Saturday, June 13, 2009

What We Do Matters

So while I was writing the other post, I forgot to write about the important stuff. (Fair warning: This post is going to sound academic, but bear with me.) In addition to the Ben Franklin book, I have finished or am in the process of working on a few books that all seem to share a common idea that I hope somehow to incorporate into my academic writing on leadership (Side note: If you want a career with a fair amount of unstructured time, vague deadlines, and lots of reading and writing, choose academia. On the other hand, if you dread the thought that for the rest of your life you’re going to have to do what boils down to “homework,” don’t). The Ben Franklin book and the other books I am or have been working on—Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (finished a few months back), Church History in Plain Language (just finished), By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion, and Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas—all share some common ideas about people and history.

It boils down to the claim that the actions of individuals matter.

Mr. Franklin put it well with this little ditty: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” Givens, on page 45 of By the Hand of Mormon, puts the idea best in describing Mormon as an abridger who emphatically emphasizes “that individual choice produces cataclysmic consequences.” Givens goes on, “‘Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices,’ writes C. S. Lewis (in Perelandra, p. 142), and Mormon . . . embraces the first option (see Alma 46:9 where Mormon describes the effects of Amalickiah’s quest for power).” What you do matters. What I do matters.

What we do matters.

As far as leadership goes, this idea is huge (not new, but important anyway).

What we do matters.

Each of us has both the capacity and the responsibility to act in ways that may profoundly affect those around us and serve as a catalyst for changing the world. What seemed to make the difference between ordinary folks and the extraordinary heroes and villains of history was not who they were or where they came from, but the energy they devoted to an idea and the effort they took to bring their vision of the future to pass. Longfellow set this idea to verse:

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

Again, no new ideas here, just my realization that history is the story of generally ordinary men and women who, energized by ideas (good or bad) and the will to spread them, have profoundly affected the events and people around them. The effect of our individual actions may not get into the history books, but

what we do matters.

What we do, done with intent, bears real fruit in the lives of those around us.


disabilitydiva said...

I'm so with you on the academia part, vague, unstructured time etc...I'm working on my lit review this summer.
As for what matters most. I spend a great deal of my time with BAJA and of course advocating for adoption so that this blessing continues and is given to others. Thanks for such a great post that resonated with me!!

Diamond Evans said...

That is an awesome post. I love it and it is so true. Thanks for yesterday it was fun.