There is a quote that I recently discovered that has profoundly impacted how I think and act. It is by a long dead politician from Maine named John Andrew Holmes who gave life to what “the ripple effect” means to me. It reads, “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”
We often view other people as obstacles to our success. In an age where false ego is only as far away as a social media post, a lot of time is spent tearing people down instead of building them up. It’s so easy to always blame others. But that doesn’t make progress any easier. Doing it that way leaves us alone and stranded on an ugly island. Loosening our grip on our self-righteous baloney and being open to ideas and differing viewpoints, even if you know they may not be what are right, practical or affordable, leads to a better and happier place in the end. There is often much virtue in playing out the journey of discovery with others, even if you know how the movie ends.
Everyone matters. And further, everyone is connected. Former NBC correspondent and master storyteller, Mike Leonard, would often tell stories about small and seemingly inconsequential moments in people’s lives that loomed large and life-changing, many years and decades after they happened. He would say that these are cautionary tales that should teach us how to better conduct our own lives. In practical terms it’s pretty simple, “be kind to the people you meet on the way up, because they may be the same ones you meet on the way down.”
Someone once said that the reason we need teams is because not all the virtues and strengths can belong to a single person. And in fact, if and when people conflict in a constructive way, they often bring forth their most persuasive and powerful ideas. In our business, for example, the person in a team or group who wins an idea is appropriately applauded but what is even better is that we don’t lose sight of the collective effort that created the specific environment for greatness and clarity to occur. Again, it was others.
And finally, “the ripple effect” has taken on an ever more heart-rending meaning at RDW. The Ripple Effect is the very title of a campaign we have developed and are producing for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation Office of Highway Safety. Through our work for them, developing a selection of content related to the often unseen ripples of making bad decisions resulting in drunk driving, we’ve realized just how much life and violent death; pain, sorrow and hate, redemption and renewal are all supporting characters in an imperfect play. But what we are learning is enlightening – that even out of tragedy, the ripples of our lives extend and grow and never end. Always rippling and reaching out further and further and in doing so mining from each of us the one simple thing that connects us, regardless of who we are and our experiences – the determination to survive because others need us and we need them.
Dante is a retired partner at RDW who dabbles in all sorts of things. His ability to fix problems is his greatest talent. He still gets up every day raring to go – and to make the pieces of the world he intersects with just a little bit better.