How To Change The World (even if you’re not a food blogger)

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

For our panel last weekend during the BlogHer Food Conference (Food Blogging for Change), an hour and fifteen minutes was hardly enough. With so many passionate people in the room, and so much to talk about, we could’ve easily filled an entire day (or two).

Mrs. Q, the wonderful, anonymous teacher who ate school lunch every day for a year*, and I had each prepared some key “takeaways” that we wanted to express in our final thoughts, but at the buzzer we still hadn’t covered them. So today we’re both posting them on our respective sites.  (Here’s hers.)

Now, before you think this post is only about food bloggers, let me say this: It’s not. It’s about everyone. Change happens on multiple levels and from all directions, and I believe that every action — and every interaction — makes a cumulative difference, no matter how small. When you make eye contact and say “Thank You” to someone, you make the world a better place. Sure, it’s a tiny bit, but it’s still something, and you never know where it’s going to lead you.

After taking another look through my notes, I realized it’s not about subject matter, expertise, or even a specific topic. It’s all a matter of style.

Be positive.

Nobody likes a downer. Uplift people with your message of hope and optimism, don’t bring them down with fear, frustration, and dread. Pessimism won’t get us very far.

Be enthusiastic.

Cliché because it’s true: Enthusiasm is contagious. When you meet someone who is interested and excited about something, don’t you get at least a little bit of that spark? Enthusiasm is kind of like being positive, on steroids.

Ask questions.

Asking someone a question engages them. It starts conversations, and you never know where they’re going to lead. (Corollary: Listen to their answers.)

“I don’t know” is okay.

Yes, even if you’re supposed to be the expert, it’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t know.” As long as your next step is to go find the answer.

Find allies.

Then do everything you can to support them. They will, in turn, support you. (Corollary: Be inclusive.)

Don’t judge.

When was the last time someone told you bluntly that what you were doing was bad/wrong/evil/destroying-the-world?  I’d bet that wanted to make you do it more, not less, didn’t it?  (Corollary: Don’t preach.)

Empower people.

Be sure to give people the tools to actually do something. For me, that means providing helpful and encouraging information, resources, techniques, recipes, and every so often, issuing a specific call to action. For you, that probably means something else.  Whatever your method, it’s important to give people the tools and ability to make change, not just talk about it.

Above all else, be genuine.

Be absolutely, positively, without a doubt, 100% sincere in what you’re doing.

Photo by Mystery Photo Guy, used under the creative commons license.

* Mrs. Q is an ally (see above), who has also become a dear friend.  We’re actually on a first name basis now — I’ve started calling her simply, “Q” (or, if I’m feeling saucy: “The Q”).

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Catie @ Earth Becomes Me
June 13, 2011 5:08 pm

This is my first visit to your site & I love this post. You’re absolutely right, and I will be taking your advice! I’m a green living/whole foods blogger, and have to admit that I occasionally rant about the state of affairs these days! In the beginning I was mad at people for making sush horrible choices regarding food & lifestyle, but every day I’m learning that we’re just part of a really broken system that does the exact opposite of fostering healthy, active people. I’m trying to allow my love for my family, and appreciation for our health to rub off on others. I’m working more on offering tips to make cooking and eating well easier, and more convenient. I will be visiting again soon!

Jayne
Jayne
June 13, 2011 4:23 am

Wise words, Andrew!

Valentina
May 29, 2011 9:57 pm

you’ve don it again! i’m really loving reading your blog. and like Kelly, i too love your “easy going, middle of the road, non-fanatical style.” sounds like Blogher Food was great, and thanks for bringing a bit of it home to those of us who weren’t there. 🙂

brandi
May 27, 2011 8:31 am

Great post, and such a good list of tips. So many people think that if they can’t make a HUGE change, it means it’s not worth trying. But if everyone did just one small thing, it could make an enormous impact.

Nancie McDermott
May 27, 2011 6:21 am

Printing this out and taping it up above my desk, where my eyes will land on it, often. Old school, that’s me, but this message resonates with me (for me? to me? among me? grammar check to come) not just in regard to food writing and work, but in everyday life. I’m learning lots from reading your work in many areas — many thanks.

Kris @Krazy_Kris
May 27, 2011 5:26 am

Really great take home – the don’t judge one is interesting for me because there are different circles that, uh, don’t really use this one. Me? I have no place to judge because I’ve made oh-so-many mistakes in my life. I’ve proven that I really don’t know much – although I am an expert on me (finally). Ha! TY for sharing!