Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Tipping Point

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point recently. Gladwell asserts that trends and behaviours in society can develop just like epidemics, that they hit a “tipping point” when they either skyrocket or plummet. One example is the dramatic drop in the new York crime rate in the mid-‘90’s which may have been a result of the population being a little older, the economic situation being a little better, police being a little more effective and better backed, and all of these things brought the situation to a head. He also cites the case of a few dozen kids in New York starting to wear Hush Puppies at a time when this brand was all but extinct. Suddenly, thanks to a few strategic people noticing and imitating this fashion, sales of Hush Puppies skyrocketed.

Last week a former colleague passed away suddenly, a tragic early death of a great man. Everyone who knew him had the same things to say about him. He was funny, kind, and always took time for anyone. He was enormously popular with his colleagues when I worked with him, and he was enormously popular with the kids in the school at which he most recently taught as is evident on the Facebook page they set up in his memory.

I realized that this guy has been extremely influential in starting an epidemic of positive human interaction. The kids` comments on Facebook mentioned how he would joke around with them, how he always had time for them. Without being preachy or condescending or insulting or belittling, he simply demonstrated how to behave in a positive manner that makes everyone else`s lives happier. And if everyone behaved as he did, there would be no end of volunteers for school activities, no screaming arguments, no sulking bitterness, no angry reproaches.

Once you start seeing things this way, once you start trying to identify epidemics that you would like to see explode, the possibilities are endless. If you are reading this blog, you are likely a runner, swimmer, or cyclist. So you know that your positive approach to exercise and nutrition is mirrored and fed back by those around you to some extent. You surround yourself with people who have the same approach as you do, and you see others around you trying to be just a little more like you in those areas. They can`t help it; your behaviour is uncompromising and the benefits are so obvious that who could resist... The effect that your behaviour and attitude has on the world around you is truly breathtaking.

So let`s see if we can push on toward that tipping point at which all human behaviour improves dramatically. You know we can.