Growing a Tribe of Believers

June 17, 2010

All the great things that have been achieved in the world have been achieved by individuals, working from the instinct of genius or of goodness.

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A recent Thomas Friedman article in the New York Times quoted Curtis Carlson, the chief executive of SRI International: “This is the best time ever for innovation for three reasons:

First, although competition is increasingly intense, our global economy opens up huge new market opportunities.

Second, most technologies — since they are increasingly based on ideas and bits and not on atoms and muscle — are improving at rapid, exponential rates.

And third, these two forces — huge, competitive markets and rapid technological change — are opening up one major new opportunity after another. It is a time of abundance, not scarcity — assuming we do the right things with a real national growth strategy. If we do not, it rapidly becomes a world of scarcity.”

Friedman’s column was about kick-starting new businesses, but change “markets” to “media” and “growth strategy” to “strategy for change,” and you have the reason for the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference. The world has abundant needs, and the creative, passionate, dedicated people it needs to meet them.  What people need is the vision and leadership to mobilize the will to do what we must to ensure the future we want.

This is where writers come in. Writers have the opportunity to be the voices, visionaries, mentors, consciences, and inspiration for change. They can summon us to our highest selves. It is easier than ever to

* Reach readers around the world online with a blog, articles, videos, podcasts, interviews, and comments on what others write

* Grow a tribe of believers who share your goals and help you achieve them

* Use your writing to change the country and the world

The larger and older an organization, business, or institution is, the harder it is to change. That’s why we can’t rely on government, business, or religion. Non-profits are helping, but they are limited in what they can accomplish.

Americans are open to new ideas. They’re pragmatic about abandoning what fails for what works. United by the same needs, problems, desires, and the willingness to do the right thing, Americans will accept change.

Facebook exploded from an idea to 500,000,000 users in six years.  You cannot stop an idea whose time has come.  What’s needed is a barrage of ideas, forcefully and eloquently presented in all media with urgency and relentless determination, tempered with compassion for the human condition.  

Anyone can participate at any level in this transformation. The author James Baldwin wrote: “The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself.” There is no time to lose. Start making demands.

The San Francisco Writing for Change Conference will take place, Saturday and Sunday, November 13 and 14, 2010 at the Hilton Financial District. The keynoters will be Dan Millman, author of The Way of Peaceful Warrior, and John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, www.sfwritingforchange.org.

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The Greatest Challenge Writers Can Hope For

March 12, 2010

Writing Before the Moment of Reckoning

What a great time to be a writer! There comes a moment of reckoning when the outcome of a process is decided. The planet is approaching moments of reckoning for meeting the challenges it faces.

Charles Darwin wrote that it’s not the strongest or smartest species that survive; it’s the most adaptable. The human family is going to have to adapt more in this century than it ever has. The less able government is to respond to the challenges we face, the more needed writers are to help mobilize the will and creativity we need to navigate the swirling waters of accelerating change.

You have more forms and media in which to communicate with readers around the world who need and want to hear what you have to say. What ou don’t have is a long time in which to do it.

We’re plunging headlong into an future that no one can predict, understand or control. Our future depends on finding effective solutions for climate control, the use of technology, the effects of globalization, religious and political extremism, and  regulating financial institutions.

Power corrupts. Business and government, prisoners of their own needs and systems, can’t solve our problems. This leaves the fate of the planet is the hands of individuals and institutions that can come up with new ideas for solving our problems and mobilize the public will to change.

In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman wrote that you can’t stop 6 billion people all going in the same direction. Writers can play a crucial role in persuading people united by technology and shared problems to take the same path.

Apart from the problems the planet faces are the challenges of how to

  • Give individuals and institutions enough power to be effective but not enough to be corrupted
  • Integrate the ability to respond to rapid change and renew themselves into how institutions are run
  • Use reason to change the minds of people whose beliefs are not based on reason

Novelists and nonfiction writers are essential agents of change, providing ideas, stories, information, and inspiration to help solve the world’s problems. Blogs, articles, short stories, books, podcasts, videos, and posting to blogs, groups, and social media are all part of a continuing conversation. If you want to join the most important conversation on the planet and be part of the greatest challenge you can ask for, let this be your moment of reckoning.

Napoleon believed that humanity is only limited by its imagination. If we survive our follies, our future will be glorious.

If you need more convincing, read Soulwise: How to Create A Conspiracy of Hope, Health and Harmony by Dr. Phil Johnson (www.drphiljohnson.com). It’s a life-changing, world-changing combination of advice, wisdom and inspiration that will help you find the path you were born to tread.

Comments and questions welcome.