The Wisdom to Make a Difference

The Wisdom to Make a Difference

Inspiration from the book “THE INFLUENCER: THE POWER TO CHANGE ANYTHING” by Kerry Patterson et al

We’ve all almost certainly heard of the serenity prayer, and perhaps have said it at some point in our life. Just in case you don’t remember the prayer, here it is: ‘Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”

We’ve come to believe that when we face enormous challenges that can be solved by only influencing intractable behaviors, we might attempt a couple of change strategies. When they fail miserably, we surrender. It’s time to quit and move on. We turn our attention to things that are in our control. We seek serenity.

This would be a good tactic were it not for the fact that the problems we’ve listed- along with everything from changing the culture of an organization to limiting divorce – can be and have been resolved by someone somewhere. That’s right. There are actual people out there who- instead of continually seeking the “wisdom to know the difference”- have sought the wisdom to make a difference. And they’ve found it. They’ve discovered that when it comes to changing the world, what most of us lack is not the courage to change things, but the skill to do so.

The key step to changing anything is to think differently and then act differently. All the profound pervasive, persistent problems we face in our lives, in our companies, and our world can be solved. They can be solved because these problems don’t require solutions that defy the laws of nature; they require people to act differently.

So instead of pleading for the wisdom to know when to give up, we should be seeking to expand the list of things we can change so that we don’t need to seek serenity so often. We should be demanding the names and addresses of influencers who have found solutions to the problems we face every day.

People tend to be better copers than influencers. In fact, we’re wonderful at inventing ways to cope. For instance, at work we abandon our quality-control program and install full-time inspectors. Nobody will listen. Instead of fixing lousy schools, we complain to our friends and then backfill by tutoring our children. It’s the best we can do.

Over the last year U.S. airlines lost over $10 billion and shed tens of thousands of jobs. At the same time, Southwest Airlines racked up its 14th straight year of profits and double-digit growth. What do Southwest’s leaders do that others haven’t figured out? They engage everyone in doing more with less. They turn planes faster at the gates. They treat customers better. And they get a higher percentage of bags and passengers to arrive at the same location. In other words, they’ve perfected an  influence strategy that produces the behaviors that drive stellar results across their entire company.

While this has been going on in the business world, another influence genius in Dhaka, Bangladesh, helped over 4 million of the Developing World’s poor to emerge from poverty.

Likewise, thousands of previously overweight Americans declared victory in the battle of their bulges by developing sustainable influence strategies over their own unhealthy behaviors.

And finally, in Thailand alone, over 5 million people avoided contracting HIV because of a remarkably effective influence strategy developed by a quiet but enormously effective influence genius who has a lot to teach us. Read more on this here under Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun. You may also check out this UNDP’s report on Thailand’s progress.

So there is hope. In a world filled with those content with seeking serenity, there are people who know exactly what it takes to exert influence over human behavior- and change the world in a good way.

We can all make a difference by avoiding the serenity-trap and praying to God instead for the wisdom to make a difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *