The World Needs YOU to Think and Dream Bigger
Get to a place in your life where you can focus on self-actualization
I want the best for you. I truly do.
I want you to get to a place in your life where you can focus on self-actualization. This is the top of Maslow’s pyramid —where you are able to focus on your desire to become the most that you can be.
It’s where I am right now.
It’s what enabled me to share with you my 5 steps to a fulfilling life and career. It’s what led me to talk to several of you yesterday about your careers and lives, finding your values, and discovering a greater future.
After I wrote this post, I realized I needed to write about how self-actualization and my journey are connected to what is going on in the world. I needed to acknowledge and contextualize my motivation, and my vision for myself, for you, and for the world. I also needed to highlight my privilege.
The thing is, I don’t just want self-actualization for you. I also want it for my kids, and my family and my friends. I also want it for my neighbors and for everyone in my city. I want it for everyone in my state, in my country, and actually everyone on Earth.
Yes, I want self-actualization for every human.
It was just last week that I wrote about happiness. I now realize this was not nearly a big enough vision. Self-actualization is a much better goal for the world.
I imagine a world where everyone is able to spend their time proactively becoming the best version of themselves. Where no one has to worry about starvation, safety, love, or esteem.
Many will say this is an unrealistic dream. America is not close to this. Our world is even further. I agree we are not close to this. But having a smaller dream is not the answer. A smaller dream is never the answer.
Being able to self-actualize is about dreaming bigger. It’s about envisioning a greater future for ourselves. But to define and achieve goals in our own lives, we all want and need help from others. We need other people to help us think bigger, and hold us accountable.
Our brothers and sisters will not be there for us if they are not at least close to this, in their own lives. If they’re worried about their safety or their belonging, they will not have the capacity to help us find our way.
Far too many of us, especially our Black brothers and sisters, are scared. For themselves and for their families and friends. They see George Floyd and they think, that could be me. That could be my son. If you’re White you see that video and think it’s horrible, but thinking it could be you or your family is different. It’s terrifying, not merely horrible. It’s always been this way.
This movement is about gaining access to this greater future. For this to happen, White people must accept that they have been living with the delusion that racism is just not that big a deal. Many would say it exists, but it’s not THAT big a problem, we have a lot of problems and this is just one of them.
It wasn’t that long ago that I thought this way.
Imagine you’re Black and a so-called non-racist tells you that your problem doesn’t exist. They say, this is America, it’s the best country in the world. We have equality for all, it’s right in our constitution. We even had a Black president! You can do anything you want in life. Screw Black Lives Matter, All lives matter! I don’t see color! Your people have achieved incredible things in today’s America that were impossible just a short time ago! We’re there! Stop calling everyone a racist, stop being divisive!
The problem is this perspective is not only incomplete. It’s also false. It’s false because America is not simply about making progress. It is founded on a set of principles, our Bill of Rights.
For a group of people to invest in their future and in the future of those around them, they must have hope. They must believe that they have a future and that their future is bright. Clearly, we are not making sufficient progress. We can see this every day. I will acknowledge that I have not played enough of a role in being part of the solution, and therefore I am part of the problem. I must do better.
Reality is a bitch. The first step to making any change is to acknowledge that you have a problem. And the truth is, we have always been a country of contradiction. It’s a lot easier for White people to go through life with rose-colored glasses thinking things like there are just some “bad apples”. After all, our country was founded on a bold premise, that “all men are created equal”. We like that. We also see examples of powerful people of all sexes, races in popular media. Clearly, we think, we’re living up to our image of ourselves. Unfortunately, to be White in America is to live with cognitive dissonance.
Racism is so ingrained in our culture and in our worldview that we don’t even see its many infestations. If you don’t look at or understand statistics, you might be able to live with this delusion for a while. But eventually, the truth is going to come around and bite you in the ass.
And even if you’re amoral, and you don’t deeply care about the rights of those “other people” (after all, the world isn’t perfect!), you’re not going to want to be on the wrong side of history on this one. Many companies are finally realizing this and making some significant changes. Pulling spend from Facebook like Patagonia. Pulling spend from Tucker Carlson’s show, as pretty much all national advertisers did. There are countless more examples. Still, they are not enough.
Our leaders, all of them, have to acknowledge that we, collectively as a country, still have a problem. More specifically, we always have had and still do have a racism / white supremacy problem.
Lyndon Johnson, in his famous American Promise speech in 1965 said:
“I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion. I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of taxeaters. I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election. I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties. I want to be the President who helped to end war among the brothers of this earth.”
LBJ certainly did not achieve these lofty goals during his presidency. Even today, we have not lived up to this promise. Maybe we never will. But if one thing’s for certain, it’s that we will not get there without effort.
How many of us, in our daily lives, are a part of the solution to “help to end hatred among fellow men?” To “promote love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties?” Do we dare to dream this big anymore?
Sometimes our leaders remind us to dream bigger. Barack Obama did. But our leaders cannot do this alone.
So, it seems we have a few problems: 1) Many people haven’t fully acknowledged our collective problem as well as their individual role in it; 2) We haven’t committed to fixing it; 3) Even when we do discuss solutions, we tend to thinking too small.
Many will argue that our societal divisions are greater today than ever, and our will to do something is not as strong. But this is a problem of mindset, and this can change! Many Millennials like me actually did not know that America was still as broken as we now realize it is. We were duped. Yes, part of it was we were duping ourselves, and we have to take responsibility for that. We are paying attention, we are acknowledging our problem, and we are willing to do the work to fix it.
We’re in the midst of a bigger moment. Something is happening. Just as in the Civil Rights Movement, the whole world is on our side. Crowds in Tokyo, Brussels, Seoul, Sydney, London and many other places around the world are rooting for us. They’re looking to us, yet again, to set a positive example for the world.
Lyndon Johnson was far from perfect — as a person or as a president. But his rhetoric and his vision were inspiring. As we saw in Selma, the Voting Rights Act started with just a few people focusing on love and truth who found the courage to change a nation. It grew to become a movement, laws changed, and lives changed. When we act from a place of love and truth, as Martin Luther King, Jr and so many others did in the Civil Rights movement, courage comes as a byproduct. It’s the easy part.
This is the beautiful thing about starting to take actions in alignment with your values. Your cognitive dissonance fades. Your courage increases. Your dreams get bigger. You need to play a bigger role in shaping the world you want to live in. You do it for your children, and your friends’ children.
So let’s dream bigger. I’d like to live in a world where the basic needs of all people are satisfied, and we are free to live up to our greater purpose to become a better version of ourselves. This means everyone. All people everywhere. This is what we should be doing with the vast wealth in our nation.
I’m inspired by this movement, by Black people and by Black Lives Matter. The dreams are big and the challenge is to seize the moment to get closer to living up to our own potential.
This is what this movement means to me. It’s a big part of why I feel so invigorated to reorient my life to help others to achieve a better version of themselves.