Are you a Change Maker?

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This was my question to young, aspiring entrepeneurs attending the Maastricht Week of Entrepeneurship (#meweek12). The theme of this week was Changemakers, so I wanted to have them reflect on whether they actually felt themselves to be changemakers. After my opening question, about half of the participants raised their hands.

I told them my experience with change makers by examining the lyrics of two songs about change (including a live performance).

We started with ‘Waiting on the world to change’, a song by John Mayer. The song starts mentioning that John and his friends (let’s assume John sings about himself) feel misunderstood by others who say they stand for nothing. John states he perfectly sees what’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it, but that he lacks the means to rise above and beat it. The conclusion? They decided to wait for the world to change.

Change makers don’t feel misunderstood. They seek to understand – not to be understood. And they make sure they communicate what they stand for, they radiate their beliefs. And most importantly, they don’t see lack of ways to change what’s wrong – they see and create opportunities and do the necessary work to get things moving. The song continues with another complaint: it’s hard to beat a system when standing at a distance. But if – if only! – “we had the power”.. bla bla bla.

Two things here. You can never change a system from the outside. A system is a living organism, a collection of all actors involved. Just like some corporate directors think they can change the organization ‘out there’ without actively changing their own mindset, behavior, being in the system, of course, John is not able to change a system from a distance. A change maker stands in the middle of a system, changing it by changing him or herself. We all form the system.

And about the power.. I think we -as a generation- have more power than ever. Just look at the Arab spring and many other movements where the people don’t accept a status quo anymore. More than any moment in history (as we know it), people are connecting and coming together in communities to actively create new realities. Yes, you don’t have much power watching television in your comfortable living room (that’s what the next paragraph of the song is about), but change makers usually choose to do something different with their precious time than that.

After waiting and waiting on the world to change, John and his friends declare happily ever after that ‘one day our generation, is gonna rule the population’. I’m sorry? This sounds very like middle-ages-stuff – I don’t want our generation to rule the population. I would love to see our generation lead the way to a better future, in a collaborative way, creating a world that works for all. That’s 180 degrees different from ruling.

So – John’s song (although a nice tune) is not about change makers.

In comparison, Swedish House Maffia’s ‘Who’s gonna save the world tonight’ highlights exactly what change makers are.

The song starts bursting full of energy – “we’re coming down, we never sleep, never get tired”. Then, “turn up the love now, listen up now, turn up the love”. You might not be thinking of love this way, but actually, love – as the opposite of indifference – drives change makers. They care for someone and something, feel closely connected and engaged in what truly matters. Turning up the love is a necessary ingredient for any change maker.

The chorus asks two simple questions: “Who’s gonna save the world tonight? Who’s gonna bring it backt to life?” Yeah, these are the questions that change makers ask themselves every day. The world needs to be brought back to life – everything in nature is either alive and supporting life, or just dying. Change makers transmit energy, generate hope, support what’s right.

Change makers are committed. The last two lines of the chorus make very clear, no doubt about it, that “you and I” are gonna make it: we’re gonna save the world tonight. Change makers don’t need a lot of words, they see what should be done and do it, passionately.

When I asked again ‘are you a Change Maker’ to the audience after exploring the lyrics, more people raised their hands. Moreover, the ones that did raise their hands already the first time, were smiling, knowing from experience the difference I talked about.

So let me ask you: are you a Change Maker?

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