What You Can Do

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Do you realize the power you wield in the palms of your hands?

I was just watching the documentary channel. The movie was ok (definitely not Academy Award winning material), but every piece of video footage, all of the audio tracking and even the details of the journey (which were documented on a Blog) were happening with the power of a couple of  Apple MacBook Pros. The other day, I saw some tweets from someone complaining that there was not enough diversity at an upcoming conference. Everyone in the media is watching jaw-dropped as WikiLeaks forces them to reconsider what journalism is and will look like.

We all now have the power to change… the power to do.

Most of us still see the computer as a tool that takes us away from one another. Just today, the Montreal Gazette had an article titled, Off -Line, I Reconnected – one of those "what’s life like if you are not constantly plugged into the Internet" type of pieces. As much as the Internet, computers and technology can take you away from meeting people face-to-face or from acting in a more public social form, the true opportunity of the Internet and all of this connectivity is quite the opposite.

Now, you have no more excuses. If you’re not doing something, it’s not because you don’t have the power. It’s because you lack the drive.

If you think there are too many big box stores opening up in your community, and it’s creating something that is both too homogenous and hurting the local mom and pop retailers, you can now (for very little money) do something about it. You can create your own documentary film about it. You can can create a Blog telling the stories of your local community. You can create a Facebook page and build and a movement behind it. You can start an audio Podcast and share the stories of the local retailers with everyone online. You can take pictures and share them on Flickr, Facebook or wherever. The sky is the limit.

You can do… anything.

If you don’t like the way a conference is being organized, you can start your own. Fine, it’s not easy to pay speakers, rent a hall, sell tickets and market the event, but there’s nothing stopping you from running an online event where people share their point of view with the world (both Blog Talk Radio and Talk Shoe can get this going for you). On top of that, a live event lives and dies on the day that it happens, your online event can be downloaded millions of times… forever. What about using the online channels to create a meet-up of like-minded people in person or even use the channels to meet others and create an unconference?

Most people love to talk. Few people love to do.

If something wrong or evil was happening where you work, would you become a whistleblower? Think about what that would mean in a pre-Internet world. You would have to steal documentation. You would have to lie and do some fairly subversive things, while still pretending to be doing your day job. WikiLeaks allows anyone to post this bad stuff anonymously. Think about that. While some will use this to do very bad things, imagine those employees who can now do the right thing with very little personal repercussion. No matter where you stand on WikiLeaks, you have to admit that it empowers those who would typically be victims to affect change in the world.

Smartphones push this even further.

Have you seen the YouTube clips and Blog postings of people creating HD movies with their new iPhone 4? (if you have not, watch this: iPhone 4 film – "Apple of My Eye"). The quality is almost as impressive as the fact that you can actually do editing right on the phone. The HT Professional Recorder app for the iPhone allows you to record audio in stunning quality as well. Let’s not forget how easy it is to create content on Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc… directly from your mobile apps.

The limitations of what you can now do are simply limited by your own personal limitations.

So, what are you waiting for?


  1. Heh Mitch. I don’t know Lex. But I do know Mike and he and some others at CommScrum are the people I talked to you about… busy pushing the limits on “internal” comms. Great post. Great potential. And, let’s make a difference in every sphere that matters to us…

  2. This was very Tony Robbins like, very inspirational. You are absolutely correct, there are little to no excuses for anyone any more, at least in Western countries.

  3. Redux, no typos…
    This was very Tony Robbins like, very inspirational. You are absolutely correct, there are little to no excuses for anyone any more, at least in Western countries.
    P.S. Are your FB comments intentionally off? It would be nice to comment there but, for you here is better. I did come across a tool that combines both but, do not recall the site it was on.

  4. Mitch,
    Inspiring. So true- “Most people love to talk. Few people love to do.”
    I sometimes find myself consuming content, talking on twitter, reading, etc, and lo and behold, not doing. Easy to get stuck in that rut sometimes.
    I think Doing takes courage and deliberate practice.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Great and inspiring post Sir Mitch, and it disturbed me.
    We can do almost anything in the internet-that is true.
    However, there are 4 matters that can be considered-for now.
    Funds-Money is directly related to options, more money, more options. We cannot venture much if we don’t have something to gamble on or to maneuver with. some say that most items in the net are free and piracy rules, but premium products that have fees always prevail in the long run-for now.
    Social Consequences- In a the age of anonymity, we can say that this may not happen much, but hundreds of stories in the net tells that us that people will be punished if they start a campfire inside the organization, some are fired and ostracized.
    Trend-It is possible that some businesses depend on trend-spotting. Exploiting the trends takes time, and before we can draw a sword, someone else does it.
    As i have read the book Anatomy of a Trend by Henrik, says that a trend is figuring out what “works” and why it should be, riding the trend gives dividends and ignoring it gives harm.
    Execution- There are many best ideas flying in the world, few are executed and fewer still are executed well. Risks are always weighed well.
    As the great author and marketer Seth Godin says “Great ideas will destroy you.”
    What can people do is to opt for starting small in all things, having a “feel” first before taking action, having grand concepts in the mind or wishful thinking clouds real judgement-for now.

  6. I agree.
    People don’t follow other people. They follow heroes. They follow stories. Not everybody can be a leader. Not everybody is willing to sacrifice for a cause. Most people whine and that’s enough to make them feel good. They don’t want to change nor make a change.
    Sure the internet allows you to reach and energize even the kinkiest of demographics. However we should stop this ridiculous discourse about leadership. Not everybody can handle freedom and change. Imagine a world where everybody thinks he/she’s a leader and work to make a change. This world would look like the comments on your blog. Nobody listens to anybody else, they just post their opinion. And very often tell you how great your article is. (sorry for sounding too bitter i’m in an intermission of Faust Opera…:))

  7. It’s fine to just consume and enjoy. I take more issue with those who complain about a ton of stuff but never do anything about it as if their hands are tied and its someone else’s problem. Your hands are no longer tied.

  8. All four points resonate. Thanks for adding them. In the online world, they don’t apply as strongly – unless you’re trying to build something very big (like the next Google).
    1. Funds: The point is that if you have something to say against anything you can do it for free (think about using a free WordPress Blog). But let’s remember that the cost does not inclue your time and commitment.
    2. Social Consequences: There is probably little to no social consequence in starting a healthy conversation (in fact, those that usually do build character). Note the word “healthy”. No one is going to ostracize you for helping to organize an unconference about whatever topic interests you. However, you may get into hot water is you start a “My Company Sucks” type of Blog. Pick your battles wisely.
    3. Trends: This isn’t about figuring out the “the next big thing” it’s about telling your story. Trust me, no one is telling your story the way you can. There was no trend to start a Marketing Blog, it just felt like something I had to do. These channels allow ou to build micro-trends… your own trends.
    4. Execution: This is the entire point of the Blog post. Using these tools and meeting the right people can actually help you get this right. I agree with you (and Seth Godin), wholeheartedly, everything is in the execution. The great thing about the Social Media channels and platforms is that you can keep it in beta for as long as needed and tweak it. It’s not easy to get it right out of the gates.

  9. I’d argue that this is less about leadership and much more about doing stuff. I don’t think you need to be a leader to start a Blog or shoot a short YouTube video. In fact, these channels are filled with tons of followers… and that’s a good thing. When it becomes successful, some people do become leaders, but not all. I know many individuals who have Blogs, Podcasts, Twitter feeds, etc… and they are by no means leaders at all. They’re just sharing and doing stuff. Faust be damned.

  10. I thought this was a great post Mitch, and already supports my worldview. I don’t think most people realize 1) how easy it actually is and 2) how possible it is. I disagree with Cyrus that you need money and that it’s a risk (although I do agree with him that it’s ok to start small). As to Octavian’s point that “everyone just posts their opinion” — so what. That’s partly the point. Any one person CAN create change, in part because there are so many people who are talking and not doing.
    There’s an easy task — find the people who are talking about the stuff that you value, and then work together to actually DO something.
    So Mitch, don’t ask me what I PLAN on doing — ask me what I’ve already DONE that I would have thought impossible a couple of years ago — I’ve become a magazine publisher and helped build a network of almost 1/2 million people, got involved in international politics, created art — with others, helped create and produce books, documentary films, and theatrical productions. (yes, all of those words are *plural*).
    It’s no longer a question of what can we do, it’s a question of what should we focus on that will not only create the best common good but will create the greatest possible individual joy. (apologies for also sounding Tony Robbinseque!)

  11. Mitch- ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “”Now, you have no more excuses. If you’re not doing something, it’s not because you don’t have the power. It’s because you lack the drive.” (Mitch Joel)”
    Posted this on ALL my social media accounts…
    Keep letting your lights shine!
    Blessings, Brian-

  12. True, everybody can do something. Getting to a tipping point is the harderst. And thinkers like your definitely pushe people in a good direction. Thank you for your hard work and generosity. Longest Faust of my life. Very good though :).

  13. The idea that anybody can do any of this stuff always reminds me of that line from Oscar Wilde: “be you because others are already taken.” This is why everybody publishing (in text, images, audio and video) is important. It’s important because we can (and we always wanted to). It turns out that there are more than three sides to every story.

  14. Hi Mitch,
    Lots to debate here. No question the communication tools are powerful and easy to use, but we still need to choose to use them for good or for evil. And avoid simply over-indulging in the anti-social escape from face to face contact. Also the tools add easy distractions from the excessive ranting of idiots and the spamming of unimaginative hucksters.
    There is lots of stimulating and valuable content and many opportunities to find your voice, but still tough to make the choices of time and effort. Finding balance is key for me.
    Appreciate your insights,

  15. My big point is this: you have to control your technology. You can’t let the technology control you. I agree that there also needs to be a point to this all (a strategy). Without that, it’s all aimless.

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