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Sam Davidson's blog

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Turning Complaints Into Action

One of the 50 things I think people need to get rid of is complaints without action. Bitch and moan if you want to, but sooner or later you need to either get to doing something about your beef or you need to just stop talking and get on to doing something else. Lamenting incessantly wastes time and energy, both of which could be put to good use by righting the wrong or doing something more productive, like cleaning your house. My friend Indie, who was kicked out of the same church my wife and I left many years ago (mostly for the same reasons), has a fantastic post on her blog about standing up for what you believe in and how added responsibilities over the years have made her seemingly speak up less. She rightly recognizes that the root of action is concern and care, and without it, no change can take place.

Her last line is killer, and I think it properly organizes the worlds of cynicism and passion:

I wasn't ranting because I was cynical. I became cynical when I stopped ranting.

Indeed. People who complain aren't merely cynical. We all become cynical when we stop complaining or stop at complaining. The act of doing something - anything - shows a hope and an optimism that something is worth changing. Indie is right. We become cynical when we do nothing, not when we voice a concern.

The big trick (as I mentioned in 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need) is to move beyond the complaining. The wheels of progress go nowhere if you're unwilling to do the hard work of pushing. I think this is why a lot of things don't change. Anyone can talk; few are ready to push.

Pushing will look different, based on the issue or desired outcome. Pushing to change legislation will require different action than pushing to boycott a product or change a company hiring practice. Pushing for better teachers demands different structures and skills than pushing for lower gas prices.

We need this push, those of us who care. We need to be pushed ourselves, even. We need the lure of better days to push us off our couches and out of our houses and away from our DVRs and into the streets and statehouses. We need someone to push us to be better and make all of us better.

Then, once pushed (by the care of someone else), we can then push against the system or push for justice or push open doors or possibility.

This is the beautiful spot where our complaints that move beyond action - to the push - become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we act, so do other naysayers. The people who rant with us avoid cynicism, too, by doing something, even if it is pushing others towards forming a coalition of the willing and an alliance of the non-cynical.

Don't stop ranting. Don't stop acting. Do both, together, and watch the world change.

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