Have you ever felt like you wanted to start something that matters?

Maybe you saw a need, witnessed a problem, realized a pattern and you were filled with some insane amounts of zeal like you would almost march right out and do something about it…?

I’m talking about fighting for a cause here. I’m talking about innovating solutions. I’m talking about creating change and magnifying impact… turning the ship around.

This has happened for me in the last 10 years more times than I can count. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything about it though…

First it was a website about fostering community for Millenials called “our generation”… that never happened.

Then, when that picture of the Syrian toddler dead on a mediterranean beach started circulating last year, it was an online petition to lobby the US government to do more-maybe send an aircraft carrier to the region for more humanitarian aid-nothing ever materialized there.

Most recently, while watching a kids animated film about storks realizing their true calling of delivering babies again, I thought to myself: I should one day create a global startup that rivals the current national and international adoption agencies…

More than anything I guess I’m just learning something pretty interesting about myself. But I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Now I want to talk about the outgoing president.

Last week I read two different news articles.

The first one was very stirring and motivating and I found myself yet again in one of those moments… as if to say: “what if we could do something about this…?!”

It was about inner city Chicago and where those community members are at after 15 years and over 8,000 deaths later.

It’s here for your viewing.

You see that’s how my brain works… I think: “maybe a privileged white boy from Southern California could have any degree of impact or influence whatsoever on a place 2,000 miles away that is riddled with a historical legacy of joblessness, drugs, crime, guns, police distrust, oh and a city plan engineered for segregation”

I just can’t help it.

Then I read another article over the weekend that, like so many others during this political season, speculated what Obama would get up to after he leaves the White House-being as young and healthy as he is…

The article really only does this for the first half and then addresses the president’s legacy on immigration the second half, but you can read it here.

I read THAT article and then all the sudden it hit me. I shouldn’t be the one to get involved in Chicago… HE would be perfect though!

You know… all that power and influence and to use every drop of it in turning those neighborhoods around, healing those communities, reconciling gangs and victims… or at the very least, managing to spare more 12-year olds from being gunned down while sitting on their front porch…

Look I’ve even come up with a 5-point plan for the president:

  1. Setup an “E-Z Up” kiosk right on the corner of one of the most notorious streets, sit at a table and take feedback-talk to the community. (He can work on his book during the down times).
  2. Get meetings with the most notorious gang leaders and drug lords-literally sit down with them for coffee and get them on board.
  3. Recruit all his old private sector business contacts-call in every single favor they ever owed him to start businesses of every kind so that young men can work legit jobs
  4. Anything that is built, developed or renovated would be with the hands and feet of the community members themselves (in community renovation projects, ownership is always paramount-if they built it, they’ll ensure it’s legacy.)
  5. Then, finally, partner with police to literally start over from scratch.

He could do all of this completely position-less. Doesn’t have to run for mayor or over take the ever-changing police chief there either.

But you see that’s all well and good for him and I may very well write the president a letter suggesting the implementation of this plan effective feb 1st.

But what’s it got to do with me?

See that was my critical turning point… if ever you find yourself saying, “if I was him, I would…” then the very short response must be: you can.

You see IF… YOU SEE IF… too many if ands or buts just might render a man useless and legacy-less. Don’t get lost in the land of “if.”

So here’s the 5-point plan I recommend for me, and for you:

1. Start from where you are

Do you know how often it is that I probably underestimate my current position, power and influence. I’m wondering how many of you do the same…? We all have an audience. Whether it’s our family, our work or our friends: our words are big in someone’s ears. Now how can we leverage that for all it’s worth?

2. Consider your influence and network for leveraging

I once read in a book that each one of us is 3 people away from reaching our entire city. And that was written BEFORE the proliferation of social media! I mean what if we truly went for broke on this…? And when I say that I mean “socially broke”… like reputation bankrupt-that we didn’t care how we looked or how many people unfollowed us, because for a time we were willing to do whatever it takes to turn the ship around.

3. Gather survey data

I’ve shared this before, but I work for a church. The man who started that church nearly 30 years ago literally set up a table outside local grocery stores and asked every single person 2 questions: “do you attend a local church?” (and if the answer was “yes” he said, “great have a nice day!”) If the answer was “no” he would ask them what it would take for them to attend.

Nearly 30 years later the church is in an exhaustive and groundbreaking review of all our strategies and processes currently used to reach people. What did nearly every single team (involved in the review process) come up with for today’s solutions in reaching folks? “Hey maybe we should survey some people?!”

Look, the principle is real straight forward: when you’re stuck in a rut and you wanna affect change you gotta make appeals for fresh vision.

4. Build new relationships above all

One of my most fundamental leadership learnings from 2016  was the value of sitting across the table from someone. Around the church we merely call them ‘coffee dates.’ We, all staff, are strongly urged to keep a healthy flow of meetings with people (hah, imagine that-a church that’s in the “people business”)… newcomers to the church, prospective volunteers, current inner-core leaders.

Fewer things have served as a greater platform for leadership maturity than sitting across the table from someone-building trust through simply knowing one another personally and elucidating character growth opportunities by listening to challenges and struggles.

This sort of interpersonal relationship building forges bonds, recreates communities and cements legacies.

5. Make sure to take someone with you

Finally, and this is no news here, but, as leaders: who we are and what we have is worth multiplying. There’s always someone who can learn and grow by watching you lead. Keep an eye out for who that is… could be someone who is already “just there” or could be someone you must intentionally invite along. Whatever the case, we are losing the art of apprenticing others and, if we aren’t careful, we’ll lose it all together.

What cause are you dragging your feet on getting mobilized about? What change do you see needs to be affected and what is one simple thing you can do to turn the ship one minor degree?

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