Wednesday, June 3, 2015

You Have to Start Somewhere

Recently, I've been seeing this uplifting post everywhere. I love the fact that this 20 year old is kick-starting an initiative to do something about ocean pollution.

I am frustrated by some of the responses. 

Several friends criticized the action that it wasn't doing enough. Cleaning the surface layer of the oceans won't solve the problem of pollutants deeper in the water. Yes, this might be true but that doesn't mean we don't try to clean the surface of the water.

It isn't just about this young person and their desire to help the environment. Inaction is a systemic problem that I see over and over again in all aspects of life. We become so paralyzed by the fact that we can't do everything, or we can't do it perfectly, that we don't take any action at all. And this is the problem.

A long time ago, before we moved into our tiny house, we had a friend who told us that he didn't like to start any project until he read everything about it and learned as much as he could. I had a huge problem with this line of thinking. Time and time again I saw him not taking any action at all. Sure, I read things too but at some point I put down the book and pick up the hammer. There is always one more book to read. There is always more to learn. But waiting until you think you know how to do something perfectly to even start is the best way to never have to start.

We often speak at events and conferences about our tiny house experience. The first thing I will tell anyone is to get practice. Learn how to build by building. The first few projects may not be perfect, but you'll get better and better as you go along. I'm not saying don't turn to resources or read books or even strive to get it perfect, but not building is worse than building something that might have a few flaws.

When we went to South Africa to help the Zulu Orphan Alliance we were criticized that we weren't helping enough kids or that we weren't going to solve the problems caused by rape and poverty in the townships. Or that we were helping the wrong kids because there are plenty of American children in difficult situations. Yes, all of those things can be true. But did that mean we should ignore it all together? I'd rather help just one child anywhere in the world than worry about not being able to help them all. 

Just because a solution doesn't solve everything doesn't mean we shouldn't try to solve anything. Perfection or negativity just breeds inaction. I would rather live in a world where we are willing to try new things and learn from our mistakes than never try anything at all.

What can you start today to make a small difference in your life or someone else's?

3 comments:

  1. I agree with you so much. I work in the field of public health, and focused on one very specific issue. And people complain all the time, "You should be focusing on ALL the issues," buy there isn't time and money for one group to do it all. We do what we can, and dismissing small steps as invalid certainly doesn't encourage bigger steps, in my opinion.

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  2. Complaining that it's not enough is just an excuse to do nothing. Little steps can add up! I totally believe in them.

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  3. I know what you mean - people seem to expect that my partner and I are these superhero eco-warriors who know all about permaculture, apiculture and off-grid living. But we don't - we just wanted to experiment with an alternative way of living that was much smaller-scale and much closer to nature. It's okay, it just means we have to remind people regularly that we're not experts, we're just us!

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