I am constantly confronted - most recently on my new podcast Boy vs. Girl - with the belief that large scale change is impossible, and more specifically, that large scale change cannot be started by an individual or even small group.
I am often advocating for change in macro segments of our culture. Most recently on the podcast, I have argued for the elimination of the honorifics Mrs. and Miss.
In truth, I would like to see all honorifics eliminated, but since it's a podcast about gender and gender stereotypes, I limited the discussion to gender-based honorifics.
I've also argued on the podcast for the elimination of heels from women's fashion.
The response that I receive most often when advocating for these changes is that one person taking a stand will not change an entire culture.
I don't believe this. I believe that from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow. I think that people are simply afraid to be tiny acorns, either because it's scary and difficult to be a tiny acorn in a forest of conformity or because they do not believe in or embrace change as much as they may claim.
I am fond of saying, "Be the change you want to be." This is a slight deviation of the phrase "Be the change you want to see" because I believe that all change - large or small - begins with individuals. Rather than being the change you want to see in others, be the change you want to be and allow others to see it in you.
It's a way of centering change with the self rather than worrying about the likelihood of acceptance or adoption. If I stop using gender-based honorifics or stop wearing heels, I have changed the world. It may only be my world, but that is the one I live within.
A few years ago I attended a wedding of a friend without a tie. I took a stand against ties about ten years ago and stopped wearing them completely. I find them to be impractical, silly, and a literal (and perhaps metaphorical) noose around my neck. In the crowd of more than 200 people, I was the only man at the wedding not wearing a tie. Over the course of the evening, three different men - all strangers to me - approached me and asked how I managed to avoid wearing a tie.
I explained my position.
All three responded both positively and enviously. All three declared that they would try to wear ties less often.
Have they followed through? I have no idea. But here's what I do know:
Neckties are on the decline. Necktie manufacturers are going out of business. The idea that you might receive a necktie as a holiday or birthday present - once a staple - is no more.
Am I responsible? Probably not. More than likely, the casual nature of Silicon Valley companies, as well as a President who is often photographed without a tie while at work - something once unheard of - has more to do with it than me. But I was ahead of the trend. I was being the change I wanted to be. And perhaps I have even convinced some men to abandon the lunacy of the necktie.
Last year I attended an enormous gala honoring Louis CK. Part of my role in the evening was to perform onstage. I chose to wear jeans, a tee shirt, and a jacket, which was by far the most casual choice of every man who I saw at the party save one:
Louis CK. When he arrived, he was dressed just as casually as me.
Be the change you want to be. And sometimes, a star like Louis will support you.
Change starts somewhere. I believe that it can start in a single person, deciding that conformity for the sake of conformity is not good.
I saw this video and realized that it is a perfect visualization of change over a fairly short period of time. It's also change that I am sure people in their own time would have never imagined. But with each transformation, a person or persons imagined the change, and as a result, the world changed.