Can One Person Change the World?

Can one person change the world? Well, yes and no. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question. Last month, I commented on Seth Godin’s Guy #3.

 Seth claims Guy #3 turns the dancing of one or two people into a movement. By this argument, it would seem it took more than one person to cause significant change. Yet, Guy #3 wouldn’t have made the choice he did without Guys #1 and #2 going before him. Whether we’re talking about Guy #1, #2 or#3, it’s clear that an individual can effect large-scale social change when they are willing to lead.

Perhaps one person can change the world, but they need others’ help. Consider Michael Jackson. According to a recent Reuters article, 1982’s Thriller remains the best-selling studio album in the United States. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified it 28-times platinum and an estimated 50 million copies have sold internationally.

Although Mr. Jackson’s name is synonymous with Thriller, the Moonwalk and King-of-Pop status, he didn’t achieve these things on his own. Paul the Apostle didn’t establish the Christian church without the other apostles (and Jesus, of course). Alexander the Great didn’t conquer the known world without his army. Guys #1, #2 and #3 didn’t start a movement without each other.

Every large-scale social change starts small. It begins when a single person makes a choice to act. It doesn’t start with a bang; it starts with a whisper.

Lead wheel weights are a small thing. These weights, made from an alloy of lead and antimony, clip to automotive wheel rims to help balance the tires. An estimated 70,000 tons per year of lead is used worldwide in the manufacture of wheel weights. Lead wheel weights are believed by some researchers to be a significant source of poisonous lead released into the environment.

Can one lead wheel weight change the world? What if it has a little help from it’s peers?

On her blog Essential Prose, Zoe Westhof has asked what it takes to change the world.

If we are indeed all interconnected in a deliciously complex web of cause and effect, action and reaction, does not every step we take change the world somehow? If we all pull our weight in our tiny corners of the universe, where is the line between changing the world and changing ourselves?

These are excellent questions. Here’s my take:

We all live at some point along a scale of human experience. At one end is all that is right, good and true about humanity; on the other is all that is debased and corrupt. Every decision we make takes us in one direction or the other.

Not only that, but our choices have the potential to also affect others along the scale. We can lead people in one direction or the other. We can change the world, even if only a little bit. Those small changes hold the potential to lead to large-scale social change.

What do you think? Can one person change the world?

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About James A Woods
Freelance Writer, Constant Learner, Family Man

4 Responses to Can One Person Change the World?

  1. Danny Brown says:

    James, this is one of the best posts I’ve read anywhere recently, stellar stuff!

    I think one person can affect the world around them. What you say may cause someone else to re-evaluate their position on something. Then, depending on who that person then talks to, the chain reaction can continue. But, you do need that chain for overall change to happen.

    So, no, one person can’t change the world; but one person can make the world think about itself, which isn’t too shabby. 🙂

  2. Becca says:

    Yes. One person can change the world. This question is funny to me because I think it is ultimately “how can one person influence a great number of other humans to change the world.” No one person can do much exactly, but in aggregate, humans impact this world in wild ways.

    People watch you. Humans pay attention to other humans, it’s what we do very well. Watch your words and actions – you are influencing the people around you.

    Thank you for this post. I found it so strengthening.

  3. annevanston says:

    I love this James and the most powerful statement to me, is that often one person changes with word, and it starts with a whisper. Each of us needs to remember that whisper. If it starts with anger it could change the world, if it starts with love it could change the world.

    Ann Evanston
    http://Warrior-Preneur.com
    The Warrior is Within You

  4. Pingback: More Thoughts on Changing the World: The Rule of the Third Person « The Sky's the Limit

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