“Nobody is so weird others can’t identify with them.” – Rebecca Miller
In this video, Derek Sivers breaks down how to start a movement. Powerful, funny and persuasive, and only three minutes long:
This Ted Talk really got my wheels turning about veganism. The movement as a whole, and the leadership needed to grow the movement. As my friends know, I want to be a vegan leader, I want to make change in the world, and I’ve been looking around everywhere for direction and inspiration.
I love this video because it highlights two things:
- The courage needed for someone to stand up and be weird all by themselves
- The critical importance of the first person to join them in doing that weird thing
Of course the first thing is obvious, all people who were brave enough to be different get the accolades afterwards when the weird thing becomes a mainstream thing. But I never really thought about that first follower: how their courage and their significance in the movement is always overlooked. It takes guts to be the one to stand up first and say, “I agree with that guy!” And, Derek Sivers is right: without that first follower, a leader is not a leader, they’re just a weirdo.
I really took to heart the concept of treating your first follower(s) as equal(s). Again, I never consciously thought about it but Derek’s point hits home: this makes it about the movement, not about the leader. The leader should simply be a catalyst for change, a guiding light or a navigator, nothing more.
I think we should all keep this in mind when viewing our leaders; be they vegan, raw, political, religious, educational, or what-have-you. If it is more about the leader than the movement, that person is probably not a good leader and it may be time to look elsewhere for inspiration.
And I think we should glorify followers more. We may not all be leaders. But we can all be brave, discerning followers and that is even more powerful, because followers are the ones who actually cause change.
As a vegan, it’s easy to feel like the first guy in the video: you are doing something you love, something that makes you feel free and right, but everyone else refuses to join in and treats you like an outsider. It’s easy to lose heart when you look around and see a bunch of indifferent faces staring at your passionate flailings (and veganism, especially in the beginning, can feel a lot like a passionate flailing, sincere but terribly clumsy).
But keep dancing and little by little, you’ll get your first few followers. Maybe your neighbor has bad cholesterol and asks you about plant-based cooking. Maybe your coworker watches Cowspiracy and is enraged but unsure about their next steps. Maybe your mom suggests doing all vegan sides for the next holiday/family meal. Remember to treat these people as equals, be compassionate and inclusive, be honest but also kind, and one day their arms and legs may flail as mightily as yours!
With that, I leave you with this:
We are all a little weird. And we like to think that there is always someone weirder. I mean, I am sure some of you are looking at me and thinking, “Well, at least I am not as weird as you,” and I am thinking, “Well, at least I am not as weird as the people in the loony bin,” and the people in the loony bin are thinking, “Well, at least I am an orange”. – Jim Gaffigan
Go out, my little oranges, and dance your asses off!