By Gregory Hansell
Let me tell you a “daytime” story.
We all know bedtime stories—they help us fall asleep. They close our eyes. They clear our minds.
But I’m telling a “daytime” story, a story to “wake up to”. It is the story of how a better world is possible.
BetterWorldians Foundation was created to tell this very story. We will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as we can. So kick back the covers, open your eyes...and listen.
The Sky is Falling
How can we believe in a better world?
People today have become convinced that the world is falling apart, that things are in the worst shape ever. People are lost, confused, and don’t know what to do. “A Better World” can sound like a child’s fantasy, or worse a delusional diversion, when chaos abounds. When people are fearful and angry, they pull back rather than reach out. They cocoon rather than open their arms. They hide rather than seek and find.
Of course, there are real problems out there. We have many challenges to overcome and many systemic issues to address, both here in the United States and also across the world. But running around with our hair on fire, screaming “The Sky is Falling!”, and acting like things are worse than ever is not helping things at all.
This is not the truth of our world and it is not the answer to our problems. All is not lost.
But it can be lost, if we do not pick up the mantle of those before us and continue to strive for the good. Because the truth of today’s world is that things have actually never been better.
The World Has Never Been Better
Yep, I really just said it. You know who agrees? Bill Gates.
On his gatesnotes blog on September 18th, Gates writes:
“These days, a lot of people look at the headlines and think: The world is falling apart. I have a different view. I think the world is far from falling apart. In fact, it has never been better—more peaceful, prosperous, safe, or just.”
I know it’s hard to believe this—to even imagine it—with all the dangers, inequalities, and divisiveness that abound. But we are as starving people standing before a banquet in disbelief. Such a table of plenty is so astonishing that we can’t even see it, we refuse to believe it is even there. And so we continue to starve, hoard food, and fight each other out of fear of scarcity. We are creating our problems by ignoring the solutions before us. This “cure” of negativity and fear is killing us, because we’ve identified the wrong disease.
Believe it or not, a veritable Mt. Everest of Data is out there to prove Mr. Gates correct. First, the Gates Foundation itself leads world in both initiatives to improve the world and reporting that shows their work and that of many others is making a substantial difference. In their 2017 data report, the Gates Foundation clearly shows that remarkable progress has been made...but that momentum and lives can be lost if humanity turns back now from its lofty goals. Gates himself also wrote the foreword to Charles Kenny’s Getting Better, which “dispels the gloom and doom with a wealth of convincing data on the remarkable, underappreciated progress that almost all developing countries have achieved over the past several decade” (ix). But perhaps most convincing and exciting is the new 800-page Springer handbook, The Pursuit of Human Well-Being: The Untold Global History. This groundbreaking research, funded by Halloran Philanthropies, shows compelling proof of substantial progress in every corner of the world. Things are getting better and better, folks. You might as well get used to it.
So what gives? If there is all this evidence for things getting better, why do things seem to be getting worse? Because, for most human beings, data doesn’t cut it.
The World Is Not Enough
It looks like James Bond was right: “The world is not enough.” An actual entire-world’s-worth of data isn’t enough to convince people to reject a mistaken belief. Christopher Graves, founding president at the Ogilvy Behavioral Science Center, shared some fascinating data of his own in a recent talk at the Games For Change festival in New York City.
Graves showed that people simply cannot, by facts, be convinced to overturn their convictions. Astonishingly, even well-researched, black-and-white data only serve to aggravate a listener when what is presented disagrees with their worldview. Data is not enough and can even be counterproductive in persuading folks to a better point of view that clashes with their preconceptions.
Nevertheless, there is hope in story. Graves presented additional research showing that stories have the ability to persuade where data does not. Narrative has an immersive power to reach people at a fundamental emotional level where they can be convinced to change their minds. Such is the power of story that it calls upon core aspects of our psychology to pick us up and carry us along with the narrative flow.
A compelling story thus has the power to change minds and thereby actually change the world.
What’s The Story, Morning Glory?
A morning glory is a flower which opens with the first morning sun. What daytime story do we want to wake up to? What story will help wake us from this dark night to the daylight all around us?
What is the right story to welcome a new glorious day of global cooperation and progress? What is the convincing narrative that compels people in the United States and around the world to believe again in each other and in what is possible when we work together in common cause and for the greater good?
In the aforementioned blog post, Gates writes: “Armed with an understanding of how many challenges humanity has overcome so far, you’re inspired to do whatever you can to help solve today’s problems and prevent tomorrow’s.”
As we see it, today’s challenge is creating and launching a powerful narrative engine that can transform fears, doubt, and cynicism into enthusiastic belief and participation in making the world better together. The right story therefore must include the context for the negativity and doubts that real folks have, but supersede those concerns with a higher narrative that directs them toward a positive, constructive way of thinking and living.
Put differently, we need a compelling meta-narrative—a story of stories—that allows people to rethink challenges as opportunities and allows them to reconceive their fears as growing pains for a better world. People may become fearful from warnings, but they can only truly put their faith and trust in a sweeping narrative of optimism, progress, and possibility.
Welcome to BetterWorldians Blog
Telling this inspiring daytime “story of stories” is our work here at BetterWorldians Foundation. We do this through our BetterWorldians Radio podcast, interviewing “The People and Ideas Changing The World.” This includes founders of impact organizations, titans of industry, academic experts, spiritual leaders, bestselling authors, and many others.
We also tell the story through our #PeaceBegins social media memes, such as our Color Your World With Kindness video. And coming soon, we’ll be sharing our vision with workplaces, looking to share our story with businesses in showing how this message makes for happier, healthier, and more profitable organization.
The BetterWorldians Approach is to Educate, Inspire, & Motivate people with Positive Thinking, Positive Values, and Positive Actions. Here on BetterWorldians Blog, we’ll update you on all of this, but more importantly we will be building on the story itself: sharing research, gathering data, looking at new trends and new ideas, and putting together the pieces of how we can all make it a better world.