How to Win Hearts and Minds

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

— Richard Buckminster Fuller

I live in Berkeley right now. I’d say something like 80% of all stop signs in the area have been modified to look like this one:

Cute, Right?

I don’t own a car, I bike everywhere… and I think these signs are rubbish[1].

Tell someone that what they’re doing is wrong and they’ll likely get defensive. They might think you’re holier-than-thou or that you’re an arrogant jerk, and they might be right. No one likes being told that what they’re doing is wrong. Heck, tell me what not to do, and I’ll probably do it more just because I’m stubborn like that, even if I think you have a good point.But if you come to me and say “Hey I’ve got this idea, it’s really cool: check it out….” and if I can sense your passion and see your vision, and if it’s a compelling one, I’ll want to drop whatever I’m doing and help you make it happen.As an engineer I’ve been born and bred to see problems, point them out, and think how to fix them. Especially working in energy efficiency it’s easy to get cynical about all the broken inefficient systems and paradigms, and spend my time saying this is wrong, and that should be changed, and they should never have done that different, et cetera.Railing about the broken systems in the world is just not interesting anymore. It’s important to understand what things are broken and will never work, but if we’re going to change the world for the better, we need to be moving towards a compelling vision of the future, not just away from a broken one.

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[1] To clarify: half of me thinks these signs are awesome and wants to break out stencils of my own; the other half thinks that they are accomplishing more harm than good, and that anyways if the people who do those spend half as much time working on a compelling vision of the future, we’d be better off.

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