Nilofer Merchant is a famous author and speaker for TED Conferences. Her most recent book, The Power of Onlyness, talks about worthiness and the connected individuality of all human beings. She joins Kevin Monroe to discuss her book and how the principles in it apply to current events.
The New Normal
Nilofer talks about the things people are doing to help those in need. People now have the voice to create change, she says. She gives an example of altruism that arose due to the coronavirus, and states that society may come to the point where we realize our fates are linked rather than ranked or separated. She ponders on the possibility of the care with which we treat others and the connectivity we have established becoming the new normal. Onlyness’ role in this is to be the combination of voice and belonging that creates real change and lasting connection between people.
Making a Difference
There are people who feel like they should be doing more. Part of their struggle is that they think they need to do something of a grander scale to make a difference. All they need to do is care for the person next to them, Kevin says. He shares a story from a children’s book about contribution, explaining that even the smallest thing makes a difference. Nilofer adds that whatever you pay attention to grows, so if you focus more on having a grand plan rather than actually showing love, it’s counteractive. Center on what you know and what you can do right in the moment, and the rest will take care of itself.
Nilofer defines onlyness as the source of all ideas and innovation. Onlyness is contrary to the traditional hierarchy of worthy contribution and holds an egalitarian view that everyone has something of value to add to the world. We have been conditioned to believe that our level of capability relies solely on measures such as level of education, but that is a lie, Nilofer says. For example, we now realize how dependent we are on grocery store workers, a position that has historically been considered low-skilled. They are part of a system that feeds us, which allows us to exist and do our creative work. Contribute, don’t compare.
Part of A System
When you enter a room, your light illuminates the entire space. This makes it difficult to discern your own ‘only’ because the light you shine is also the filter you see the world through. Here is where others come in to help you, as they have the perspective to see the difference in the world when you are present and absent. The meaning of the individual is the smallest measure of humankind, so even alone, you are never disconnected.
Parking Your Fears
Nilofer says she has to park her fears in order to be present for a conversation. Fear always demands to be heard and gets louder the more it is ignored. She believes fear acts as a signal, like every other emotion. It doesn’t have to rule you, but you need to pay attention to it.
Hope Is A Bridge
“Hope is a thing with others that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all,” Nilofer quotes. She shares a past experience in which she thought hope was something lightweight, but now she defines it as the bridge we have to walk across in order to get to a new future. She believes that unity happens because two people are both going toward the same thing together.
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