Recently, I had an opportunity to interview two cool, world-class disruptors who are challenging society’s beliefs about aging:
Dr. Bill Thomas, author of Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life and leader in the world of innovative, human-centered nursing/eldercare, is a seasoned disruptor. He revolutionized the world of nursing homes when he began bringing in plants and animals for nursing home residents to care for. Then he pioneered care facilities that were structured to feel like families, not institutions. Now he’s challenging baby boomers to rethink how they are approaching elderhood, asking them to leave behind a “achievement-oriented, performance-oriented, outcome-oriented, materialistically-oriented, hyper-caffeinated, hyperactive, vision of adulthood” and choose new values that will allow them to embrace being older.
Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism is another crusader, railing against ageism in its many forms. When we’re ageist, she’s says, we’re really attacking our future selves, (assuming we will have the good fortune to get old). Ashton insists that attitudes about aging make meeting the challenges of elderhood more difficult than they need to be.
Through insight, humor and stories, both authors offer manifestos for change, which sent me down the road of thinking about writing manifestos. (From the Latin manifestum, meaning clear, apparent, evident.) Basically a manifesto is a statement that makes clear what’s important to you, in which you can offer your beliefs, opinions, and intentions. It can be as powerful as the Declaration of Independence, or as simple as what follows:
I offer this for those of us who are interested in creating manifestos that can transform issues and offer new ways of thinking and being.
A Manifesto for Disruptors and Manifesto-makers
Play the long haul. Who wants their life to be a series of one-night stands? (You don’t need to answer!) In our fast-moving culture, we worship instant success and crave blasts of viral attention, but the truth is that real change takes time and commitment. My African-American colleague, John Perkins, once reminded me that only entitled people think change has to happen fast. “My people have been working for change for 150 years. We’re not stopping.” So I ask fellow disruptors: are you in it for the duration?
Don’t fly solo. Disruption doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you think you’re the only one challenging that old conversation about “X,” then 1) “X” may not be so important, or 2) you ain’t looking. Give credit to others. Collaborate. (And if you want to be radical, acknowledge that even your adversaries can teach your something.)
Bold is beautiful. Be willing to stick out and take a strong stand. Who wants a manifesto that whimpers? Give it your boldest voice. At the same time, keep an ounce of humility, knowing that you’re going to be wrong some piece of the time…guaranteed. Life is nuanced. We can’t know everything about an issue or foresee all the eventual consequences of our actions.
Write it out. Despite all the new media channels available, people still read, whether it’s a book, a manifesto, or the back of a box of Wheaties. Writing makes you think things out and it’s still the most accurately quotable way to share information.
Engage others with a creative dash. Talking heads, abstractions and pontifications are boring. Using creativity, artistry, and imagination helps people care. Maybe you combine your words with graphics. Or add stories. Bill Thomas lectures with a band of musicians, dancers and storytellers, and strums and sings his message when he goes on tour.
Live your manifesto from the inside out. Are you consistent— mostly? (see below). I remember how disappointed I was when the brilliant student radicals who tried to change the world in the 60’s with their Port Huron Statement (manifesto) turned out to be narcissistic and sexist. I don’t need people to be perfect, but I don’t like playing with those who don’t take responsibility for the baggage they carry.
Embrace your contradictions. Who doesn’t have contradictions? Perfection is so passé. I want to change ageism, but I maintain the right to dye my hair. We’re all human, and being transparent about our shortcomings keeps us real. So does laughing at ourselves!
Help us hope. Yes, the sky may be falling and the cumulative catastrophe of today’s politics is pretty discouraging, but disrupters and manifesto-makers need to take us somewhere. Please.
See the change you want to be in the world. (Twisting a popular saying a bit.**) Point out where positive change is happening, however small. And then remember, in your body and heart, that good things are possible, always.
So now I turn back to you because I know you have something worth declaring. You can find a lot of examples of manifestos on-line. And I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
**Interesting factoid. Gandhi did not say “Be the change you want to see in the world.” His words were even better:
We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi