How to Change the World by Changing Your Focus


Building Heroes' definition of heroism is to act on your values in order to change the world.

  • Do you know what your personal values are? Check.
  • Do you know what your organizational values are? Check.
  • Do you see problems in your organization, in your community, or in your world? Check.

So, what's stopping you?

What's stopping you may be the fact that you do see problems. You see lots of them.

From apathy and a lack of motivation in your organization to homophobic, racist, or sexist behaviors in your community to pandemic diseases and poverty in your world (just to name a few), the problems are everywhere, and they're big, complex, and scary.

That kind of thinking will get you nowhere.

"The world you see outside of you will always be a reflection of what you have inside of you." -Cory Booker


In the full version of Cory Booker's presentation via Capella University, he describes his first attempt at social change in one of the roughest areas of Newark, New Jersey. One of the long-time residents asked him to describe what he saw. When Booker began listing problem after problem, from drug abuse to run down houses, and graffiti to violent crime, the resident responded that, as long as he saw only problems, he couldn't help her or the community.

We have to see hope and opportunity.

In order to be the change we want to see in the world, we have to:

Asset-Based Thinking

"Asset-Based Thinking is based on direct, systematic observation into how a growing minority of highly effective, satisfied people think, feel and act, (and) calls for positive action and traction in the present moment."

In other words, how can we combine our knowledge and skills, and leverage those with the opportunities in the present? ABT can be applied within ourselves, as well as within groups and organizations.

For example, an organization that is small and young offers lots of opportunities for growth and leadership development.

Focus on the bright spots

The second tool is to focus on the bright spots. In the book Switch: How to change things when change is hard (2010), Chip and Dan Heath describe a variety of tools for leading change. One of the most provocative is focusing on the bright spots, an approach that has significantly improved nutrition in impoverished Vietnamese villages, has solved behavioral issues and poor academic performance for ninth graders, and has improved performance for pharmaceutical salespeople.

Our rational brain has a problem focus when it needs a solution focus. If you are a manager, ask yourself, What is the ratio of the time you spend solving problems versus scaling successes? We need to switch from archaeological problem solving to bright-spot evangelizing... Even in failure there is success.

To focus on the bright spots, we identify the successes, large or small, and look for ways to copy and do more of them. The key question: What is working?

Heroism is not fighting some big battle. It is not standing up to some fearsome foe ... Heroism is every day getting up with a mission to show this world that you are going to light it up with your spirit, to make the best out of yourself." -Cory Booker