What Starts Here Changes The World

The University’s slogan is,
“What starts here changes the world.”
I have to admit—I kinda like it.
“What starts here changes the world.”
Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.
That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.
That’s a lot of folks.
But, if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people—and each one of those folks changed the lives of another ten people—just ten—then in five generations—125 years—the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.
800 million people—think of it—over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—8 billion people.
If you think it’s hard to change the lives of ten people—change their lives forever—you’re wrong.
I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the ten soldiers in his squad are saved from close-in ambush.
In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a non-commissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500 pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.
But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn—were also saved. And their children’s children—were saved.
Generations were saved by one decision—by one person.
But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.
So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is… what will the world look like after you change it?
Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.
And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform.
It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status.
Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.

mcraven

Naval Admiral William H. McRaven,University of Texas, 2014 Commencement Address

The Breakdown

“What starts here changes the world.”

In Austin, Texas 8,000 students learned that motto. They heard it often and for many it inspired their selection of the University of Texas as their school of choice. But each of these 8,000 students, upon graduating heard that same statement, not just as a motto, but as a call to action.

“What starts here changes the world.”

Starting is a big part of that statement. You see, it is not enough for the students to learn from their professors, their peers, and their mentors at UT. That is just the start. They have to leave and act on what they have learned. They have to act. They have to start. They have to take that first step that will be unknown and scary, but allow the momentum to begin to build.

“What starts here changes the world.”

Here. It starts, but where? Here. Right here. It’s not distant, it’s not somewhere you will be, might be, or could be. It’s here. You have an opportunity in the present. You have an opportunity to ACT in the present. Take it.

“What starts here changes the world.”

Changes. It doesn’t remain static, it doesn’t adjust slightly, it doesn’t evolve, it doesn’t morph. It changes. It fundamentally stops being one thing and starts being something completely new. So these students are learning that when they act, when they start doing something, the expected result is change. It is not to maintain the status quo. It is not to maintain anything. It is to change.

“What starts here changes the world.”

The world. The impact of the change is not meant to be localized. It’s not meant to only change the person acting. It’s not meant to only impact their family and friends. It’s not meant to only impact their communities, or their countries. It’s bigger. It’s the entire world.

Theory Applied

Dear reader, why did I take you through that painfully exhaustive list? You’re a consultant, a client, a talented professional who doesn’t need a college ra ra speech, and you certainly don’t need an interpreter. But dear reader, we often miss that our own work and projects should be fulfilled by this very statement. “What starts here changes the world.”

In our professional lives, no matter what our industry, each of us look at the challenges we face and often decide “That challenge is going to have to wait for another day. It’s too big to solve. It will take money, time, and talent that my department doesn’t have to solve this challenge.” Dear friends, you have been called to act. You have been called to start. That doesn’t mean tomorrow the challenge will be gone, but it means you have started.

We lose our momentum quickly though as we think about the future. When we as good Project Managers and Project Sponsors do our due diligence on the Stakeholder Analysis, we identify that the future goal is big. It’s far away, across many divisions, reaching all the way to even the most remote of our clients. But remember, your actions start here. They start right where you are, affecting the things that you work on and how you handle the challenge. Where you are is the perfect place to start. Right now, is the perfect time to start.

Dear reader, change is what you are starting in your organization. Your goal is not to simply check the box and punch the time card, it is to enact change to improve your organization. People’s feathers will be ruffled. You will encounter resistance. You are a “change champion”. Don’t settle for the status quo or “the way it has always been”. Start here, to make change that grows your business and helps your customers. Internal customers, external customers, domestic, international, private, non-profit, public….the world.

The Challenge

Naval Admiral William H. McRaven challenged the students graduating that day to change the lives of ten people in their life.

In your daily work, how many people do you interact with? Ten? Less than ten? More than ten? One. That is all you need to interact with. And if you don’t interact with anyone in your work, start with yourself. How can you help change the life of someone you work with?

I have another challenge for you. On your project, list out ten changes that your company, your team, and your customer will benefit from. How will your customer’s customer benefit from the change? How will the change you are making impact the world.

This sounds big, but if you can state this, if you can see this, you see and understand your strategy.

“What starts here changes the world.”

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