400m… You Can Be The Change You Want to See

In high school and college, I ran track. Specifically, I was a 400 meter runner, and for those in the know, you understand my pain. The 400 was the hardest race – basically a full sprint 4 times further than a full sprint should ever happen. People have described the feeling of the monkey on your back (heading around the last turn into the final straight) as death, because that is kinda how your body is reacting.

All of this to say, 400m is no joke. Take this on and survive, and you have some stories to tell.

When I first started this post, a new movie hit the theaters like a storm, breaking records and changing the landscape of what could happen in the entertainment industry: Black Panther. It is hard to quote any statistics, because they themselves are on a dead sprint – the moment you quote them, they have flown past all expectation. At that time, they were stating revenues from the film in the neighborhood of $400 million, and that was  in just the first 10 days. Since that time, it has grossed over $1 billion… That is incredible!

Like I said, 400m (or in this case, $400MM) is no joke.

This got me thinking about a lot of things. Some things I have loosely followed over the years, and even some of the current events of the day, such as the argument about guns and the NRA and the Occupy movement. More importantly, it has me thinking of what can happen when a collective group of people apply their financial / societal muscle to anything.

Let’s look back at the Occupy Movement. All across the country, people gathered to protest, to stage sit-ins, and to declare that Wall St. was not representative of them, that “things needed to change”. The problem (in my humble opinion) was that it was all talk – a cry for people and organizations to change, who had no intention on changing. So, they were “heard” for a while, but then those with the money and influence issued the order: “Shut it down”. The lawmakers and police stepped in and declared that those calling for change were “illegally gathered”, and one by one, each gathering ended.

How could “Occupy” have been different? Well, for that you have to “follow the money”. Or more importantly, follow where the money wasn’t moving. Basically, with all of the cries for Wall St. change, there was no change in people’s spending. Therefore, there was no incentive for big banks and big money people to change their behavior. Ironically, there was incentive for cities to stop the movement: for one Occupy sit-in, New York City spent $7 million dollars in overtime for police. For the city, the problem was clear, and it was not those bringing in corporate tax dollars.

$400 million dollars… what could be done with that kind of economic clout?

  • in the 2016 election, the NRA spent about $50 million on their candidates of choice.
  • According to Daniel Strachman, you could launch multiple hedge funds with enough critical mass to be successful (in other words, build from tens of millions to hundreds of millions)
  • create a Super PAC (Political Action Committee) and contribute almost as much as all Super PAC’s combined to the next presidential election.
  • buy 100 million ice cream cones… enough for every child under 18, in the United States, with about 30 million cones left over…

Now, before you start questioning my ethnic allegiances, I am not advocating boycotting the film, or stating that there are better uses of our money – Far from it. In fact, this has nothing to do with the film itself. It is more about that which we need to be aware, the power we have as individuals, and what happens when individuals unify their choices. Sites like Kickstarter thrive off of this kind of knowledge where people with ideas get funding for everything from creating programmable flying robots to a book about chickens (really… people pledged almost $75,000 to fund a book about beautiful looking chickens…).

Over the past few years, and more so lately, social media has been inundated with stories… no, rants about what is not being done in the country and abuses by each political party. Many of those rants need to continue, because they are valid (the poverty level for a family of 4 is $24,000 per year, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – the one responsible for keeping our citizens with a roof over their head, spent 25% more than that to buy furniture for his office… yes, please rant about that)At the same time, we also have the ability to act – to do things, to combine our collective forces for good and for our community. National disasters have shown us what can happen when we pool our resources (not just our money, but our effort and our time): people are saved, homes built, communities restored, and more.

Like I said, though, the 400 is no joke. Getting to the goal takes determination, discipline, and in some respects, a little bit of a deranged mind…

Thinking back to another movement that started with one person – Rosa Parks. The bus boycott was originally supposed to be a one day thing, but turned in to a year long boycott by 40,000 people! That many people changing their habits for that long can and did have an impact on the transit system of a community. More than the transit system though – it changed the laws of a nation forever.

I heard an interview by some of the cast members of Black Panther, where one of them said that the movie was about what could have happened if Africa were allowed to progress on their own without the oppressive arm of colonialism. It is a powerful thought that was displayed on screen. That same thought could be applied to basically anything in our lives: what could happen if the thing holding us back wasn’t able to? You might respond, “I’m just one person… I can’t change the nation.” You are just one person… just like Rosa Parks. Just like the next person who decided to buy a ticket to Black Panther. Just like the 899th person who donated a small sum of money toward the chicken book. What starts with one, extends to two, then ten, then one hundred, and on and on, until the entire bus system is shut down…

My challenge for your week is this – believe you can. Believe you have what it takes to start something, to fix something, to restore something, to change something. Believe that you can make a difference in the lives around you, and even in your own life. Believe that you can help make some dreams come true… even if they are your own… even if they are about a book about chickens. And don’t just believe… act on your belief. Lao Tzu said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Part of me thinks Lao must have run the 400… because it feels like a thousand miles when you are running it 🙂


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