3.4. Real Change Requires ACTION

Successful movements do one thing only: they get a critical mass of people to act differently.

Want to know the secret to real, lasting social change?

I’ve been studying this stuff for over ten years. And I can tell you that while the details are challenging and complicated—the gist of it is really simple.

Successful movements do one thing, and one thing only:

They get a critical mass of people to act differently.

Not think differently. Not feel differently. Not believe differently.

It’s all about getting enough people to do the right thing, in the right time and place.

Changing hearts and minds is all well and good. But when you think about it, it’s kind of a roundabout way of creating change.

The real goal is getting people to act differently. But instead of going straight for that goal, we spend all our time and energy instead fighting these huge battles over our beliefs, in hopes that it’ll lead to action.

We tend to romanticize successful movements, because they seem so rare and extraordinary.

We look for leaders who can match the idealized, romantic image of past leaders. And when we don’t see anyone who fits the bill, we despair, and doubt we could have that kind of change today.

We’ve got to stop doing that.

No flesh-and-blood person is ever going to live up to those standards. It’s only after they’re successful—and dead—that they become so heroic in our memories.

And no matter how remarkable those people really were, in the end all they were doing was something very simple—the only thing a successful movement ever does:

Getting people to act differently.

There’s no magic formula. We’re capable of this kind of change too.

There are so many people today fed up with how things are going.

The desire for change is there, in huge numbers.

What we’re missing is the coordinated action.

A movement that gets sucked into this fifty-fifty, Republican-versus-Democrat system isn’t going to do the job.

Because once it gets co-opted by one of the two parties, it’s just a matter of time before half the country loves it, and half the country hates it, and then we’re back to the same old stalemate.

The next movement is going to have to come from the people. It’s going to have to exist outside the two-party system.

That’s the only way we’re going to get consensus. That’s the only way we’ll ever get sixty, seventy percent or more behind it.

I think it can be done. I really do. Even though I’ve spent the past ten years studying how big and complicated our problems are.

But you can’t do nothing. And you can’t do something with only a few thousand—or even just a few million—other, like-minded people.

We’ve got to do it together.

If the lesson you’ve learned from past movements is that you should stubbornly fight for your beliefs against the rest of the world…you’ve learned the wrong lesson.

The lesson is that people are powerful when they’re united—not divided against each other.

The lesson is that when people apply our strength—our numbers—against the entrenched interests of institutions…we win.

And the lesson is all the beliefs and desires in the world can’t add up to the power of action…and all the divided action in the world can’t add up to the power of unified action.


This is the 48th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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