Me to We by Craig and Marc Kielburger

PICKING THE RIGHT GOALS

“[A series of studies] found that the more participants held goals and values related to financial striving, the less happy they were, even controlling for the likelihood that they would achieve what they were aiming for! In contrast, the more participants had goals and values related to relationships, community, self-acceptance, and personal growth, the happier they were.” – Kielburgers
That really resonates with me. Ever since I’ve focused on working towards a greater goal, I’ve been a lot happier. Of course, there is still Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – whatever you do, you need to make sure your fundamentals are taken care of first.

SERVICE: AN IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTER

“If social involvement and volunteering were a drug, we’d be popping pills like there was no tomorrow.” – Kielburgers
Did you know that simply watching someone serve others boosts people’s immune system? Did you also know that serotonin (the happiness hormone) is not only activated in your body when you do something nice for someone, but it’s activated in the other person and anyone else who happens to be watching at the time. Pretty strong stuff huh?

HEDONIC VS. EUDAEMONIC HAPPINESS

“If hedonic happiness is the happiness of the senses, then eudaemonic happiness is the happiness of the soul… Unlike with hedonic happiness, time spent in eudaemonic pursuits fundamentally changes us, allowing us to flourish and grow as individuals and as communities.” – Kielburgers
Those are some pretty powerful thoughts. I never really knew how to express my desires but I guess it’s because I didn’t know of the word eudamonic (commonly translated to happiness, but “human flourishing” is more appropriate)

HAPPINESS IS MOST OFTEN A BY-PRODUCT

“For many people, the primary goal in life is happiness. Yet research indicates that happiness is most often a by-product of participating in worthwhile projects and activities that do not have as their primary focus the attainment of happiness itself.” – Kielburgers
I never really thought about it like that. I always say (like many others) that I want to be happy. However, the question of how never came about. Now I know that I want to be happy and I will be happy when I work towards something greater than myself.

MAKING ME TO WE DECISIONS

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert Kennedy
There are three questions that the Kielburger brothers suggest you ask yourself when making a decision

  1. How will this choice affect me and my family?
  2. What impact will it have on the community and the world?
  3. How will it affect future generations?

THE GAP BETWEEN PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE

“Caught up in the daily grind, many of us often are just too busy for anything or anyone else. The result is something that we have come to call the Me mentality, a way of thinking that focuses on self-interest above all else and leads us to act accordingly.” – Kielburgers
The big take away is how exactly are we moving from Me to We – are we just doing it only during times when we “feel” like it? Are we creating excuses as to why we cannot do it because we’re “busy”? This is the biggest challenge we as society faces and I don’t know if I’m doing any better than you – I probably am not.

CALLING A MINGA

“The closest we got was to compare a minga to a barn raising, but how many barns do you see going up in downtown New York? Again, we were at a loss. Stretching our brains, we came up with something we thought might fit. A minga is like a riot, but for good. It is a quiet riot where a community comes together in a collective effort.” – Kielburgers
It’s really interesting to think that there is no word in English to describe a minga… which is why I am going to copy word for word what the PN has on it:
The Kielburgers tell a GREAT story about how they were once in Ecuador with a team of volunteers building a school in a remote village but, for various reasons, were at risk of not being able to finish the construction before they had to leave.
They met with the community’s leader and, through a translator, explained the challenge. The leader stepped outside and yelled something. The brothers had no idea what had happened and went to sleep that night distraught and afraid their project would end in failure.
When they awoke the following morning, they saw that basically the entire village had dropped everything to help them construct the school. A minga had been called and everyone dropped their personal pursuits in order to serve the greater community.

That’s powerful stuff.

WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN I MAKE?

“Several years ago, we attended an international conference with thousands of other young people to learn about the challenges facing our world and to brainstorm possible solutions. By the last day, we were feeling inspired, but we were also secretly worried that we wouldn’t really be able to have an impact. During the closing ceremonies, the auditorium was plunged into darkness, and one young person stood in the center holding a lit candle. Quietly at first she called out the one question that was on everyone’s mind: “I am only one person. What difference can I make?” She then turned to the four people closest to her and lit the candles they held. Those four then walked out to the corners of the auditorium, repeated the question, and each lit the candles of four people they met there. This same question echoed from person to person, from group to group, and on each occasion the flame was passed along. In this way, the light spread, until every candle was lit, and the vast room was aglow in a sea of light. This simple yet powerful exercise helped us understand that all personal and social change comes about in this way, through simple questions and humble beginnings. It helped us to see that even the smallest actions can have powerful impacts. Such is the power of Me to We.”

My Take Aways

It was kind of funny. The day I read this summary was the day that the national newspaper had an article about our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau giving a speech at the me to we event in Ottawa. It’s actually quite amazing what these two brothers have done and if anything, that is the inspiration that they have left on me. It really does start with that first person slowly finding more and more people to join their belief. In terms of take aways from this PN, I think the whole happiness is a byproduct piece was something that caught me off guard, but when I think about it, my goal can never be “be happy” but more so “to be happy, I will do ___”.

As to whether I will buy this book – I don’t think so. There is definitely some great insight, but nothing really stuck out to me as something that I have to learn, and with the backlog of books that I want to read, this didn’t make the cut. However, if this resonated with you, get the book on Amazon (please note that I will be getting a small amount from Amazon, though it does not affect how much you pay – Amazon just makes less money than if you were to go onto the website yourself). I also suggest you check out the actual Philosopher’s Notes (note they even have courses that consolidate many of the concepts in the books that Brian Joshnson covers and puts them into videos that are really easy to digest). This is the first program that I’ve signed up for and am definitely getting my money’s worth!

Are there any projects you’re working on that can someday lead to the change you’re looking for?

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