Friday, February 16, 2007

The Struggle To Be Remembered By History

You can't leave footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
- Bob Moawad, Chairman and CEO of Edge Learning Institute

Addressing the charming imagery, it seems that many people would be satisfied to leave their buttprints in the sands of time. Only to have them disappear with the first breeze or wave.

At some point in their lives, almost everyone in every society becomes a follower, one who accepts what the leaders dish out because they believe they have no power or influence to change "what is and must be." For some this happens in the early years of childhood when parents teach them to be quiet and obedient, to follow the rules and to avoid being rude to others. Leaving footprints means insulting someone, usually someone who gets lots of attention. The insult may not be intended or justified, but it happens.

Others learn to stay in line and obey in school, where differences from the norm are discouraged in many cases, unless they are of the intellectual variety. Most of the rest learn to be followers when they reach the workforce, where individuality, independent thinking and acting without approval are strongly discouraged in most places of employment.

A few struggle to have their own small business, to be their own boss. At least 85 percent of these fail within the first five years because the business owners have not learned to think independently, do not have the spirit of an entrepreneur (who was inevitably a rebel in school and a troublemaker before reaching school age).

That leaves a very small percentage of people who have the internal strength to leave their footprints in the sands of time. Most of those suffer social and psychological abuse at the hands of the socially and politically powerful of their time, people who manage to wield their power because they have the ability to keep the noses of most they encounter to the grindstone. To keep them following.

Those few unique individuals who survive the social pressure deserve our recognition because they survived when most others caved. Merely surviving without finding themselves in prison or a psych unit warrants our acknowledgement, at least. Almost all of the anti-establishment leaders of the 1960s, for example, became powerful leaders within the business or academic establishment ten to 20 years later. For which should we remember them?

Within that group of survivors a few find a way to specialize by becoming expert at a skill, such as painting, acting or an athletic endeavour. They work every available hour to rise above the masses of their respective fields, often at the sacrifice of family or social life. When they reach the level where they really can leave their footprints in the sands of time, they have followers and admirers. They still always have enemies and naysayers, but everyone who succeeds at anything and gets public recognition gains a following if they want it.

In a world of nearly seven billion people, how many of us have the ability to leave our footprints in the sands of time?

There is always room for those with the desire and determination. The more of us that make it, the more of us can offer mutual support.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the tiny path out of the forest of conformity.
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