Why I Don’t Believe “If I’ve Helped Just One Person I’ve Succeeded”

People seem to forget how important phrasing really is.  In fact often times we misconstrue the meaning of really important phrases that are used every single day.  One particularly important phrase that I’ve heard over and over again that just bothers me is something along the lines of “If just one person in this room has taken to heart what I’ve said, then I’ve done my job,” or “If this effort or speech has helped just one person, then we’ve succeeded.”

These phrases are commonly used when it comes to powerful speeches, causes, programs, courses, messages, you name it.  In essence what it’s really saying is “one person is enough to start a spark.”  The deliverer of the message is saying that if only one person can get said message, that they will in turn hopefully bring that message to someone else, and so on and so on thereby creating a wildfire of action.

Don’t get me wrong.  That’s a great message and I think the intentions are extremely positive.  But frankly I just don’t like the wording.  It’s almost as if the person delivering the message is saying that their goal is to reach just one person.  Again, I know that’s not their intention but it just “sounds” that way to me.   Instead, I’d rather come at a crowd with large intentions.  I’d rather come at a group letting them know just how much of an impact I want to have.

What would I say?

I’ve mentioned before on this site that one of my goals in life is to speak in front of a crowd of 50,000 people.  Call it shallow.  Call it a lofty goal.  Hell, call it unattainable.  I don’t know.  That’s just me.  It’s just something I see myself doing in the not so distant future.   And you can be 100% sure that if I ever get to speak in front of a group that large that my goal will not be to reach just one person in that audience.  My goal would be to reach everyone in that audience.  My goal would be to instill and bring home whatever message I conveyed to everyone in that crowd.   And I would tell that crowd as such.

You want change to happen?  Of course to starts from a ripple.  As I said before there’s nothing wrong with that approach.  But if I really want change to happen I’m gonna come out swinging.  I’m going to make sure that everyone I can reach is reached.  That everyone I can get to act, acts.   If all my efforts run dry and I only reach one person, and that person is the catalyst for change?  Wonderful.  That’s a win.  But just to be clear, it’s not my intention.  My intention is to go big when it comes to examples like this.

But you have to do you

Having said all of this, this approach isn’t necessarily for everyone. Not everyone wants to speak in front of a group of 50,000 people.  Not everyone has an interest in reaching the masses.  Sometimes we’re comfortable in our tiny pods.  Sometimes the only people we care about reaching are those close to us.  And I think that’s 100% OK.  You’ve got to lean into yourself with regards to the messages you want to convey.

But if you are one of those people who wants to reach a big audience.  If your goal is to implement real change or action with large numbers of people, then I think it’s pointless to say that you hope your message reaches one person.  You want your message to reach all people.

Anyway, just thought I’d share my thoughts on the whole subject.  Carry on.

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