In the past few days I have had the privilege of speaking and interacting with some really amazing young people. Ranging from middle school to graduating seniors and spanning racial, socioeconomic and school types, these students were inspiring, engaging, attentive and scary smart.
I learned some things from them.
I must have been asleep in 2015 when the United Nations General Assembly ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but these students got me up to speed rather quickly. Please don’t send me emails about the UN, our national sovereignty, or any (and I mean ANY) conspiracy theories. Instead, try to imagine a world where these goals have been met:
Students at a school here in OKC are doing just that. They were given the challenge of picking a global goal to work on, coming up with a “business plan” to generate change, and then actually doing it. And they did. One team of middle schoolers is sponsoring a kid their age in Africa so he can attend school and have adequate food, clothing and health care. A high school team raised $50,000 to help build a home for children in the foster care system. In total, 22 teams made a difference in one or more of the 17 goal areas. It was amazing and humbling and wonderful to hear.
When we look at those goals, they seem overwhelmingly huge and impossible. Kind of like if I decided I would be the next Picasso. Pretty impossible. Or is it.
Picasso showed a passion and skill for drawing from a very early age. By the time he was 7 his father, an art teacher, was instructing him in figure drawing and oil painting. At 13 he passed the exams and was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. It would be an understatement to say he started early.
Picasso drew and painted prolifically. In the 33 volume catalog of his work, over 16,000 pieces are documented. He drew and painted every day, and throughout his career his works changed and developed. He didn’t become “Picasso” overnight, he became Picasso over a lifetime. So, if I want a chance at becoming the next Picasso, I have to draw or paint every day. I don’t have to do a lot every day, but I have to do something.
I have a cousin that wants to write a book of short stories. He is committed to writing at least 200 words a day. Some days it is easy, and some days it is hard, but every day he does it. I have read many articles about “becoming a writer” and they all say, “write every day,” in some way or another. You don’t have to do a lot in one sitting, but you need to log a lot of sittings.
The same thing is true for how we could see these 17 goals realized.
None of us can accomplish even one of these goals by ourselves. Just thinking about ending hunger or achieving gender equality should make your head spin. But if a team of middle school students can send a kid to school and make sure he has food, clothes and health care, I think some of us could do the same. If some high school students can raise $50K to give foster kids a home, what could you and I do?
In fact, if you visit the Global Goals website you will find lots of information about how a normal individual can have positive impact on these areas. As we say at Kimray, “We don’t have to change the whole world, but we should be changing someone’s world.” We don’t have to become Picasso overnight; we just have to do something every day that moves the needle toward the positive.
I was inspired by the students I spoke with this past week. They helped me remember that you don’t have to be a “grown up”, or rich, or have a degree, or have anything, except the desire to make a difference. I was challenged by these students and grateful for the opportunity to see things through their eager and enthusiastic eyes.
This week I challenge you to see the world around you through new eyes. Don’t let the size of the problems confound you. Find something you can do to make someone’s life better and do it. Then do something again the next day, and again the day after that. Before you know it, you will have created a body of work that rivals Picasso’s. More importantly, you will change the world in the process.