In 1988 the legendary Michael Jackson had a number one hit with a song called “Man in the Mirror.” For anyone who wasn’t around at the time, the chorus went:
I’m starting with the man In the mirror,
I’m asking him to change his ways,
And no message could have been any clearer,
If you want to make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and make a change.
It’s a far more important message than you might at first realize. There are many problems in the world. There are crises of resources and of climate, which means we’re continuously tearing down the home we all live in. Even though we share this planet—and currently it’s the only one we’ve got—we cannot seem to cease doing that, and in addition killing and destroying each other with wars.
Many of us look to various people, governments and ideologies for solutions to these issues. Social media is filled with messages such as, “If we only followed _____, the world would be at peace.” Yet we’re not, and it most certainly isn’t. Perhaps looking to others is not the answer.
The one place we need to look the most—and the one where almost nobody is looking—is, as Mr. Jackson so rightfully pointed out, right square in the mirror.
Video: Watch on YouTube
It’s Certainly Not Easy
I actually know of what I speak. I had a very difficult childhood. If I had simply allowed my upbringing to influence me—which is the normal social pattern—I would certainly not be where I am today. I probably never would have come to America. In fact I would probably be working a middle-class job back in Vienna, Austria, with nothing substantial to show for my life and no prospects for doing so. And I most likely would be quite unhappy yet “comfortably numb” like so many in such a position. Instead, I have a fantastic home in Pacific Palisades, California, run several successful businesses, have a very satisfying life, and have a beautiful wife and wonderful children.
Many would say I “just got lucky.” I can most emphatically say that luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. There came a point in my life—fortunately when I was still young enough to do something about it—when I very consciously decided that “enough was enough” and that I had to make the conscious effort to be the person I actually wanted to be. I had to “undo” my upbringing and ignore the impulses which tried to run my life.
It’s easy to say, but it certainly wasn’t easy to do. It took years. I made many mistakes. But I can honestly say that today, I’m having a positive influence on the future of our world. I’m not finished with these personal changes—it’s a day-to-day proposition—but I’m certainly much happier than I used to be.
So Should You
Are you taking positive action to make the world a better place? If so, fantastic. If not, I’m guessing you probably want to—it takes a pretty callous person to hear the news every day and not want to do something about it.
In the words of Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, the longest journey begins with a single step. In our case, that step is a very simple yet profound one. We’ll take it up in the next blog in this series.