Updated: Jul 20, 2021
A Trashy Story
Ya know today I meant to write an entirely different post than this one, but sometimes life grabs you by the Sylvester Stallones, and you just gotta go with it. Something happened as I was walking to the beach today, and I felt I had to write about that instead.
So there I was making my way to a glorious slice of paradise underneath the warm sun: the beach. I had my lunch box and beach chair in my hands all ready for some fun in the sun (and maybe some writing too). But alas, along my way to paradise I was destined to run afoul of a great nuisance: litter.
As I was sauntering along, I noticed there was a ton of trash scattered across the ground: beer bottles, cigarette packages, food wrappers, soda cans, and lots of other random items. Needless to say, I got upset.
What upset me most was that there are literally trash cans everywhere! There is one every 20 steps. And yet, trash was still strewn all over the ground. I even found a trash can with two empty beer bottles leaning against it. I mean come on...the trash can is literally right there! Just lift up the lid and toss your bottles inside!
Clean up your trash, people!
Since my right hand was full, I just started picking up as much trash as I could with my left hand and threw it away whenever I came across a trash can, which was often.
It was a little gross, but it was worth it to help beautify the beach once again. And as I walked along just picking up items here and there, a funny thing happened...*suspenseful pause goes here*
A lady saw me picking up trash, got out of her car, applauded me for picking up trash, and then she started picking up trash too! I thanked her for her help and continued down to the beach, and now I am writing this. Trash brigade unite! So why did that lady help me?
Here's the thing. Nobody likes picking up trash, especially if it is other people's trash. You'll never say to someone, "Hey, let's go pick up some trash today," and get the response, "Oh yeah, that sounds like so much fun!" That's because picking up trash isn't fun. It's gross. But that woman still helped me...why?
It is because deep down, she KNEW that it was the right thing to do. Just as much as everyone knows that picking up trash is gross, everyone also knows that picking up trash and keeping the beach free of garbage is the right thing to do. She just needed someone to set a good example, which in turn gave her permission to help.
How Your Brain Tries to Trick You
You see your brain will tell you all these "reasons" why you shouldn't pick up the trash. Things like:
"Gross, I don't want to get my hands dirty." or...
"Who knows where that trash has been? I could catch some disease if I touch it." or...
"Nobody else is cleaning up, why should I?" or...
"I didn't make that mess, so it's not my responsibility to clean it up."
How do I know this is the case? Because I had all those exact thoughts 5 minutes ago right before I started cleaning up the trash.
Some of these "reasons" might even sound convincing. You will try to use them as a way to justify inaction. That lady probably had similar thoughts too. But once I actually just started DOING the right thing, suddenly she had permission to do the right thing too.
Humans are so scared of rejection that we will constantly conform to what others are doing even if we aren't aware we are doing it. It's science.
Humans naturally behave like the group
So that means if even just one person in the group takes the lead and starts doing the right thing, it can snap people out of this sleepy spell of conformity, and they will start doing the right thing too.
Small Examples Make Big Impacts
Alright, so how does this apply to you? Greg, you want me to go pick up trash everyday? Is that what you are saying? No, but that would be dope if you did!
You don't have to go pick up trash every day to lead by example. Your day-to-day life offers plenty of opportunities to lead.
You can set a good example for your little brother or sister by doing your chores.
You can set a good example for your friends by stopping your gaming session so you can go do your homework.
And once you start leading by example, you will be amazed at how people will start to follow you almost unknowingly.
People are waiting around for permission to do the right thing because they are scared to break conformity. But you don't have to wait around for permission from someone else. You can be brave and take the lead.
You can show how to do right through your example.
Lead like Donald. Just make sure you wear pants.
And believe me, the world needs a lot more true leaders that are willing to take those small steps in their life to do the right thing.
Once you start leading by example, you will inspire people. And that's how you can powerfully change the world, one beer bottle, one chore, or one homework assignment at a time.