In a World...

Sometimes I hear that movie trailer guy in my head. You know, that booming and foreboding voice that sets the stage for action and adventure films, starting with that luring line, In a World...

Even if we can predict how the movie ends, that line still pulls us in. It sets the stage for a carnival of conflict and entices us to enter, ride the rides, and leave with a few mental souvenirs (as well as a few hours removed from our own reality).

Many of us teach “theme” to our students this way. After all, movies are stories; most stories start with a character and a problem; after a series of events, there is a turning point where the character makes a decision, takes action, and in some way the problem is eventually resolved and the character learns a lesson. The lesson the character learns can leave us with those mental souvenirs: a message for me; my life; my world...

Usually, the phrase “in your own world” implies an aloof or egocentric nature. It speaks to someone disengaged or maybe even detached from reality (he’s in his own world, that kid...).

But there’s a difference between being self-absorbed and self-aware. In fact, being a little more tuned in to yourself could be the game-changer for the world around you. By focusing on our own capabilities we can indeed have a profound impact on the world. We can reach out by first starting with what is within our own reach.

According to Career Coach and Leadership Developer Kathy Caprino, there are nine proven qualities possessed by those who individually impact their workplaces and communities (in other words, their own worlds). As she details in her article 9 Core Behaviors of People Who Positively Impact the World, these behaviors boil down to self-improvement, imagination, humility, tenacity and a willingness to cooperate and learn from others.

The key here is that these are individual behaviors. Our influence starts with what we each believe, say and do. These behaviors can be the catalysts for greater change, but they are characteristics, not campaigns.

Caprino clarifies that influential people are not just the well-known and well-connected; on the contrary, her research revealed people with no distinctions or advantages who nonetheless “found a special niche in which they’ve contributed at the highest level”.

That’s great news. In fact, that’s theme: a message we can take back and consider for ourselves. It suggests that the underdog is really the unsung hero, someone who inspires us by example, and who reminds us that we can each have this lead role somewhere within our own spheres.

Which brings us back to the movie metaphor and the part where the main character - ragged from relentless challenges - makes a decision and takes action. They decide to do something...and it changes everything.

So let’s each take on our own leading role, starting with these scenes:

In a world where you can’t control anything but yourself, yet can influence everyone around you… In a world where you can see everything and say anything, while tucked safely behind a screen…

In a world where it seems like many social disparities are perpetuated by the very systems designed to level them...

In a world … If you hear this phrase, as I do, attached to the realities of this world, what can you do to change the ending? What’s the decision you would make to change the outcome, starting with yourself?

And what souvenirs can we leave for others?


Lisa is a veteran teacher and writer. Her perspective on the interrelated nature of schools and society comes from 20 years of experience in education. She holds degrees in sociology and special education and is a member of the Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators (BNCWI).