that line. Just real and beautiful. Especially love the humor!! :)

    • Thank you, Sandra!

      I think the first step to improvement is to accept our imperfections and work within them, not find ways to obliterate them but find ways to work with them. It also helps to have the support of kind souls like yourself who offer such warm encouragement. :)

  8. The best way to affect the world around you is by taking the initiative to make changes to your lifestyle so that you become a walking, talking, breathing example of the changes you wish to see in the world.

    This is important. In fact it’s all about courage and attitude, we all need to be looking in as well as out.

    Really enjoyed this one Raam :)

  9. I really want to get back to basics – I’ve been working hard to create a small business for myself that’s low impact on others – I’ve always hated now there seems to be people that have been stepped during the growth of a business; I don’t want that.

    I want to be comfortable and have more time to go back to the basics – friends, family and my love of music. I want more music festivals and art.

    I’ve recently set in action leaving my work – can’t just yet because it’s only 6 of us and if I were to dip out than everyone’s livelihood would be ruined – so I’m being patient and helping everyone get used to the transition.

    Once I’m out I want to explore Europe with a friend for a month or two. Once I’m back, it’s time for major change – I plan to move to Tampa, start a freelance business and spend a lot more time with my girlfriend.

    All are hopes and dreams but I’m building up to it, taking those first steps.

    Thanks for the insightful and inspirational post Raam :)

    • Your initial steps sound very similar to my own late last year and early this year. I was working at a small start-up company of six or seven people and my role involved a lot of different things. The transition took several months, but I kept my eye on the end goal (traveling the world as a nomad for at least six months) and work towards it day by day.

      Because I took the time to ensure it was a smooth transition, I maintained the good friendship with everyone there and now that I’m back, they’ve given me a small project to work on. Even though I’m just a contractor, I feel like I’m part of the team again even after having been gone for six months.

      I think it’s important to take the time necessary for such transitions and not just jump the gun and leave a big mess behind, so I’m really happy that it sounds like you’re doing the same thing!

      I love the idea of more art and music. I think there’s a lot of room for more of both in society and I think they can both help loosen everybody up and add some color and joy to what is now a seemingly stressful life in a sterile environment.

      • Raam this so true that we need more art and music. I caught in a earlier comment you made that you played the Native American Flute. That is so awesome. As I picked it up a couple of years ago. While I still can play an Irish tin whistle I much prefer the tone of the cedar flute. Nice to meet another flute player in here.

  10. Raam, Amazing post! It’s great to be reminded that you gave up everything for what you believe in. You sold you stuff, quit your job and left the U.S. to follow your dream. I can relate since I sold my stuff, quit my job and left where I lived to follow my dreams. I did it because I wanted to live deliberately and make every day count. I live in community where we all share everything(even washing the dishes).

    What I want to do is not just continue to be in the “I sold my stuff and quit my job to follow my dreams club” I want to lead my dreams and “practice what I preach”. I need inspiration on a daily basis to do it. I’m grateful for you Raam, your inspiration is challenging me to take my life to new places and escape my comfort zone. Thanks Raam

    • Hi John,

      It sounds like we’ve reached an identical conclusion to the question of “what happens next?”. I feel that my journey thus far — selling all my stuff and living out of a backpack for six months in three foreign countries — was a very important step on the journey and that without having taken that step, I wouldn’t even be asking this question of “what’s next?”.

      Now that I’ve fulfilled that lifelong dream, I feel a very strong sense of the need to do more — to somehow share all the enthusiasm for life and living that I’m experiencing. I feel the need to give others the opportunity to experience similar joy and sense of freedom. And all those thoughts and feelings lead to the conclusion that the answer lies in stepping out of our comfort zone on a daily basis and challenging ourselves to do more and be more — to never settle and to always think forward, towards the future, the future that will inevitably exist even after we’re long gone.

  11. Hey Raam,

    Great post dude. It was strange reading this because this is similar to the post I have scheduled to release this weekend. Different words and voice ofcourse. Your an inspiring person Raam and it’s great to see people making differences.

    I am ofcourse guilty of doing whats above sometimes. Saying things but not really making the change. Over the last couple years though I have been making more of a conscious effort not to do that and to follow my words with action.

    Examples:
    -For 5 years now I have recycled everything I can almost to the point where I’m anal about it
    -Talked about Fitness for years before finally doing a 3 month intense program that dramatically changed me
    -always talked about hating over consumerism so now I barely buy anything. Very rarely do I treat myself to something like new jeans but aside from travel and necessities, I almost buy nothing anymore unless it helps or educates me.

    Anyways, thanks for the post!
    Matt

    • Thanks, Matt!

      I think it’s all about going against the grain and creating new habits. Imagine everyone developed habits for recycling as strongly as they’ve developed habits for brushing their teeth or even just throwing garbage in the trash barrel. (Of course for many people, the problem is that recycling requires a lot of effort because the local government doesn’t provide recycling services.)

      What I’m finding is that it’s extremely difficult to change your lifestyle and create new habits when there’s nothing around you to support you. An even bigger problem is when you’re in a familiar environment (as I am now back at home) and all the old habits and routines can just resume with almost no thought or effort at all. To take that down and go in the opposite direction requires a lot of effort and energy!

      I just read your latest blog post and you’re right, it’s so similar to this post! Like yourself, I’ve also had the experience of getting into fitness, changing myself, and then watching as others around me were automatically inspired to exercise too. I think that’s probably the best example of “be the change you wish to see in the world” that I can think of!

  12. Just one thing? Hmmm. We are in the midst of turning our consumerism upside down. We only buy what is absolutely necessary, and recycle assiduously. We are trying to build online businesses, as we have health problems that make much physical activity limited. When we stabilize our income (low-mid five figures is plenty) we will be able to take our environmental responsibilities a little further, and resume giving back to the community the way we were doing before our economic situation tanked. Our passions are the arts and local environmental issues.

    This was a great post, heck all your posts are great, Raam. I cherish the day I found your blog :)

    • Thank you, Meg! It sounds like you’ve got a solid plan and you’re working towards making it come to life! I’m working through a similar situation — trying to turn my lifestyle upside down while working on building an online business so that I can remain mobile — and I’m discovering just how much easier said than done it really is! :)

  13. hi Raam,
    i am going to teach a few children from the lower income group. during my holidays(1st to 17th october) i taught my maid’s 3 children for 3hrs daily. i am going to continue this in november on every available day.
    varuni

    • Hi Varuni,

      That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your spare time: Transferring energy, love, and knowledge to younger minds who may not have as many opportunities as other children. It would be incredible if everybody committed to making similar contributions to the community whenever they had a free day.

      You are an inspiration!

  14. Well, I’m tired of sitting at the bus stop waiting for MY bus to stop and pick me up, besides someone forgot to put the wet paint sign on the bench before I sat down… :(

    I’m ready to take the initiative and make the next bus that stops by MY bus and get out of this rut I’m in.

    Just contacted Serv-all for my recycling bin :D
    Downloaded some college info :D
    Made an appointment for the Dentist :D childhood drama turned phobia…..