WHEN I was younger I used to think that making a difference required huge and incredible efforts. I thought it was not possible for ordinary individuals, like me, to initiate a change. Back then, it seemed as if change was only possible coming from those who are prominent or influential.Making a change as I later discovered, doesn’t always mean doing something extraordinary. A lot of times, a significant change took place as a result of one person’s efforts, taken in baby steps.
Inventor and visionary, Buckminster Fuller said it best when he used trim tab as a metaphor to represent the power of an individual to affect a society. A trim tab is a small yet a crucial part of a rudder mechanism which controls the direction of a ship.
Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trimtab.
To me, the first step towards making a difference is to do something meaningful. There really isn’t a point in championing a cause which one isn’t passionate about. Or doing it because it’s trendy.
Take Body Shop founder Anita Roddick for example. She campaigned for green issues before it became fashionable to do so. But her action i.e bringing sustainable products to mass market, inspired millions to do the same. Roddick firmly believed that a good business should not just be about money but about responsibility and for the good of the people.
Her drives were fueled by her personal needs to fend for herself and her family when her husband was away for an expedition to fulfil his dreams.
While staying true to oneself is imperative in creating societal changes, being unconditional is a trait I find truly inspiring. Especially in today’s consumer society where giving without expecting seems a rarity. If there is one person who personifies unconditional love it has to be CNN Hero of the Year 2011, Ibu Robin Lim.
Lim received the recognition for helping thousands of poor Indonesian women have healthy pregnancies and childbirths. She began her voluntary work in Bali after setting up a non-profit organisation called Yayasan Bumi Sehat (YBS) in 1994.
Her decision to provide safe deliveries for women came after the devastating death of her only sister and her (sister’s) baby to a complicated pregnancy.
Lim’s unconditional love is not just evident in her action but through the calm energy she exudes. When I asked Lim, in an interview, what it took for her to be able to give unconditionally, she said: “Love. To me giving love is easy.”
I used to think that in order for things to be different, I need to change the environment and people around me. It never occurred to me before that it was my perception that needed to shift.
When I stopped to look around at what have been happening in the world, I realised that there are many incredible people out there who had made change happened instead of waiting for the right situation or people to come along.
Among those who inspired me greatly are Nobel Peace Prize 2006 winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who founded Grameen Bank, an institution which provides microcredit, and educator and founder of Khan academy, Salman Khan.
To me they are powerful trim tabs, because of what they have done to revolutionise credit financing for the poor (Yunus) and education (Khan). The most amazing part was Muhammad had used money from his own pocket to give out his first loan of US$27, to 42 women.As for Khan, before Khan Academy existed, he had tutored his cousin on mathematics over the internet using Yahoo!’s Doodle notepad. His tutorial videos however, went viral when he uploaded them on YouTube.
What is really inspiring to me is that they created a revolution without creating any drama or any form of violence.
To me the most powerful change is one that creates a shift in people’s consciousness. We don’t need to spend our lives trying to change the whole vessel. All we need to do is to make little changes which will in turn change the society.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.