We’re all inspired by Martin Luther King’s most famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. How could we not be? Dr King was laying before us his vision of a world where everyone would be able to fully take their place in the world, without qualification or limitation.
But it’s another quote from Dr King that has struck me recently. In 1967, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom, the only institution to recognise him in this way during his lifetime. His speech was recorded, and has recently been uncovered. You can watch it here. It strikes me as I watch it how poignant it is that he had only five months left to life, and how very far we still are from fulfilling his vision of a world free of injustice.
During this speech, Dr King said;
“In a real sense we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
and it’s this sense of mutuality that has been playing on my mind so much in recent times.
If we were to think of our world as a series of networks or communities, what would that look like? We each have a community of family, of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, social networks, neighbourhoods, towns, regions, countries, and so on. Of course it’s only natural that we feel more integrated (and integral) to some of those than to others. For example, on a daily basis you might experience being a real part of the communities of your family and friends, but forget to look further outwards to your wider, more disparate communities. But if we all live our lives focused mainly on our most immediate communities, what might that look like?
If we add more and more concentric circles around ourselves, it become hard to see how we can possibly reach the outer rings, and make any real impact there. So we tend to confine ourselves to the communities we have that are right at hand. Which is - no question about it - an excellent start.
But how about if we want to make sure that our footprints and fingerprints are all over the world by the time we leave it? We could each leave a lasting legacy if only we cast our gaze more widely.
Here’s how we could start to think about things a little differently. Instead of that target shape with the individual trapped in the centre, only about to impact what’s closest, let’s think about mutuality. Because being part of a community doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, where you give and give until you’re exhausted. Being part of a community could, instead, mean finding a vector for your gifts, which impacts your multiple communities, but which is rewarded, too.
If you can come up with a way to contribute to your various communities that speaks to:
then you’ll be able to apply your unique gifts in a way that makes the very best of them. You’ll also potentially widen your impact, freeing yourself from those confining concentric communities we looked at earlier.
Just imagine the impact upon the world if every one of us took the time to find our unique way of contributing to our communities. I’d love to be part of a society full of people who not only understand their gifts and strengths, but can apply them, at scale, across all of the communities they’re a part of. That sounds like a world where we could make some truly amazing things happen. Not only that, but we could finally create that network of mutuality that Dr King spoke so passionately about, on an otherwise dreary Monday morning in the north east of England, 50 years ago.
Andy is Chief Executive Officer of Insights, where he guides us to fulfil the Insights purpose - to create a world where people truly understand themselves and others and are inspired to make a positive difference in everything they do. With Andy at the helm, Insights has become a global brand with a presence in over 40 countries around the world, and ambitious growth plans to come.