Chang­ing the world with 4 sim­ple tools: Vision, Hon­esty, Plan­ning, and Passion

My life and my Mother’s life are just one gen­er­a­tion apart, yet they were stark­ly dif­fer­ent. When my Moth­er mar­ried, she dropped out of the work­force. It was what women of her gen­er­a­tion did. Soci­ety expect­ed it. Laws allowed gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in employ­ment. With few options avail­able to her, she took the path well-traveled.

When my Moth­er was in her ear­ly 50’s, things were begin­ning to change. She took a part-time job at the local news­pa­per. In a few years, at the ten­der age of 54, hav­ing dri­ven for forty years, she bought her own car. She was so excit­ed. Hold­ing the car title in her hands, I remem­ber her telling me this was the first legal title to any­thing where the own­er was list­ed as Geral­dine C McNeill. 

At the time I could not under­stand why this was such a big deal. But look­ing back, I get it. 

When I grad­u­at­ed from col­lege a few years lat­er, my Moth­er gave me her beloved car. I proud­ly walked on the Toy­ota lot and nego­ti­at­ed the pur­chase of a new car by apply­ing for cred­it in my own name. At the time I saw my abil­i­ty to nav­i­gate life for myself as my right. But this didn’t hap­pen by acci­dent. A vision­ary woman fought a strate­gic and well thought through bat­tle to change my world. 

While I nev­er met her, but Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg changed my life.
50 years ago, when Gins­burg start­ed her career at the ACLU, there were hun­dreds of laws that barred women from cred­it, employ­ment, edu­ca­tion, and more. These laws were seen as nec­es­sary to pro­tect women, the weak­er sex. 

How does one take on a task so for­mi­da­ble? The task of over­turn­ing hun­dreds of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry laws? The task of chang­ing soci­etal norms from a world where women were con­sid­ered the weak­er sex, to one where gen­der equal­i­ty under the law is a birthright? 

As I reflect on her life, what I see is Gins­burg brought togeth­er four sim­ple tools to build a foun­da­tion for change. 

1. A Big, Bold Vision: Equal appli­ca­tion of the law for all peo­ple was her ideal.
2. Bru­tal Hon­esty: She was bru­tal­ly hon­est about the chal­lenges in the cur­rent environment.
3. Plan­ning: Gins­burg devel­oped a strate­gic plan to build the case for her change.
4. Last­ly and equal in impor­tance to the oth­er three, Passion. 

Her clear and extra­or­di­nary vision was equal rights under the law for all people. 

She was bru­tal­ly hon­est in look­ing at the mas­sive task before her – inven­to­ry­ing hun­dreds of fed­er­al laws that dis­crim­i­nat­ed on the basis of sex — in edu­ca­tion, employ­ment, repro­duc­tive rights, mort­gages, cred­it cards, loans, house rentals, prison, and the military.

She devel­oped a plan and approach, mod­eled after that of Thur­good Mar­shall on race dis­crim­i­na­tion, plan­ning for a series of cas­es at the Supreme Court, each prece­dent paving the way for the next that would fur­ther expand rights and protections. 

With extra­or­di­nary pas­sion and pur­pose, she exe­cut­ed her plan and com­plete­ly trans­formed the oppor­tu­ni­ties for women in the Unit­ed States.
Big bold vision is rarely wel­comed when it first arrives. We tend to cling to the sta­tus quo. What is known feels safer. As a vision­ary com­mit­ted to change, per­sis­tence is pow­ered by your inner pas­sion. It is the gas in your engine. Gins­burg mod­eled her pas­sion and val­ues in every aspect of her life.

To her amaze­ment, she became a leg­end, The Noto­ri­ous RBG.

The four mag­ic pow­ers of RBG, Vision, Hon­esty, Plan­ning, and Pas­sion, are avail­able to each one of us. The tools are sim­ple, every­day tools, free to all of us. The tricky part is they aren’t easy to apply. It takes unwa­ver­ing faith in your inner guid­ance to keep mov­ing for­ward regard­less of the exter­nal world.

Take this time to ask your­self, in my life, in my busi­ness, am I liv­ing my best, big bold vision? Am I fueled by my pas­sion? Am I being bru­tal­ly hon­est about the chal­lenges and obsta­cles to my vision? Do I have a clear strat­e­gy for change and a plan to get there?

Live your vision. Be the change.