“Instill in a person a higher vision of themselves, of their talents and worth, of their immeasurable value, and odds are favorable they will strive to live up to those expectations.” – Dr. Juneau Robbins
Shots, shouts, and sirens. Last night more shootings in my North Minneapolis neighborhood. An innocent grandmother sitting in her minivan was caught in the crossfire of gang violence. Tragically, she lost her life. Somebody lost their mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and confidant. In a separate incident an innocent 7-year-old boy was shot in the leg. He will live to tell the tale.
Stories like this are becoming commonplace, and it takes honest effort to not become desensitized into considering this foolishness the new normal. It seems every week we hear news of another shooting or killing. It’s personal. It’s close. The neighborhood echoes with frustrated and fearful calls for someone to do something, anything…and with due respect, many people are trying.
Small scenes mirroring a bigger picture playing the same scenario in cities all across the United States. Why are attempts at solving this crisis so seemingly ineffective? The causes are complex, mangled and entangled to be sure. Ranging from gun control issues to parenting discipline to racial and socio-economic dynamics. But the greatest cause may actually be the simplest to identify, diagnose, and define. One word. Mindset.
While there are plenty of “community leaders”, non-profits, churches, and organizations seeking to change the situation, striving to improve the odds for young people, neighborhoods, and cities, the reality is that no one person, group, or organization can or will fully be able to solve the problem. But every person, group and organization can contribute something, at least one thing, toward the solution. We are all pieces of The Power of One.
I used to believe creating significant change for the betterment of society had to be on a massive scale to really make a difference. A scale like the Civil Rights Movement led by a Martin or Malcolm, or India’s Independence Movement led by Gandhi. With age and experience I’ve realized these great leaders, while magnetic, special and destined for their causes, were as much a product of being in the right place at the right time with the right message, as they were their talents.
The movement necessary to curb gun violence in America’s cities, to curb violent and self-destructive behavior in general, is mostly a movement of the mind….call it a “Mindset Movement”. A movement in which cultivating and growing young minds toward their maximum positive potential, able to visualize healthy lives for themselves, families, and communities, is the chief and primary aim.
Looking back on life, I realize the strongest influential forces during youth’s most impressionable years were the everyday examples in my life, like my business English teacher, high school basketball coach, and especially my father. They were huge influencers in determining my decisions and direction because of their consistent and positive presence, not necessarily their talents (though their talents certainly did not hurt!). It wasn’t their charismatic ability to lead mass political or social movements that created their phenomenal influence, it was their constructive and constant presence.
Over the span of decades each one of these men significantly influenced the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of impressionable young people like myself. Young people who have matured over time and are now in the prime of influencing others coming along behind us. Multiply each of those men by a hundred and in a few short generations their positive influence exponentially reaches tens of thousands. Quiet, exponential influence is an amazing return on influence investment.
Never underestimate The Power of One
The passion of a youthful tryst creates the spark of life. Nine months later a child is born to a single mother, herself literally more than a child. She struggles daily to provide the most basic of needs to her greatest creation. It happens countless times daily, so common an occurrence it may seem like a MINOR thing.
Years pass and the child grows, their young thoughts and values shaped and molded daily by environments and events restrictive to their genius. Their self-image, self-talk, and budding self-esteem are strongly influenced by codes of the street, peers, and learned limitations passed down through generations.
Many in society would see these developments as expected and inevitable, occurring so frequently and commonly they seem like MINOR things.
Self-destructive choices and behaviors become the norm for this young seed. A victim mentality produces a short-sighted, selfish attitude and limited vision of what may be possible to achieve in life. For that child these are life-direction determining developments – these are MAJOR things.
Multiply that child by a few dozen and you influence the energy, attitude and safety of a school. Outside of school hours you literally affect the environment and livability of a neighborhood.
That child continues to age, grow, and mature. Physically stronger and independent to roam. Multiply that young person by a few hundred and you influence the energy, safety, and quality-of-life of an average-sized city.
Multiply that child by a few thousand and you impact the condition, vitality, and concerns of a major city.
Multiply that child by a few hundred thousand, even possibly a million, and you literally influence the politics, dynamics, and well-being of a nation.
So, the absence of a single positive and consistent influence in the life of one child is potentially powerful enough to affect the well-being of an entire nation. That is a MAJOR thing.
Backtrack to that child’s most formative years. Along comes an encouraging man or woman who is compassionate, grounded, and stable. An optimistic individual who sees the potential in that child, with a heart to give of themselves and their time.
Such individuals are plentiful around our cities and nation. In fact, so plentiful that as one person they may be considered a MINOR thing.
Say that man or woman routinely nourishes that child’s mind with positive reinforcement and encouraging words, consistently infusing that young mind with a confident vision of what they may eventually become. Individually, that initial exposure to a higher vision may be considered a MINOR thing.
That higher, positive image replaces the negative, self-limiting image in that child’s mind of what may be possible to pursue and accomplish in life. This may seem like a MINOR thing to the world, but it is a paradigm shift – a MAJOR thing to that child.
Multiply that encouraging man or woman (mentor) by a few dozen and you influence the energy, attitude, and safety of a school. Outside of school hours you literally improve the environment and livability of a neighborhood.
Multiply that encouraging man or woman (mentor) by a few hundred and you influence the energy, safety, and quality-of-life of an average-sized city.
Multiply that man or woman (mentor) by a few thousand and you positively impact the condition, vitality, and concerns of a major city.
Multiply that man or woman (mentor) by a few hundred thousand, even possibly a million, and you literally influence the politics, dynamics, and well-being of a nation.
Multiply that man or woman by a few millions and you literally impact the well-being of the entire world.
Mindset…the master maker. Having a consistent and positive presence in a child’s life during their most formative years is the most important factor in the healthy development of a child’s mindset. Initiating a higher vision-of-self while positively reinforcing talents, growing confidence, and exposing young people to safe, diverse, and healthy environments are keys to helping grow young people into healthy, contributing members of society, who will eventually pay it forward, acting as future mentors to future generations.
One-on-one mentorship is a MAJOR enough concept to build empowered human beings, communities, and nations all around the world. Not that “now and again” mentorship, but consistent and committed mentorship.
If only the solution were that simple. That’s what Edison thought about the electric light bulb at a time when humanity existed in darkness every single night. Now electric lights seems a pretty simple and taken-for-granted concept in our lives. It can happen.
Every problem has multiple solutions that can work in harmony toward a common goal, and every solution begins with a concept or idea. Very rarely a new idea. More often a refined and developed idea. Why should one-on-one mentorship be any different? The Power of One. Idealistic and simple. Powerful enough to positively influence the well-being of the world.
The Power One is a piece of the solution available to everyone, and it may be pursued in many different ways. Whether choosing to participate in existing mentorship programs offered through local non-profits, churches, or organizations, or simply taking a consistent interest in a young person’s life accessible in everyday circles. It doesn’t need to be official to be effective. If you don’t know how to begin getting involved, simply begin asking questions. I guarantee the answer will present in short time.
Just a few thoughts from the mind of one who believes in The Power of One. If this post makes sense, please share. Let’s exercise our Power of One. Together we make a difference.
Dr. Juneau Robbins is a strong advocate of wellness-empowerment through means of self-responsibility. He is the recipient of several professional honors, including the President’s Choice and Chiropractor of the Year awards from the American Black Chiropractic Association. Find his blog here.