The Real Problem

This problem is much bigger than you may think.

Last week, one of my closest friends asked me a really interesting question.

And even though I write blog posts in hopes of answering life’s tough questions, I’ve actually never given this question any thought before she asked it to me:

“What do you think is the biggest problem that’s facing our world?”

That sounds like a pretty tough question to answer, doesn’t it?

Depending on your point of view, it could be a number of things: Negativity, workplace bullying, a lack of kindness, intolerance, terrorism, Miley Cyrus…who knows?

For me, finding the answer to this question was actually a lot easier than I thought.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one real problem facing our world.

In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if there’s one question that we should be asking ourselves, starting today, it should be this one:

“Are we contributing to this world-destroying problem or are we a part of the world-saving solution?”

Either way, let’s find out.

The Real Problem

Without question, I believe that the #1 problem facing our world is a simple, but very widespread, problem:

Apathy. Indifference. Simply not giving a shit.

Most of you know what I’m about by now.

In case you’re new here, you’ll soon find out that I am freakishly committed to creating a world where we all learn to treat each other with kindness, respect, dignity, and acceptance at work, home, and every place in between.

Make no mistake about it, I am a kindness extremist, and I’m 100% okay with that.

I am obsessed with making the world a nicer place for all of us, and if my dream comes true, we will all get to live in a world that’s far better than anything we’ve ever experienced.

Workplaces all over the world will transform when respect and kindness share equal importance with quarterly profits and shareholder margins. Connecting with others outside of work will happen more easily and more frequently when we realize that we are all far more similar than we are different. Hell, in a nicer world, even going to the DMV might be an enjoyable experience.

This all sounds great, right? Who in their right mind doesn’t want to live and work in a nicer world?

Surprisingly, more people than you would think.

If you don’t believe me, here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Apathy in Action

A while ago, I struck up a random conversation with a lady in line at the Post Office, and since I was rocking my smiley face logo t-shirt, we eventually ended up talking about the blog that you’re currently reading.

Instantly, I became fired up when I started talking about The Positivity Solution’s mission of making the world a kinder, nicer, and better place to work and live for millions of people. I swear, as I was talking, this woman looked at me like I sprouted a third eyeball in the center of my forehead. When I was done, she politely replied:

“Uh…wow, you really care a lot about this ‘changing the world’ stuff, huh?”

My response (sincerely surprised by the fact that she was surprised): “Yeah, I do. Don’t you?”

Lady at the Post Office (barely acting like she had a pulse): “Yeah, I guess. It’s just not that important to me.”

Me (speaking silently to myself): “Not that important?! Are you kidding me lady??”

As I walked out of the Post Office that night, I had a private, but very real moment of self-doubt as I drove home.

“Am I crazy for thinking that people should deeply care about making the world a better/nicer/more loving place, or is it really not that important to most people?”

I needed a larger sample size before I came to a conclusion.

So, the next day I hit up a few of my friends, coworkers, and readers and asked them their honest thoughts about how they felt about making the world a nicer place.

It was only then that I finally figured everything out.

In my informal poll, 100% of the people confidently said that they all wanted to live in a nicer world, but far less than 100% believed that it was possible to do it. Even worse, far less were willing to put in any effort to make it happen.

Some people barely even cared, just like the lady in the Post Office.

The problem was now crystal clear.

The real problem aren’t the jerks and asshats of the world. Far from it. The real problem in this story are the people who don’t give enough of a damn to make an effort to make this world a better place for all of us.

Apathy. Indifference. Not giving a shit.

That’s what I’m fighting against.

I Have a Dream Too

Coincidentally, today is the day that we celebrate the life of a person who most definitely gave a shit about people.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s no doubt that in the 1960’s, quite a few people thought what he was doing was pretty damn unrealistic. Every day I’m thankful that he didn’t listen to the naysayers, the haters, and yes, the apathetic, because if he did, who knows if I’d be in the position to write these blog posts and fully go after my own dream?

His dream was to one day get black people and white people to eventually join hands together as brothers and sisters in racially segregated states like Alabama in the 60’s. All I’m trying to do is get people to be nicer to each other at work and outside of work in 2014 and beyond.

This might sound crazy to say, but if he could accomplish his crazy dream, then why can’t I accomplish my crazy dream too?

Just in case anyone is getting it twisted, let me be painfully clear about something–I’m not even slightly comparing myself to the excellence of Dr. King. What I’m trying to do is follow his blueprint to change the world.

He was a man who had a dream to change the world when many thought that it wasn’t possible. I’m a guy who has a dream to change the world, even though many people tell me on a consistent basis that it’s not possible.

This might sound weird to some of you, but I stay awake at night wondering what life would be like if we eliminated bullying and other soul-crushing behavior from the workplace forever. I stay awake at night wondering what life would be like if people found the courage to ruthlessly remove toxic relationships from their personal lives. I stay awake at night wondering what life would be like if companies all over the world grew a set of cajones and made kindness, dignity, and respect equally as important as turning a profit. I stay awake at night wondering what life would be like if people learned to love and accept themselves fully.

To some people, my dream may sound unrealistic. To them, that’s reason enough not to care or to try.

To me, that’s a cop-out. 

The size and difficulty of the dream didn’t stop Dr. King, so why should it stop me?

I have a dream to make the above points a reality, because unquestionably, that would make my young daughters’ lives better when they get older. It would make every working professional’s life better. It would make my life better. It would make your life better too.

That’s why I will always give a shit.

It’s also why I’ll never understand people who don’t.

What Do You Care About?

In case you thought this blog post was about making the world a nicer place, it’s not. That’s my dream–I have no clue if it’s yours.

The real point of this blog post is to ask you this: Do you care enough to make this world a better place in your own special way by going after your own dreams?

On a daily basis, I run into people who have allowed apathy to defeat them and their dreams. I can hear their sad, defeated voices now:

“Going to work will never be an enjoyable experience. I’m just here to collect a paycheck and try to stay sane until I eventually retire.”

“True love and happiness will never happen for me. This situation is as good as it will ever get for me, I guess.”

“My dream isn’t worth the effort. I’ll probably end up failing anyway, so what’s the point?”

Trust me, I’m not naive. I know that apathy is going to end up defeating some people, that’s a given and I get it. But it can’t be you. The world needs you.

I need you.

The only way that this world will become a more positive place is if as many people as possible choose to wake up and give a damn about their dreams and their happiness today.

Not tomorrow, not “someday,” TODAY.

Dr. King cared a lot about his dream, and because of that, he changed the world. I’m telling you that if you place the same level of belief and care into your dreams, you will change your life too.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up changing the entire world.

But any hope of either of those things happening are a complete impossibility unless you give a damn.

So, here’s the million dollar question:

Do you care enough to make this world a better place in your own special way?

I’ve already given you my answer.

What yours?

Your Turn

Have you ever allowed apathy to get in the way of your hopes and dreams? Do you have a personal story of how apathy and indifference can potentially derail your happiness? If so, jump in and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. I’m in. I think you should compare yourself to MLK, to be honest. Not trying to speak for him or anything, but I think he’d be proud that someone is following in his footsteps and leading others to make the world a more awesome place.
    My mum brought me up to believe that the rent we pay for being on this earth is to be kind to people, and to try to leave the world a better place than we found it. Two mottos that I try to live by. (The third is that you are responsible, forever for what you have tamed). Mum is very smart, and pretty switched on, and I reckon she’s lived by these motttos handsdown. And so, I believe, have you.
    Thank you.

    • Thanks Shazz, that is extremely high praise, my friend! Your mom is bright lady, that’s for sure. Halfway across the world in the US, I’m also committed to following all three of her mottos, and I’ve never even met your mom! It’s obvious that you are doing your part to make this world a better place and I’m certain that all of your mom (as well as all of your friends and loved ones) appreciate you for it. Keep it up, Shazz–the world needs you!

  2. I think the number one reason that there are so many apathetic people is because doing something is hard. Take bullying for instance. There is nothing easy about standing up for someone who is being bullied. Often times the person standing up for the bullied ends up being bullied themselves. Even though many schools have anti-bullying programs these days, the school administrators do not always back up the programs when it comes right down to it. So you end up with a lot of bystanders because they are afraid of what will happen to them. It’s really very sad, like a vicious circle that can’t be broken. I think it’s important that we try our best to inspire each other to stand up, step in, be kind, reach for our goals and especially important (in my humble opinion) is that we teach our children to do the same. Not to sound too cliché, but the children are our future and if we can break the cycle amongst them, then maybe we will all see a better world emerge!

    You are definitely an inspirational person Shola…let’s do this!

    • So true, Spring–that’s why apathy is such a dangerous problem. Too many people look at the huge issues that are facing our world (bullying, racism, abuse of any kind, etc.) and due to fear, or a belief that their actions won’t make any difference, they end up doing nothing. It’s really sad. It’s also unnecessary. I honestly believe that if we care enough about an issue, we should be willing to fight through our fears to at least try to make a difference. Dr. King changed the world because he stood up against long odds. What if more people were willing to do the same? In order for the party to start, someone has to get on the dance floor first, right? Why not start with us? I’m ready if you are!

  3. Thank you Shola for another awesome post! I have seen the tragic results of apathy. I think that MLK would be honored to have you continue his mission. You truly are a beacon of light!

    I’d like to say what I think is a huge problem. I can’t say I think it is the biggest problem, but it is a big one….

    selfishness

    From people who are too wrapped up in themselves to be good parents to close-minded people who proclaim their beliefs are the only acceptable ones, there is a true epidemic of selfishness going on right now.

    I am worn down by it and find myself wanting to throttle people who won’t look beyond their own selfishness.

    Actually, I think I could go so far as to say that apathy is a direct result of selfishness.

    Why should I get caught up in the world’s problems when I have all this on my plate?

    Why should I care that those people in that country are suffering when I suffer?

    When is someone going to put MY needs first so that I have time and energy to devote to others. (This logic kills me!)

    Shola, selfish people are apathetic because they are so wrapped up in themselves that they fail to SEE the rest of the world. They don’t see that it is sooo easy to make a difference. They don’t see it, and they don’t want to see it.

    Thank you for continuing to bless our Mondays. Even though I was lucky enough to be home with my kids today instead of at work, I was still SO happy to see the email saying you had published your weekly blog!!! 🙂

    • Kathy, that is deep–what an awesome comment! It’s kind of like a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” situation. Does apathy come before selfishness or does selfishness come before apathy? It’s hard to say. But damn, I could not agree more with everything that you said. I honestly cannot deal with people who believe that their beliefs are the only valid beliefs in the world. Closed-minded people are some of the worst people in the world to be around, and just like you, they drive me insane. As one of my good friends would always say, “The problem with closed-minded people is that their mouths are always open.”

      You said it best–selfish people don’t see how easy it would be to make a positive difference in this world because they are too wrapped up in themselves to do something about it. Or maybe they just don’t care enough. One thing is for sure though: As long as amazing people like you are out there making a difference in this world, it will have to eventually rub off on them, right? Fingers crossed! Thanks for the comment, Kathy!

  4. Hi Shola,

    I’m so in!!

    You know, when I read your sentence ‘This might sound weird to some of you, but I stay awake at night wondering what life would be like if we eliminated bullying and other soul-crushing behavior from the workplace forever…” I could literally feel such a lightness in my heart- such a deep sense of peace for this vision for the future. How beautiful Shola!

    The more people that raise their vibration by following their dreams, the more others are inspired to do the same- THANKYOU for helping to keep me- and everyone else here- inspired- LOVE your work!!

    xxx Carolyn

    • Thanks Carolyn! Here’s another thing that sounds equally as weird: I can honestly picture that future in my head. It almost doesn’t even feel like the future because I can picture it happening right now. That’s why it feels so easy and natural to fight for this dream because I know (not think, I know) that it will happen. And honestly, I can’t wait :). It’s an honor to hear that my words are inspiring and I’m thrilled to hear that you love my work! Thanks again for the kind words, and I’m so glad that you’re IN!

      • Hi Shola!

        I don’t think that is weird at all!! I believe it’s a sign that you’re doing what you’ve been out on this planet to do! Your mission is literally pulling you forward, into it, your heart resonating at the same level as your dream… the stand you’re taking, it’s commendable and I’m so glad you’re sharing your journey on this platform! Thanks again 🙂

        Xxx Carolyn

        • Thanks Carolyn! I gotta keep it real though–some days I honestly wonder if it’s weird that I care so much about this kind of stuff. It honestly keeps me up at night and I’m obsessed with making this world a better place than how I found it. Hopefully with fabulous people like you on my side, I’ll make it happen sooner rather than later 🙂

  5. First of all I wanna express how I much appreciate your work and what you stand for, every time!.

    As for this matter, I believe that “Apathy. Indifference. Simply not giving a shit”, can NOT be simplified and and it’s broader than what it seems to be.
    If you asked Hitler for that matter about making the world a “better place”, he would surly replied “Hell yeah, that’s what am fighting for!”, as for any other bad perceived individual or a group, starting from the elementary school bully to the dictator of a regime!. The celebrated “Heroes” of this world are often described as evils by certain group of people according to their believes and interpretation of good and evil. Let’s take Steve Jobs as an example, he was a pioneer, visionary, creative and a self-made individual, thus he was described as Hero and people grieved him when he passed away, on the other part of his life he wasn’t an easy person to deal with, far from kindness if I may say and so on.

    Hope that you get my point and I’m really interested to hear your opinion.

    Much Regards Shola,
    Tareq

    • Great points, Tareq! There are definitely a lot of people who believe that they’re making the world a better place by doing awful things. My definition of positivity has always revolved around taking action that doesn’t intentionally hurt others. Hitler and his followers may have thought that they were making the world a better place, but in reality, due to the incalculable pain and suffering that they caused, they clearly did the opposite, regardless of what they believed. That’s why I think apathy is such a devastating problem. There’s a mindset where many people will look at people like Hitler, a schoolyard bully, or even horrible situations like child homelessness and simply shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, it’s not my problem…” if they are not the ones directly affected by the pain these people/situations are causing. It’s sad. That’s why I admire people like Dr. King who gave a shit about big issues, and cared enough to fight to make the world a better place without hurting anyone in the process. And even as great as I thought MLK was, there were still many people who hated him and thought that his activism was making the world a worse place. No one in the history of the world will ever get a 100% approval rating–I get people on a frequent basis who tell me that writing about positivity is “stupid and meaningless.” But I believe in helping others and not hurting them, and I deeply believe that this site is helping–that’s why I’ll never quit in my dream to make the world a kinder place, regardless of the long odds or the haters. My thing is that this world would be a MUCH better place if people chose to care more their happiness, their dreams, and ultimately the welfare of this world too. Whew, I hope that makes sense. Thanks for your comment, my man!

      • I salute you for your passion Shola!, and frankly I’m not worried about you giving up on your dream due to pressure by some haters. People like you have been and always will be shining like a fiery beacon to guide others and give them hope and strength, even if they hadn’t succeeded to fulfill their mission!. I pray that the world will be a better place to live in, regardless of all the negative circumstances which sometimes leads me to believe otherwise.

        Keep on doing your thing man, you rock 🙂

  6. Darling Friend Shola. . . I am wondering whether some people might be able to handle the idea with smaller, more specific steps. I think you and I share being “global” thinkers, but other people really do see the trees and not the whole forest. And, of course, it’s a great thing that we can all help each other out with our varying viewpoints. (For example, “What time is it” to me is morning or afternoon or winter or spring, but to others, it’s 12:16 precisely.) If you asked people whether they would be willing to do a good deed each day or a “pay it forward” act of kindness, I’ll bet they could wrap their heads around that concept. And I am convinced that people really do care. . . just need things more broken down sometimes so they are not overwhelmed. Just my 2 cents. Love, love, love what you are doing!

    • Hey Vonnie, it’s so great to see you here! Yes, I’m a HUGE advocate of taking small steps toward our goals. I’ll be real though, I’m definitely a global-thinking, save-the-world, type of dude–but like you said, nothing can happen without taking the small steps first. I wrote about this concept in another post (Just Today) and it’s one of my all-time favorites. Either way, I couldn’t agree with you more that people would care more if they realized that taking action to change the world really isn’t as hard as they might think. If everyone just committed to being a little kinder today than they were yesterday. the world would change dramatically. Thanks for jumping in!

  7. You know what I’ve noticed, Shola? The apathetic aren’t the only problem. I’ve found that a LOT of folks are invested in their own self-image as nice people but it’s all a facade. Not only do they do nothing particularly nice, they resent those of us trying to make a difference — because, frankly, we reveal them for what they are. They smile their phony smiles and post their sanctimonious crap on Facebook, and talk bad about those who choose to try a little harder to make the world a nicer place. You can often spot them ganging up in sanctimonious little groups, like overgrown middle-schoolers.

    If I sound angry, I am. I had to leave a job because of two people like that. My crime, as far as I can tell, was treating them with the same kindness and politeness that I treated the janitor (actually, I liked the janitor a whole lot more than them but I doubt they knew that). My crime was failing to reinforce their self-belief — and God, was I punished.

    Reading your blog actually helped me a lot with how to move forward after that. I keep doing what they hate. 🙂

    • Maria, I don’t blame you for being angry, my friend. I’m all too familiar with the people who you described, and I actually wrote a post calling these folks out on their silliness (Fake Positivity). I’m just very happy to hear that you’re not letting people like that slow you down or change you as a person. Let them continue with their junior high school nonsense while they fool their Facebook friends with their “fake positivity.” In the meantime, keep extending kindness, and most of all, never stop caring about what you believe in.

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