I’m curious, if you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? I imagine most people want to do something profound. Like, remove all disease or wave a magic peace wand over the world. Maybe you want to transform all the fast food restaurants in the world into farms, so that instead of flipping burgers, your teenage son is learning how to grow zucchini. Destroy not just guns, but all deadly weapons. Force extremists to wear a ‘get-along’ t-shirt with a random guy named Bob who happens to believe everything the extremist is against (wouldn’t that make for a great reality TV program?). Make critical-thinking courses mandatory for all phases of life.
Ever curious about this, I wanted to get some real answers, so I asked a few friends what they would change. Here are some of the responses:
“The distance between people! If I could pop over to my sister’s for coffee instead of an 18 hr trip.”
“I would make people stop judging one another for being different. I’m not saying for everyone to agree on everything, but more that people respect others regardless of skin color, religious beliefs, if they choose to raise their children differently…”
“I would make it so there were no countries, just humanity.”
“Stopping this fire raging in my belly. Stomach flu sucks.”
“The resource distribution problem . . . entire continents are lacking yet other continents use 2 to 3x their share, those areas with resources find them mismanaged, taken over and so on by dictators thus leaving the populace poor and desperate. I guess I aspire to the Star Trek model where everyone has what he or she needs so they can focus on achieving and bettering the race. Wait . . . that is like Sweden, right?”
“Very broad question with a very limited answer (only one thing). I would have to carefully choose my wording so it could cover a lot (sort of like when a genie offers to grant wishes). Gosh and then you have to consider for every change there is a consequence then those consequences would have to be evaluated (like ‘It’s a wonderful life’). Man such a deep question so early. Yeah I’m gonna have to nap now, worn out.”
“What I would change about the world is that the world wouldn’t be ruled by money anymore.”
“That is a pretty tough question. I guess I would change that people had to not be selfish and had to consider others. No forcing other people into anything.”
“I’d like the world not to know greed.”
“As a citizen of the world I’d like if it could be kinder. As an expat I’d like time travel to exist.”
Talk about great ideas! Y’all are awesome. Compassion. Selflessness. Time travel! Me, I wanted everyone to have jelly beans.
Jelly beans = fun flavors = smiles = happy people = no war = live longer = happy old people!
Okay, I’m teasing, though I do think the jelly bean idea is a good one (and the time travel!).
Seriously, what would I change?
I would make more band-aids. They don’t need to have Spiderman or Elsa on them. Just plain old band-aids. They can be green or blue or the tan band-aid color we’ve all grown up with, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s a bandage, real or metaphorical, you put on when you make a mistake, or hurt yourself when you fall down.
Here’s why: I’ve talked about this before, but I think we place too much emphasis on succeeding and not enough on mistakes. I know, I know. Life is about succeeding. But you know what? I think all this time we’ve had it wrong. Life is about mistakes. Edison made over 1000 mistakes before he produced a successful lightbulb. When was the last time I failed 1000 times in a row? I couldn’t tell you. A lot of times I fail once and give up (especially true if electronics and making them work are involved in any way).
See, what I think happens is this: We’ve been brought up to think of success as the thing we’re trying to reach. The goal. The finish line. I don’t mean success as in lovely family, nice house, and a dog named Bengt (weird dog names in Sweden. Just go with it). I mean success in anything. That job you want. Validation for something you did. To make a tasty dinner. To win a game. Creating something. To make the internet work again. To build an IKEA chair. All of that and more. As long as it doesn’t involve making a mistake.
When I make a mistake, I cringe. Depending on the size of the mistake, I might want to hide in embarrassment. Run away from it. Sweep it under the rug and hope no one finds it, while it eats away at me for days and weeks. Curse. Scream. Blame others. I might cry. Give up. In extreme cases, I might compare myself to pond scum or a twinkie left out on the table for two weeks (I can’t think of any twinkie comparison moments lately, but I’m sure they’re hiding in my past.). Occasionally I laugh about the mistake. Once in a while, I exclaim, ‘Oh no!’ and move on.
And it’s not just me that has a problem with mistakes. For some people it leads to depression, and even suicide. Why does falling and skinning up our metaphorical knee cause so much emotional pain? Why can’t we laugh about our mistakes more often? When was the last time you said, ‘Man, I can’t wait to screw this up!’?
We’ve become so obsessed with creating this beautiful picture, or nailing the exams the first time around, because we don’t want to be called a failure. We’ve all met for tea and collectively agreed that making a mistake is horrible. The worst thing in the world that could happen.
I want to change that. So if I could change one thing in the world, it would be for every child to know it’s okay to make mistakes. I want to open my band-aid box with a smile, knowing my daughter tried, got a little banged up, and now she’s a different person than she was a day ago. Scrapes and bruises aren’t always so bad. Mistakes are worth making sometimes. I want to know my son dared to slide down that hill. Once they accept this, there’s not much in life they can’t tackle, is there? Think of all the emotional angst we’d erase from the world!
Most of all, I want the inner Cas to know it’s okay to screw up more. I don’t know if you know this about her, she HATES making mistakes. So I’ve written this blog post for her (very timely considering the mistake I made last night). So that when she reads it, she’ll remember to laugh more at the cuts and boo-boos. Smile at the mistakes. Tell jokes about the times she screwed up. And change the world one band-aid at a time.