My friend Chuck sent me a photo from Doha, Qatar. In this photo is a Shrednow freestyle disc, made for Shrednow.com, the website I’ve run for Frisbee Freestyle since 2003. I’ve traveled internationally with those discs. I know international players have them, but I don’t think I had stopped to think how far and wide they might have traveled until seeing this photo. Only a few hundred were made, but clearly these discs have visited exotic locations far beyond my expectations.
I didn’t intend for a Shrednow disc to travel to Qatar. There was no marketing campaign for Shrednow discs to be flown in as many countries as possible. Chuck just brought it along because his job takes him around the world and he loves freestyle. Turns out he’s taking pictures with the disc in a bunch of other countries too as he travels to 8 countries for nearly 40 meetings and a conference. In the midst of that, he stays playful and sends me photos of the Shrednow disc flying in new and exotic locales.
In college I was a DJ for Princeton’s student-run commercial radio station WPRB. For a few years, I hosted a dance music show on Saturday nights. The station was pretty powerful for a college station, with a reach nearly to New York, but the show itself never seemed like it had a huge audience. One day, a coworker at my library job mentioned that a friend had made a recording of my show and that it was now making the rounds in the Philippines. What?!?!? All of a sudden my mostly local show had an international audience.
I didn’t intend for my radio show to be heard in the Philippines. Sure, I would have enjoyed the experience of an avid following, but I was DJ’ing because I loved music and the experience of playing it for others, even a few people.
Sometimes what we do sticks with others in a way we never intended. Sometimes our actions have unintended effects, ripples across far distances and long stretches of time.
We might talk about a movie offhandedly one day, and weeks later a friend will tell us they saw the movie. And they loved it. Or they hated it. Or maybe it changed their life. We might choose to slow down while driving in the rain, which prevents a collision with a stopped vehicle in front of us, which allows the doctor to get to a drive uninjured to perform surgery on a firefighter who recovers and goes on to save dozens of lives. Ripples.
Who we are in the world has influence, and most of it is invisible to us. Every action, every choice positive or negative causes a shift.
Kind of raises the stakes for bringing our best to each moment. If we do that, we minimize the negative influence of our worst flaws and maximize the influence of our most powerful, positive self.
This is not an issue of ROI. We’re never going to be able to measure the good we do in the world. We’ll never have that data. We don’t do it because it’s proven. We don’t do it because it’s transactional. There are no guarantees that your good works will ever circle back to you in a paranormal, woo woo, universe-is-watching-out-for-you way. We do it because on faith, on anecdotal evidence, because we know our radio shows unexpectedly turn up 10,000 miles away and flying discs we made ten years ago unexpectedly take a nap in a hotel room even farther away.
Bringing our best is worth trying because most of us would rather do good than harm. When we look at how our actions are not at all isolated from others in the world, it becomes imperative to bring good to the world.
What kind of stories of unexpected influence have you experienced?