What’s the first thing you should do when you encounter a problem? Ask a smart person. That’s what Scott Adams advises in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
And that’s what I did. I emailed Derek Sivers.
Derek’s approach—not trying to change others, just focusing on changing yourself—reminded me of a passage from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Emphasis mine:
“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, “native,” or alien people happens to occupy the position of neighbour.”
Re-reading Derek’s answer and considering the above answer, I’m embarrassed.
How arrogant of me, to think that I could force people to change. To think that by the power of my will, people would stop whatever they’re doing and do something different.
This kind of thinking is what a good friend calls “being a dictator in someone else’s life.” It’s a dangerous, pointless exercise. You can’t change others. You can only change yourself and hope that through the power of example, you inspire others to do the same.
It’s the classic storytelling rule coming in again.
Show, don’t tell.
Or as the cliche goes: be the change you wish to see in the world.