The power of one: Making a difference personally, professionally

Each person has the unique ability to have an impact on the environment around him.

05/20/2014


Amara RozgusThere are a lot of people out there who say that one person can’t make a difference, that it’s impossible for an individual to have a major impact or start a trend or create a culture.

I wholeheartedly disagree. I think it’s within each person’s realm of possibilities to make a difference in his or her own life, in the community, or at a global level. Derek Sivers, at a 2010 TED conference, explained this theory in a very simple presentation. His talk, “How to Start a Movement,” used an amateur—yet powerful—video of a person dancing alone. As you watch this example of the young man gyrating to music, you see that he’s the only one out there, looking somewhat ridiculous.

Then someone else joins the dancer … and then another, and then another. He goes from looking a little nutty to looking like a trendsetter with many followers. This person has made a difference, and he’s had a major impact on the crowd around him.

High-level creative geniuses—think Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and Steve Jobs—often are seen as slightly off-kilter when they first come up with an idea. Their unorthodox ways of creating something new start off like the lone dancer—looking rather odd and alone. Once their idea picks up momentum and followers, it becomes brilliant, even historic.

How does this translate to what engineers do every day? I often hear engineers say, “I’m not creative,” or “I don’t have the ability to think any other way than analytically.” Again, I disagree. Engineers are creative every single day, and on every single project. Big-box stores aside, every building project is different. The building siting is different, the owner has different needs, the tools vary from project to project. Engineers are learning from others throughout the project. Even though they may use the same tools and may specify the same systems day in and day out, the outcome is always slightly different. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The 40 people highlighted here would likely agree with my opinion that one person can make a difference. They’re living proof that it’s done every day—from designing high-performance buildings, to molding young minds, to engaging with others in unique ways. The 40 Under 40 winners truly embody this idea of “starting a movement,” if only with the simple act of doing one thing—dancing like nobody’s watching.

Take their enthusiasm, youth, and activism to heart. And don’t be afraid to get up and dance with them.



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.