Participate, Don't Originate

Alan held up that card at the end of a conversation late in 2008 (that's LAST year) and three words echoed in my head.


I grabbed a Post-It Note (there was no shortage of Post-It Notes there) and jotted those words down. I think they're going to be my slogan for 2009.


I have been guilty throughout my life of rejecting opportunities because they weren't MINE. I'd come up with an idea, say to myself, "That sounds worth doing," and then discover somebody else was already doing it, and toss the idea.

Which is selfish and retarded and I realised, in that moment of insight, how dumb I was being all along. I'd beat myself up for not coming up with an original idea, and forget the most important lesson of finding someone already on it: that it WAS a good idea. If somebody else is already on it, then it's probably a great idea. Whereas if nobody is doing it, it's probably a bad idea, no matter how clever it seems to me, odds are it's a dumb idea.

Getting involved in HoHoTO was a real watershed moment for me. Instead of starting something, I was just joining in with others on something underway. My contributions weren't even all that significant, but as I noted in a Twitter conversation, the whole point of events like HoHoTO is about the ability to pull together many many SMALL actions into a meaningful context, so that good things can result.

There's so much going on in Toronto right now. Things with strange-seeming names like #themvmnt, #svc, #tsTO, none of which are "mine", but then they aren't so much anyone else's, either. But they're all things I can meaningfully participate in, maybe with huge contributions, maybe with small ones. The point is that there's stuff that needs doing, and I can help.

Somewhere or other I read the quote: "Don't ask what you can do; ask what needs to be done." This past month has really brought home to me how important that can be, and maybe helped me see a framework within which that statement leads to action, not just musing.


My reluctance to engage in other people's initiatives only makes it less likely that I'll get my own off the ground. Heck, why would anyone want to join in and help me if I haven't rolled up my sleeves and gotten to work on theirs?

I think this is the biggest thing I learned in 2008. So my resolutions are all about participating.

What about yours?