In our social media age, it can often feel like to have any influence at all you need to have huge numbers of followers who hang on your every word. Of course, in real life the majority of us have a much more intimate social circle.
That shouldn’t preclude us from making a difference however, and Anthony Tjan argues that we can do so by being as good as possible. He argues that the influence we can have on our closest contacts can easily escalate as the goodwill spreads throughout the network.
It’s an approach less like the mass media social media approach and more like the impact the Velvet Underground had, which was minimal in terms of mass market appeal, but the relatively few fans they had disproportionately started bands of their own. This ripple effect is within us all.
The good people mantra
Tjan breaks his philosophy down into five mantras that he believes not only underpin ‘a good life’, but also underpins a general sense of happiness and wellbeing.
- Be people first – Try and make people a priority in your life, and to do so over a long-term timeframe.
- Help others – Helping others to become the best versions of themselves is an essence of our shared humanity.
- Focus on values, not competencies – Being good goes beyond competencies and is more an expression of our purpose, nature and fundamental values.
- Find a sense of balance – Many of these values are inherent within us, but life can force us to make difficult choices and so a balance between idealism and pragmatism is crucial.
- Practice it all the time – It’s relatively easy to do the right thing when put to the test, but doing it all the time is much harder
Suffice to say, this isn’t the first book to propose such a path, and the likes of Adam Grant has made similar statements in Give and Take. Building on from that core framework have been sites such as Impossible.
The service, which has obtained backing by Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame, aims to provide a social network of givers. Users post wishes and they are answered with gifts of time and assistance. They can then respond to a successful wish-fulfillment with a ‘thank you’ post. These thank-yous are recorded on the user’s profile for all to see, a sort of virtual tally of their generosity.
It initially launched in beta mode only to Cambridge University students in 2013, before launching nationally. At its core is a mobile app that allows users to post their wishes to the network. Using geotagging, people can then respond to requests local to them, as well as to those from people in their social network or with matching skills.
Doing well by being good is not a new endeavor, and despite being reasonably mature the jury remains out on the potential of services like Impossible to support a giving culture. Living a purposeful life, both as individuals and organizations, is becoming increasingly popular however, so perhaps if nothing else, that is a sign of the progress being made.