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The Power of the Ripple Effect

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There isn’t a person alive who would not like to think that their life has made a difference in the life of someone else. We hope to positively impact our friends and families and maybe even our neighbors and co-workers. The truth is that many of us will never know the full extent to which even our smallest of actions may have a lasting impression.

July 4th, 2008, I was on the bank of the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts, along with over 500,000 other people celebrating this country’s birthday. This was also the 35th birthday of the Boston Pop’s Fireworks Spectacular, and performing live at the event were the Boston Pops and Rascal Flatts. As I sat there and listened to music piped through speakers along the Charles, I could not help but wonder. What would those men be thinking today if they knew what the signing of the Declaration of Independence would do? Over 200 years later and this country is so much more than it was on that day when nine colonies out of thirteen voted in favor of this new democracy. Then I wondered if they had any idea when they held the first Boston Pop’s Spectacular in 1974 that it would become this big of an event, not only by the people who attend in person but to the millions who join via live telecast. 


It became very clear to me in that moment how much one action, even a ripple as small as a smile, can continue to grow into a wave of change. Who knows where we would be as a country or if the impact of the freedom this country represents would be the same had those men not created the Declaration of Independence. Not only crafting it, but their willingness to sign their name and take action toward creating the life they wanted to live. That act has given us a lifestyle that still to this day people from around the world want to experience and be apart of. Could they have ever imagined its impact?
The first concert on the Charles River for the 4th of July was held to revitalize the concerts at the Esplanade. Today it is a nationally televised event an icon of Independence Day. One man’s idea, Arthur Fiedler, turned into an event at which at least one person from each state in the United States was in attendance. 


On this particular night, on stage performing was the band Rascal Flatts, which had started out with three guys doing what they love and playing music in bars and clubs. There were times they said there were only the three of them and two other people in the place. Then in the early 2000s with their release of two albums, their lives changed forever. They are multi-platinum recording artists and live their dream everyday. They recognize that the life they live is possible because of the fans that support the music they love to play. The fans in turn are impacted in ways the band may never know through the music and lyrics.


You and I may not play as significant a role to such a large population of people as those who have become famous through their actions. Yet we can if we take action of our own. Each person who makes such an impression had a dream took action on it. They decided that maybe we could live in a country with freedom of choice or that maybe other people would feel something from the music they loved to write and play. All these people started out the same as you and I with an idea and a dream. Then they took one the next step. They took that idea and that dream and took action to make it come alive. None of these people could have possibly envisioned what would become of their dreams.


We can have the same influence and legacy when we become the ripple. Be the ripple and stop simply riding the waves created by others.


Today the economy is in the worst shape it has been in decades. There is an increase in unemployment, gas prices are exorbitant, and companies are cutting back. Regardless, there are still people out there reminding us we can have and become more. Rhonda Byrne and the teachers of The Secret, Randy Pausch with his Last Lecture, Wayne Dyer and his lectures and books all strive to inspire us to live the life we choose. There are companies started in dorm rooms making millions, there are more people working from home and having freedom to spend more time with family and friends. Yet most of us, while inspired by the stories we see on TV, podcasts, and YouTube, are still living today the same as the day before and the day before that.


So how do they do it? What is their secret? I don’t know for certain anyone can answer that because they each had a different path and a different challenge to achieving their dreams. The one thing I do know is they stopped waiting for next big wave to come along. They stopped depending on someone else’s wave to make their dreams come true. They became the ripple in starting their own wave. One ripple will make more waves and if those waves inspire others then you have become the wave instead of waiting on someone else’s wave to come along. 


How do you become the ripple? For Mark Zuckerberg, the student-genius behind Facebook, it was turning the idea of students wanting to share their pictures with others into an online business. He stayed focused and worked on making his dream a reality. For Burt and John Jacobs, the guys behind the Life is Good tee-shirt company, they did the same thing. They then came up with Jake and before you know it their dreams were reality. 


Is there is a risk in making your own ripple? Of course, there is a risk. That holds true of all great things in life. Yet, there is a risk just the same in riding the waves other people start. That risk may not be as great or we may not notice it, yet it exists. We have no control over how the owner of the company that employs us may change the company, or decide to sell. Cutbacks happen and we can’t control those. So there is always a risk.


I am no stranger to creating a ripple and I am sure there are many others who have started their ripple own ripples whose impact is yet to be seen. When I was taken from riding a wave that had been quite successful to crashing off that wave, I realized I never wanted to wait on someone else’s wave. My friends and I began rewriting our book. We wanted something to inspire us and to remind us to be grateful that we had a dream and the support of each other. 

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