Many of us enter professional life as professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators because we want to make a difference in the world. We would like to reduce the suffering, pain, inequality, and injustice we see around us and contribute to making our world better.
Building bridges for those who come after us is one way to make a difference. When I graduated from Stanford in 2004, my commencement speaker was Sandra Day O'Connor, whom as you know is my hero as a legal powerhouse and as a good, kind, and incredibly resilient human being.
Here is a quote from her address that I wanted to share with you:
"A single generation of public servants cannot bridge all the gaps of inequality and injustice nor span the chasms of our nation's critical needs. But if we focus our energies on sharing ideas, finding solutions and using what is right with America to remedy what is wrong with it, we can make a difference."
Sandra's message resonated with me a lot when I sat in the crowd of graduates wondering what the future held. And Sandra's message does not only apply to America, it applies wherever you are in the world. One way to make a difference is to build bridges for those who come after us.
So, how do we build bridges that will allow those who walk after us to walk safely because we have paved the way for them?
1. We always start by truly believing in our own goodness, integrity, and inner strength. Where do you need to work on to build your inner moral compass? Getting really clear on who you are, where you came from, and what you are all about is important in being able to be the person who can make a difference in the world. Remember: you at your most fulfilled will create the most impact in the world.
2. We need to truly believe in the goodness, integrity, and morality of others. The "make a positive difference" gauge" will not move if we generally believe that others are inherently bad, evil, or corrupt (yes, there are some people in history who are inherently bad, evil, or corrupt and dealing with them will definitely require a much different strategy than what I am advocating here). We need to understand that people whom we consider bad, evil, or corrupt are often people who have lost that important connection with themselves: the inner goodness that they need to be truly fulfilled and are reacting to the world around them with negativity. Which brings us back to the importance of step 1.
3. Identify the problem you see with the world and the possible solutions from this place of calm inner strength. Confront the pain, the hurt, the injustice, or the inequality you see in the world from this place of calm inner strength. Always find that space before you look at how to make a difference and never attempt to make a difference from a place of overwhelm, anger, disgust, fear or any other negative emotion.
4. Ask yourself WHY do I want to solve this problem before asking yourself HOW to solve the problem. It is always important to know the reason why you do the thing you do. Unless you're clear on why you do what it is you do, its hard to effectively communicate your reason for why people should care about what you care about (and you cannot build a bridge without the support of friends, allies, and advocates.
5. Build the bridge. Communicate and tell others why it is important to have the change you want to see in the world. Start paving the way for others who come after you by working on solutions to the problems you see, by advocating against the injustice and inequality you see, and by showing up consistently to build the bridge.
These steps will help you get clear on how to build bridges for those who come after you in a way that is meaningful for you and which will bring your fulfillment but also in a way that will produce the most profound impact on the world around you.
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