We are now in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime, perhaps once in history, inflection point.
To quote Emerson,
We are very near to greatness: one step, and we are safe; can we not take the leap? Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are now in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime, perhaps once in history, inflection point. To quote Emerson, We are very near to greatness: one step, and we are safe; can we not take the leap? Ralph Waldo Emerson Maybe.
I started planning this new blog a few weeks ago, and I wondered what should be the topic of my first post. I knew what the next ten might be, but the first one is critical. The first one has to invite you to read my work and share our thoughts. The universe decided my first blog for me. The current global pandemic, riding atop the wave of many other negative global trends -environmental, political, economic –makes this pandemic moment the obvious choice for my first blog. The big question — will all the factions in the world finally realize that we are one tiny and intricately connected place to live? It’s no longer about a war on the other side of the world or a multi-year drought in Africa. One microscopic organism has infected the entire planet, and we are not sure how to deal with it. If the coronavirus doesn’t persuade the most stubborn, ideological, and people- in-denial that we are one connected species, and we had better educate them and replace such leaders ASAP. This blog is about what it will take for the world to reach a critical mass of concern and support that will fuel the necessary, equitable and beneficial changes in every aspect of our societal lives. The purpose of my blog is to comment on a fundamental theme of how successful change and transformation is achieved. Over a 50+ year career in communications, behavioral and trend research, I paid attention to the work and learned a few things about influences, catalysts, and cycles. I thought I could add new perspectives to the critical issues about what we want to achieve in our personal, societal, and global lives. I came up with an underlying question and theme: · Why are things the way they are? · What does it take to change ourselves, our lifestyles, and our societal institutions for the greater good? The good news for me is that there is no accepted body of knowledge that satisfactorily answers my or many other people’s questions. The bad news is that despite thousands of years of philosophy, dogma, and ideology, the bad news is essentially the same as the good news. We haven’t been able to identify and understand what we want to know about the meaning of life and how to operate on a higher plane for the greater good. Personally, I think we have to reduce our attention on the quest for all the “why” questions and dedicate most of our efforts with the real issues of “what do we do next.” This post is my first proposal for an explanation of a primary obstacle to beneficial change. The laboratory and the evidence for the obstacles to change. We need the best possible laboratory to test and/or examine the hypothesis looking for the basics of our ability to change for the greater good. And the United States is the best available laboratory for understanding human-centered change. Although most problems today are global, the US is the ideal investigative platform because it is the most successful, large-scale, and longest-running democratic society. Theoretically, the US has the strongest conceptual foundation, and the most institutions and people interested in the best aspects of humanitarianism, capitalism, individual rights, and progress. There are smaller countries that have strong democratic societies, but they are newer and don’t have the experience of the scale and diversity that exists in the United States. If we can understand the flaws and failures within the United States, we may have a better understanding of what’s needed to achieve a higher level of beneficial change for the greater good.
I decided not to revisit history in great detail, cite countless studies, and overload you with more third-party data. My blog is about my experiences, observations, and the ways I’ve made connections to understand where we are and what to do next.
The evidence for a primary barrier to large-scale change is based on my recent research about the obstacles to personal change, the familiar self-help, empowerment, and related genres.
The reasons a society has great difficulty in achieving ambitious change are the same obstacles we experience for our own change goals, e.g., live a healthier lifestyle, manifest financial security, and a myriad of other “I want” goals.
I found my magic number that explains success and failure of change — 68%.
I was looking for a fundamental explanation of why it is so hard for individuals to achieve their goals when it is supposedly a matter of having positive thinking and maintaining motivation and discipline. Scaling up the issue, why is it so hard for societies to make decisions that will match their current and long-term goals for safety, prosperity, and the good life?
The primary evidence had to be highly visible; we have to observe cause and effect and it has to be a factor within our power to change. The most dramatic evidence are the current political environments in the United States and throughout the world.
We have always had, and there has been a re-emergence, of totalitarianism, oligarchy, and other varieties of the few making the decisions for the many. And, the few who rise to power do not usually get there by honest popular support, but by cynical manipulation and today’s outright fake news and self-serving interests. But even within this desperate observation, the greatest disappointment is the lack of enough people who want to seek out enough honest information to make informed decisions.
I’m realistic; I don’t expect everyone, or even the great majority of people, to spend a lot of time going through the weeds of Internet information. We all rely on intermediary information and news sources. Based on many studies from legitimate research sources, 30% to 40% of the people are actively interested in societal issues, pursue the information, and try to make informed decisions. There is another 30% to 40% who are stuck through a combination of laziness, ignorance, anger, information avoidance, indecisiveness, “that’s the way it is, nothing I do will change it” and single-issue ideology. The second group should be the subject of future education. Still, for now, we need to deal with the relatively small group in the middle who can make the difference in social movements and political outcomes. To start a process to achieve the critical mass of change for the greater good, the target is roughly 15% to 20% of the population that needs to be reawakened. As a starting point, I propose that the critical level of intention, belief, and effort to achieve a goal is 68%. I’ll explain.
The origin of the 68% goal.
The research for my book, The Manifestation Formula, demystified the elusive concept of a threshold for achieving a goal. I use a popular term, manifestation, that describes an ability or process to bring our thoughts and ideas into a physical reality, and it goes by other terms such as the law of attraction and the power of positive thinking. Manifestation is a broader concept to me; it’s is the ability of anybody, whether they have ever heard of metaphysics or not, to transform ideas into successful outcomes.
For centuries, philosophers, teachers, and observers understood, better than we do today, the connection between our thoughts, ideas, and consciousness with the eventual choices and actions we take. One factor has been at the top of most manifestation process lists: you should have a positive attitude about your goal “most of the time.” But no source clearly explained what most of the time meant. In my research, I recognized that “most” is explained in a basic statistical measure of probability, in the normal distribution or bell-shaped curve.
My proposal: the necessary threshold to achieve a goal, personal or societal change, where all outcomes have an equal opportunity, requires the critical mass of 68% positive intent and beliefs to achieve the goal. 68% represents the vast middle range within the normal distribution. All things being equal, most events occur within one standard deviation of the average.
Thus, my practical philosophy is that to achieve change or goals, we have to reach a critical mass of positive thoughts, momentum, and engagement that reaches and is sustained at a 68% level. We’ve seen throughout history and around the world, that a small minority can rule the majority, hardly the 68%. But minority dominance is also in the normal distribution, at the tails, where 2% to 5% of the population can dominate the vast majority, if they are allowed to.
The practical evidence of the 68% threshold and failure. The 2016 presidential election.
The 2016 Presidential election is a good example. And for now, we have to put aside the interference by adversaries of the US that influenced the election. We also have to put aside that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote, but the quirks of the Electoral College are what counts. The bigger issue is that regardless of the interference, the polarization of the electorate should not have been so narrowly divided that it took relatively little effort to nudge the outcome in favor of the manipulators. And that modest nudging took place within the proverbial “margin of error.” (I published a book that describes the margin of error concept in 2016 election, The Margin of Error War. Amazon).
Arithmetic lesson #1:
a difference of 2% points determined the election. Every poll had a margin of error of 3% to 4% +.
Arithmetic lesson #2:
Voting for third-party candidates varied by state, but on average, it was 6%, larger than the winning margin, larger than the margin of error.
Arithmetic lesson #3:
Voter turnout was lower than the 68% critical threshold. If a 68% turnout had occurred, we don’t know for certain how all-incremental votes would have been distributed, but I bet it would have been enough to overcome the wining gap and shift the electoral outcome in a few key states. It’s discouraging that the people who don’t vote out of apathy are people who are usually disappointed and don’t believe that they can effect change. If non-voters had voted based on what they wanted in life, they would likely have voted for a proven record of public interest rather than self-serving, narrowly defined and misleading interests represented by Republicans.
In the 2016 election, 61.4% of eligible voters turned out to vote. It’s even lower in reality because not everybody is registered to vote. Turnout varied considerably by demographic groups. In the critical three electoral states, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the winning margin, which determines the electoral vote, was under 1%. And yet, the election was won in the Electoral College, and the “winner” was the “loser” in the context of the normal distribution — all votes were counted, but all votes were not equal since they were subverted by the Electoral College process.
Trump: 46.1% of popular vote. Clinton: 48.2% of popular vote.
These numbers are not to make a political argument, but to show that when 60% of the voters turned out, the winning/losing margin was 2% points. If 68% of the population had turned out, would have the results been different and alter the Electoral College? I believe so.
Most people want changes that will improve their lives, protect them and their families, ensure a safe lifestyle, and more. But with virtually all of our lives on the line, many people did not turn out to vote, but they still want things to change! It’s been said by many people, why do some of the voters “vote against their self-interest”? Of course, digging deeper, we find out that the rational self-interest may be a weaker motivation than a narrow ideological voting choice.
Now, I’ve had some discussions with expert colleagues in statistics and research, who want pure research designs of test and control, to determine which factors influence results. Sure, I agree with the scientific method. But look around, what’s the saying? “ How’s that working out for us”? We have environmental chaos on our doorstep, political chaos in our lives, economic disparity, and threats of global war with every possible weapon.
The reality is that neither the conventional belief systems nor scientific methods are guiding the actions of enough people to make true and sustainable changes. Religion? Church attendance and religious identification continue to decline; church attendance in the US is now in the range of about 50% +/-. These numbers are also soft because attendance has nothing to do with sincerity.
As I look around, virtually nothing of importance is supported and sustained by even 68% of the universe of people.
What do I want to manifest? A lot of what other people also want to manifest, but unfortunately, we don’t all agree on the tools, the beneficiaries, and there are disagreements about consequences.
Personally, I want to have a happy, healthy life with my family, and I want more financial security. I want to take the perfect trip to Italy. I want world peace, clean air, safe drinking water, equal opportunity for everyone, political and business objectives that merge financial realities with the greater good. Every goal I have, from the most superficial personal objective to achieving greater economic equality, is a goal that I would like to “manifest.”
We wonder about the meaning of life and our purpose while actively ignoring its destruction.
Our questions are not our priorities.
If in the best available laboratory for a philosophy of beneficial change and progressive goals, the United States, if we can’t get 68% of the people engaged for the greater good and certainly for their individual benefit, we may be doomed.
To quote Emerson again-
We are very near to greatness: one step, and we are safe; can we not take the leap? Ralph Waldo Emerson