“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
This world is enormous: Planet Earth has approximately 7 billion humans like you inhabiting it. You are only one, miniscule human living on this large, crowded planet; how can you possibly make a difference? How can you be heard?
If I were to illustrate my passion, I would say it is for “people”. People are sentient doorways to stories, cultures, religions, and information that I have never explored before. My fascination with people and the knowledge they have to share pushes me every day to meet new people. To me, each person has a magical spark in them, and the only way to release that spark out into the world is to speak up. But for many, speaking up is easier said than done. It is my good fortune to have encountered many people with brave voices at my young age. Those voices have illuminated several steps to making oneself heard in a world that often seems too big to listen to the sounds of just one person.
The first step is self-esteem. You have to believe that you have a purpose. You have to believe that you are special and unique in your own way, and that your voice is important and must be heard. Once you have developed self-confidence and you believe in yourself, you are one step closer to making a difference. I remember being a young boy scared to talk over the “popular” kids. I am sure there are businessmen out there scared to confront their bosses or colleagues regarding issues.
The second step is to be you. Make sure that you don’t do anything you don’t truly want to do. Don’t succumb to the pressure of others or to the pressure of your conscience wanting to do what others have done. Be yourself and do the things you love. Again, I recall being a young boy participating in activities I wasn’t interested in, only because that’s what everyone was doing. I was miserable. If you don’t like the way things are going, stop, change, and start over. Chase your dreams. Follow your heart’s desires for the future, and pursue all your endeavors. Don’t let anyone hold you back.
The third step is the hardest: take risks. In life you are going to be confronted by obstacles and challenges. People who don’t believe in you will tell you that you will fail. They may be right, but failure is often a necessary first step toward success. Albert Einstein, the legendary physicist, once said ‘those who have never failed, have never tried anything new’. My brother, also named Albert taught me the hard philosophy of Frederich Nietzsche, who said ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. My brother always explained to me that the most potent form of experience is failure. To get to where you wish to be, you will have to risk failing. You are going to be in uncomfortable positions, faced with fear.
Fear is the most distracting emotion in the human mind. Fear has puzzled philosophers throughout time. But fear isn’t an obstacle: fear is significant. It helps you make decisions. It helps you understand the world around you. My brother Steve always told me that fear, anxiety, and discomfort are positive emotions. If you have fear, it means that you are doing something new and are doing things that you have never done before. Naturally you are excelling and taking the next step. The fear of true risk is a sign that you’ve begun something truly exciting.
Live, dream, explore, dare, and take risks. If you fail, instead of contemplating what you should have done in the past, imagine the wonders you could accomplish in the future. If with every step you take you try to make a positive difference, you might change the world itself. Do not allow the pressure of discomfort or unfamiliarity hold you back.
The fourth and final step is stand up. Do it. You now have self-confidence, individuality, and have had enough experiences with risks and failure to speak. Now stand up, embody your best self, and speak. Let the world see the great person you are. Express yourself and state your opinion. You are entitled to be heard. Even if people haven’t listened to you, or if you held yourself back from speaking, stand up and speak proudly.
Life is a tall, steep, and cold mountain. Now that you have your gear, start climbing. Climb to the top, and once you get there, humble yourself. If you play your cards right, you are naturally on the road to success. There will be traffic and speed bumps along the way, but use everything you can to live and learn.
Be sure to lead by example. Gain self-esteem and self-confidence but don’t let it leave the comfort of your mind. Do not act condescending or superior; treat your peers as you treat yourself, and your elders and teachers with respect. The purest form of success is gained knowledge and hard work with the exclusion of vanity. Be sure not to block out the ones around you. Take advice from the ones wiser than you and take recommendations from more experienced people.
Finally, when your aspirations come into fruition, be sure to “give back to the world” in gratitude. Look at successful people such as Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the richest man in America, and Jim Luce, a former successful Wall Street investment banker. All these men have developed self-confidence, courage and unique individuality, did what they loved, took risks, and eventually accomplished their endeavors. Currently, all three of them have their own philanthropic foundations where they have dedicated their lives to charity and giving back to the world.
What are you waiting for! Go dream, live, and learn, and see how you could make a difference. Imagination, innovation, and exploration will expose you to the beautiful colors of the world around you. Passion and fervor will open diverse doorways to the infinite amount of opportunities you have. This is a big world with a great amount of people, but if you have a big dream and a great amount of courage, you can change history.
Isaac J. Kassin
17 years of age
New York, New York
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