Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Power of the Ripple Effect

How one life and one choice can change the world.

By Cambridge Who’s Who Contributing Author Cheryl Nordyke

There isn’t a person alive who would not like to think that their life has made a difference in someone else’s life. We all hope to positively impact our friends, families and maybe even our neighbors and co-workers. The truth is that many of us will never know the full extent or the lasting impression that our smallest actions may have on others.

On July 4th, 2008, I was on the bank of the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts along with more than 500,000 people celebrating this country’s birthday. This was also the 35th birthday of the Boston Pop’s Fireworks Spectacular and, performing live at the event, were the Boston Pops and Rascal Flatts. As I sat there and listened to music piped through speakers along the Charles, I could not help but wonder, “What would the Founding Fathers think today if they knew what the signing of the Declaration of Independence had accomplished?” More than 200 years later and this country is so much more than it was on that day when nine out of 13 colonies voted in favor of this new democracy. Then I wondered if anyone thought that the Boston Pop’s Spectacular would become this big of an event when it was first held in 1974, attracting not only a large live audience but also the millions of people who tune in via telecast.

It became very clear to me at that moment how much one ripple, even an action as small as a smile, can continue to grow into a wave of change. Who knows where we would be as a country or what our impact on the world would be if those men had not created the Declaration of Independence. Not only did they craft it, but they willingly signed their names and took action toward creating the life they wanted to live. That act has given us a lifestyle that people from around the world want to experience and be a part of.

The purpose of the first 4th of July concert held on the Charles River was to revitalize the concerts at the Esplanade. Today, it is nationally recognized as an iconic event; Arthur Fiedler’s brainchild has turned into a full-scale production that at least one person from each state in the U.S. attends every year. This Independence Day, the band Rascal Flatts was the featured musical guest. Rascal Flatts started out as three guys doing simply what they love – playing music in bars and clubs. There were times, they said, where there were only two people besides themselves at their gigs. Then in the early 2000s, with the release of two albums, their lives changed forever. They are now multi-platinum recording artists who live their dream everyday and recognize that the life they live is possible because of the fans who support them and their music. The fans, in turn, are impacted through their music and lyrics in ways that the band may never know.

You and I may not play as significant of a role to such a large population of people as those who have become famous. However, it is possible for us to do so if we take action. Each person who has made a strong impression had a dream first and then took steps to realize it. The Founding Fathers decided that we could live in a country with freedom of choice and Rascal Flatts thought that other people would feel something from the music they loved to write and perform. These people started out the same as you and I – with an idea and a dream. The difference is that they took that idea and that dream and made it come to life. We can have the same influence and legacy when we become an agent for change. Be the ripple and stop simply riding the waves created by others.

Today the economy is in the worst shape that it has been in decades. There is an increase in unemployment, gas prices are exorbitant and companies are cutting back. Regardless, there are still people out there reminding us that we can have and become more. Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret,” Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” and books and lectures by Wayne Dyer all strive to inspire us to live the life we choose. There are companies that have started in dorm rooms and are now making millions, and there are more people who are able to work from home and dedicate more time to family and friends. Yet most of us, while inspired by the stories we read about and see on television, are still living today the same as we did the day before and the day before that.

So how did they do it? What is their secret? I don’t know for certain that anyone can answer those questions because each person has a different path and different challenges to overcome in achieving their dreams. The one thing I do know is that they stopped waiting for next big wave to come along; they stopped depending on someone else to make their dreams come true. They became the ripple and started their own wave that in turn, made more waves and inspired others.

How do you become the ripple? For Mark Zuckerberg, the student-genius behind Facebook, it was turning the idea of students wanting to share information with others into an online business. He stayed focused and worked on making his dream a reality. For Burt and John Jacobs, the guys behind the Life is Good t-shirt company, a few obstacles stood in the way of their goals, but they did not give up. They came up with a winning concept – a character named Jake – and before you know it their dreams were reality.

Is there is a risk in making your own ripple? Of course there is a risk. That holds true for all great things in life. Yet, there is also risk in riding others’ success. That risk may not be as great and we may not even notice it, yet, it does exist. We do not have any control over how the owner of the company that employs us may change. The owner may sell the company or decide that cutbacks are needed. Therefore, there is always a risk.

I am no stranger to creating a ripple, and I am sure that there are many others who have started their own ripples whose impact is yet to be seen. When I was taken from riding a wave that I had been quite successful on to crashing off of it, I realized that I never wanted to jump on someone else’s wave again. My friends and I began rewriting our book and looking for something to inspire us and to remind us to be grateful.

Our quest led us to the idea of creating jewelry that we could purchase for ourselves and our friends, employees or loved ones to say, “Thank you. I am grateful.” We knew that there were people who had read, seen or heard something that had inspired them to pursue and realize their dreams. They would want something to remind them to be grateful for what they have and thank the people who have positively impacted their lives. There, right in front of us, was an opportunity to take action.

Teaming with Jessica Fields, a talented, up-and-coming jewelry designer, we created a line of jewelry called Waves of Gratitude™. The collection includes six individual pendants that represent the many different movements of the ocean. By layering these pendants, which may be worn a bracelet or necklace, we have created a unique and fresh style while holding on to the message of gratitude. We also have a pendant called the Branches of Hope to remind us of where we have been and where we can go. The purpose of the line is to create a tangible symbol of the key elements needed to become a ripple in society. It is a reminder to be grateful, acknowledge that we are not alone, and symbolize that we have done great things and can accomplish our current goals.

There are so many teachers available to us and with today’s diverse media outlets we can access them all very easily. By leveraging these resources, we can become the people we were meant to be. Be the ripple. Create a wave of change for yourself, the people immediately surrounding you and perhaps the world.

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