From #Nepal to the Rest Stop: How Micro-Ambition Can Save the World

I’ve been hearing myself say often lately, “Life is just one big game of roulette. Wherever it lands and how it turns out is random chance.” It’s not very articulate but you get the point. Life is a lottery. We don’t choose if we’re smart, attractive, healthy, of privilege, our geography of birth, if we’re on a massive fault line, what family we are born into and the list goes on.

So what does that random chance idea mean and why does it matter?

At one point in my life chance was an excuse for not doing better. Then at another it was a brag as if I had over come challenges. Then ambivalence–it’s all random so what can I do but ride it out the best I can? I went through something of a dark patch around that concept.

But none of that seems relevant now. I’m starting to think of this lottery thing as more of an obligation-but to what? The idea keeps coming forward–it’s murky–but it goes something like: the random chance which worked in my favor may need to be used for someone who didn’t get the winning ticket or bet on black for that same thing. So if I’m super healthy then I might consider using that health for someone who is ill. If I’m rich, give to the poor. If I’m bright, assist someone who is less so. It’s not the deepest or smartest idea because it’s obvious. Right?

Maybe not. If paying back our random chance benefits were a clear obligation everyone would be doing it and there wouldn’t be so much disparity in world wealth that entire towns collapse from an earthquake in one country while high rises sway and roll with a quake minimizing loss of life and damage due to expensive and expert retrofitting in another.

So the concept of obligation as a result of random chance is either:

  • not so obvious
  • or people (myself included) don’t think to do it
  • or don’t want to
  • or worse yet make up a justification not to.

Sometimes I forget my lottery winning ticket of good health or geography or a whole list of other things so I forget to be grateful enough to be pleasantly and happily obligated and sometimes I react with fear about generosity suspecting somehow it will create scarcity for me. With practice I’ve learned that scarcity fear is unfounded but I still experience it.

So here’s how I’m working through it–see what you think- I’m being micro ambitious.

If I see a person, place or thing which could benefit from something I can give or do–I’ll give it or do it without reservation on the spot. I won’t promise to do it later or do nothing because I can’t do more. Another part of micro ambition is to give where the most good can be done–by me.

I’m horrified by what happened in Nepal when a huge earthquake broke through the country killing thousands and leaving whole towns in debris piles,dust and death. But I also know helicopters are flying in from all over the world with supplies and cash right now. Ten years from now when everyone else has moved on–that might be the best time for me to jump in because like Haiti it will still need help. Also, right now there are no choppers or cash donations coming in from all over the world for the super sad faced sixteen year old boy at the rest stop who could barely mouth the words that he suddenly found himself homeless. My friend Paul didn’t write a check to a charity, he pulled a twenty out of his pocket and asked if there was something else he could do. That micro ambition will stick with that kid who cracked his sad face open to smile and who we felt sure would be paying that back for another kid the first chance he got.

Micro ambition is seeing the need in front of you and addressing it because it presented to you. That presentation is the wake up call for your action. It is the Universe doing the asking.

The best part for me about micro ambition is that I am able to do it, do it now and see the results pretty quickly. That’s just practical. Nature is like that. It does what works. So if you want to send money to Nepal or any place where a natural disaster strikes then do it but also remember to see the suffering right in front of you and be willing to help even if it doesn’t look so dramatic or exotic. Hurting creatures need helping. Period. When something fails whether it’s a species or a planet it ceases to be. When we set grandiose ambitions or wait until we have the time or money to be helpful those ambitions cease to be and our good will atrophies.

So I’ve decided to just do a good thing when, where and how I can for whomever I can. Sometimes it’s helping a worm cross the sidewalk and other times it’s smiling at a baby or telling a lady at the gym she’s looking fabulous. Other times I am doing something which may look bigger than that like feeding a hungry person or sitting with the sick or giving away my stuff to someone who needs it more– but the secret is that there is not big and little compassion because it’s all big. My friend’s twenty bucks was huge for that kid. We could have spent that on two glasses of wine and made no difference to anyone.

If you can help, however you can do it–then do it. And pat yourself on the back. It feels good to be good.

Doing all you can, right where you are, whenever you can is a radiant and worthy life full of micro ambition and, which if practiced by all of us, would have the most macro of results. I hate it when I sound preachy like I discovered a new religion. None of this is new and I’m mostly talking to myself like all of these little bloggie things I do. But it’s just exciting because finally I’ve found something I can actually do–just one small me.


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