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”).

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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May 26, 2011 11:13 pm

Andrew, you’re delightful.

I’m a big proponent of being part of the solution, not the problem, and meeting people where they are, not where you think they should be. My take from this post is that it’s easy to feel insignificant and powerless, but if we support each other, then together we can have a major impact. I will continue to vote with my fork, and hope I can inspire (not guilt-trip) and support others to do the same.

May 26, 2011 8:59 pm

I love your easy going, middle of the road, non-fanatical style Andrew. I too have gone from vegetarian to Abs Diet and love that your “rules” for eating are the same as mine! Not being a prolific writer, just a passionate mom who tries not to overeat, I’m trying to effect change simply by making it easy and affordable for people to pack a healthy lunch. LOL, product development and graphics are easier for me than writing, but what I do love about today’s communication via social media, as opposed to years ago, is that talking as ourselves is celebrated, and that distant “corporate image” thing is actually looked down upon.

May 26, 2011 7:00 pm

Andrew, this is amazing. Even if I couldn’t be at the conference, you brought a piece of it to us! LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!

May 26, 2011 6:35 pm

Great post … tho I will say when people say I am ‘evil’ it is usually a positive! 😉 I think that all of us, in our own way, can promote better living though blogging. We may all come from different food perspectives, but that does not mean we can not support and encourage everyone. It may be strange coming from me – the bad food blogger – but, I believe in REAL food … it may not be healthy but it is real, from scratch food.

May 26, 2011 5:44 pm

A lovely post, Andrew! I especially LOVE the title… and the sentiments expressed. You do great work! -Val

May 26, 2011 5:43 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with your points (including that Mrs.Q is an extraordinary person:) Being negative and fanatical is counterproductive. The question of “good food” is a relative one, and depends on the group in question. For my neighbors who have eight children that they cannot afford to feed, anything is “nutritious”, including white bread, chicharrones, and chocolate milk – the alternative being no food at all. I try to be flexible and not preach – whenever I can, I feed the kids and let them experience different and, to them, strange food. Education is the best approach.
I enjoyed your company at BlogHer Food. You are a truly nice and genuine soul. Thank you for gathering us all around you and organizing the meals:)

May 26, 2011 11:13 am

Very thought provoking post Andrew.I guess what bothers me the most is that people are so caught up in “making a difference” they don’t see “the forest for the trees”. I will give you a great example. Let’s take the issue of chocolate milk in schools. When LA Unified announced that they would eliminate chocolate milk from the schools many people cheered. Everyone who was in favor of it patted themselves on the back – after all, “they” had made “change” happen that had gotten the hated chocolate milk out of the schools. The assumption of course was that LA Unified was (stupid, ignorant,beholden to corporate America, take your pick) and that the RD’s at LA Unified couldn’t possibly know what was best for children. After all if they did how could they possibly serve chocolate milk to kids? So, of course instead of doing a little research (i.e. actually… Read more »

May 26, 2011 10:29 am

I think I break some of your rules because when I see people feeding their kids pork rinds, I have the urge to have a smack down. On a positive note, you are rubbing off on me so our friendship is a much needed alternative to anger management. I’d like to add that eating well makes us feel good. Feeling good makes us positive. You must eat really well. I’m committed to giving up judgments. Wait, let me put my chocolate covered almonds down. There. I feel better already. Can you feel the love?

May 26, 2011 10:28 am

Nice post Andrew – your list is actually quite relevant to making change in the world and to all the chatter there has been about “high school” social shenanigans at the conference. I ruminated over my post for a while because I felt like there was more than just enthusiasm at the conference but in the end, we have to take challenges and turn them into opportunities for good.

Your approach to changing how we eat has worked for me because you’ve always made me feel ok about where I sit on the unprocessed food chain without making me feel guilty for what I can’t do. And you were wonderfully inclusive at the conference so don’t take on any Jewish guilt and think that you were anything but gracious and inclusive.

Nice post Andrew.

May 26, 2011 6:09 am

We need more people thinking this way… positive attitude and genuin enthusiasm (even constructive criticism) go a long way and build new things, drowning negativity and void criticism go nowhere and are useless.