Be A Heretic Like MLK

01 Feb 2022

Americans remember the social change agent, Dr. Martin Luther King who became a leader of the civil rights movement in the U.S., peacefully working to influence attitudes and policy to discourage discrimination and work for equal opportunity for all.

From an early age, we are all socialized to trust certain people and be suspicious of others. The whose-in and whose-out mentality continue to divide as we individually and collectively decide who is IN our group (and therefore acceptable) and who is OUT (those who are not).

Our IN group tells us what to value and believe, and how to behave. Our “tribe” often represents the status quo. If you follow the norms of your group, you can be comfortable. You can go with what is and avoid the uncertainty of change.

But world-changers don’t go with the status quo.

As Ingrid Bergman’s missionary character, Gladys Aylward, said in the 1958 film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, “You have to interfere with what is wrong if you hope to make it right.”

In an 18-minute speech delivered at a TED (Technology, Entertainment. Design) event in 2010, Nancy Durante started with the line, “You have the power to change the world.” She then went on to compare the structure and similarities of King’s, “I have a dream,” speech with Steve Job’s 2007 iPhone launch.

Both were masters at describing and contrasting WHAT WAS with WHAT COULD BE.

King talked of a world where people would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. “I have a dream,” he kept repeating.

Jobs described innovations that would revolutionize our lives. He quoted a famous Wayne Gretzky saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.” That is how Jobs lived his life.

In his little book, titled, Tribes: We need you to lead us, Seth Godin talked about two kinds of people: those who maintain the status quo, and those who don’t, often labeled heretics.

Those who maintain the status quo are satisfied with how things are, or else they are complacent or too lazy to challenge what is.

Heretics are those who imagine something different. They are visionaries, leaders, innovators.

Think about some heretics you may know by name: Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Jesus, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr. They suffered because they shed light on the darkness; and darkness always wants to distinguish the light, whether by prison, shunning, persecution or assassination (MLK experienced all four).

Here is some food for thought:

–       You have to have a vision. The bible says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18). If you can say, like the famous line in Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet,” you better have a vision or get it back soon. You won’t live forever, you know. You were made to do more than suck oxygen!

–       You have to see beyond yourself. There is a whole world out there—a world of problems and challenges—a world that needs you.

–       You have to believe in yourself, your followers, and your vision. You have ideas worth sharing. You have things to offer the world that no one else can bring.

–       You have to be able to communicate your vision. If you want to change the world, or change your self, or change your family, or change your neighborhood, you have to be able to articulate yourself. Neither King nor Jobs would have changed anything if they had not been able to share their vision and passion, and motivate others.

–       You have to approach life with intellect and passion. Pure brainiacs are boring; the overly emotional are drama queens. We’re meant to be both: brains and heart. You have to have both.

As we remember MLK during Black History Month, consider what the universe, your family and friends, and the world need of you. Will you be a heretic?

Duarte, Nancy. The secret structure of great talks.



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