I recently found a Banksy poster and it now graces my wall. For those who are unaware, Banksy is a pseudonym for an England-based street artist and political activist. Banksy uses graffiti and satirical art to comment on social or environmental issues. His art is in demand across the planet. An apt description is Banksy’s own words “People either love me or they hate me, or they don’t really care.”
On my poster, the words are: “There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place”.
When I first read those words, I was taken aback. My self-declared mission in life is to make the world a better place – not those exact words, of course. My mission is to guide people in making the difference they wish to see in the world that is their sphere of influence. Now I am being told that because of my mission, I am dangerous someone.
When I first arrived in America, I found myself in an unusual work environment – for me. Even though I was working in technology, the attitude was quite different than what I expected. I was told repeatedly, that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The challenge for me was that when this saying was trotted out, it was describing something that – to me – was clearly broken. While the situation was something that people were used to and comfortable with, mostly there was inefficiencies and additional tasks required – clearly, these things were “broke”.
Because my approach has always been to place the customer first and to improve their job with better and modern ways to achieve the results they needed, I pushed back against the adage and challenged the myth. My results were always an improvement for the organization in terms of time saved and reduced costs. Yet, it was difficult to find those people who were willing to accept change and invest wisely.
Thinking back on that time, I realized I was being dangerous by challenging the status quo. Far too often, we humans find ourselves in a familiar place and rely on old habits to achieve a desired result. Rarely do we consider that there might be other ways to complete a task, with an overall improvement in the process.
As I wander the world teaching and guiding people how to find and follow their purpose, I believe I can now encourage them to be dangerous. In this case, being dangerous does not mean being willfully destructive. Being dangerous does mean threatening without creating fearful situations.
Be dangerous like Jesse Owens. Be dangerous like Greta Thunberg. Be dangerous like AOC. Stand up for what you believe. Risk losing popularity. Risk losing friends. Risk losing family. Set up and pronounce your beliefs. Show that you stand FOR something and that you will no longer ignore discrimination or mistreatment or…
Personally, one thing I am against is inequality of women. In my life, I have been supportive of the women in my family and in my life, but I have been inactive when it comes to situations that are clearly misogyny or sexual predation. Some years back, I was breakfasting with three male coworkers. The waitress leaned over and one of my coworkers announced how he desired her curves and suggested what he would do to her. I stepped up, and said “that is how it begins”. I suggested that the next step beyond the bluster and machismo was to manifest those desires on an unwilling subject. It was risky, because I was going to have to spend more time with these people. It was dangerous because I could have been kicked out of the “man’s network”. It certainly was the quietest breakfast from that point forward. Later, I discovered that the perpetrator did feel sheepish and vowed to step up his own game in the future. And the others, who were always afraid of stepping up against this behavior were motivated to say something the next time it happened. It became clear that in standing up for a cause in which I believed was dangerous, however the end result was that I gained respect and made a small difference in the world that was my sphere of influence.
Being dangerous means challenging the status quo. Being dangerous means facing your own fears and pushing through them. Being dangerous means making noise where inaction is easier. Being dangerous means indulging in play, joy, and love. Being dangerous means overcoming your biases and seeing the world with a fresh perspective. Being dangerous means smiling in the face of those who challenge your ability to step up and do something.
I encourage you. Find the moments where you can step up and stand for your beliefs.