History repeats itself, both in our society and in our own lives. If you listen to old songs or read transcripts from important moments in history, they often depict the same issues and motivations as today, just at a different scale. Today in particular marks a federal holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King. In his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, he sets the tone for a vision of unity, and the importance of taking action to create this vision - immediately. As he brings attention to the country’s racial divide and his opportunity to address the nation, he states, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” And my goodness, is there a fierce urgency of now today,not solely in the racial sense that Martin Luther King Day often remind us of, but also in a much more nuanced and blind way. Our decisions, at every level of our lives, have a deep and far reaching impact on our society as a whole. There are so many things that so many of us want to change in this world, yet we feel helpless and incapable of initiating change. We don’t know where to begin, so we don’t begin at all. We put on our blinders and go about our business, assuming that nothing we do can make a difference in the big picture. It’s time for us to open our eyes, recognize the urgency of now, and understand that our everyday decisions can have an impact. This impact comes from the action of endorsement, and we have the power to harness the urgency of now, make responsible endorsements, and affect change right here, right now
We usually think of endorsement on a grand scale. Brand endorsements, political endorsements, athlete endorsements. Yet, when we take the simple definition of endorsement as “approval or sanction” , it becomes clear that we are literally endorsing hundreds of people, organizations, brands, and beyond in almost every decision we make. I previously referred to these decisions as blind, because we act like we can’t see the implications. We make decisions on a micro scale, often without realizing that these decisions have macro effects. We claim innocence because our lives are busy, we are preoccupied and have enough on our plates; therefore, our ignorance must be acceptable - but we still have the nerve to complain. So is it not fair to say that our dissatisfaction with the outcome proves our guilt in the offense of making ignorant decisions?
Think about the last time you were sitting around with fellow moms discussing the new product you just discovered, or hanging with the fellas on a Sunday watching your favorite NFL team, or discussing the new workout studio you just joined and love. Maybe you convinced one of those moms to test out that product, or shared your opinion on the linebacker’s injury, or even got one friend to sign up for a class at that studio. In those exact moments, you expressed your endorsement - your approval or support of certain sanctions. And little old you just experienced the “power of one”. You are the “one” that planted a seed in your family and friend’s heads about that certain something that you support. That seed you planted will likely grow inside of them, until they also express their own support (or lack thereof) by planting another seed in their own circle of people. It’s a domino effect, and companies pay their marketing teams a lot of money to create new, cutting edge strategies to influence you and your circle of people. That is the “power of one”.
That feels heavy. The possibility of influencing so many people is a heck of a responsibility. A responsibility that most of us don’t want, especially when we start paying attention to how many choices we really are faced with daily. Let’s take a trip to the grocery store. From your feet to above your head, the aisles are filled with choice after choice. I mean, how are you supposed to choose between almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk? Oh but wait, once I choose which nut milk I want, should I just grab the one with the best packaging? Oh yeah, Jen told me that Califia Farms is a good one, I'll grab that. BOOM! There’s the “power of one” again! Now, Jen happens to be educated when it comes to nutrition, food brands, sourcing, disease, etc. But how many times have we made those decisions based on others who have no clue what they are talking about? They just happen to have loud opinions. This is where the detriment arises. You purchase the milk, which directly endorses 1) the grocery store 2) the milk brand 3) the state from the sales tax you paid on the item. Beyond that, there’s another level that your money now supports. The grocery store has a staff to pay, facility costs, taxes and owners to support. The milk brand has those same costs, as well as sourcing and production costs. Your money goes a LONG way in the circle of purchasing power. And in this society, money makes the world go round. So when a company has the ability to produce more product by replacing the nutrients with sugar, ultimately they sell more and keep you addicted to come back for more. This is why a company like Monsanto can become a monopoly that dictates both a food industry and the political climate to the point of affecting the medical industry as well. That was your money that just got passed through a million channels as the “power of one”.
Have you ever asked yourself to observe or investigate the owner of a company? What’s their history, what does their staff collectively say about them, do they live an honest life, how do they treat people and what do they stand for? With almost anything that we use or consume, if you disregarded the issues with ingredients, production, and sourcing, and look at the ownership, it will tell you so much about the company. The functions of the business and the owner of the business might seem like two separate ideas, but in this era of social media, personalization and self promotion, your “power of one” and endorsement of both people and brands is viral! So you liked her picture on instagram even though she’s a liar, racist, gossiper and user...and because she recruits followers through her likes, she now has paid endorsements because brands decided that her “power of one” can influence you too. And once again, another person or brand has been granted undeserved power.
A closely bonded family gathering around Sunday football just endorsed, possibly unknowingly, a lack of resources and aid to change the number of concussions, CTE and unreported injuries in the NFL. The NFL is one of the most respected organizations in sports. Sunday Football is a complete market grab. Hundreds of companies build mega campaigns so their brand can grab a significant piece of the Sunday football pie. We, as jersey wearing fans, pack stadiums to support our team and our beloved players as our heroes. We love the fight, we love the glory, the camaraderie, the high. Yet, we ignore the amount of damage done on that field at every single game. We ignore how often trainers lie to the players about their injuries so that the team can get one more play out of them. We ignore how often a player’s ears might be ringing as a sign of concussion, but they step back on the field anyway out of fear of losing their position to next man on the roster. And we as fans, staff, players, trainers, doctors and owners still value the excitement and glory over the health and quality of life of the players. What we see and experience as an American tradition still comes with such a big cost. You don’t have to give up your pastimes or your team or ALL of your favorite brands, but you can start looking at the food, service, entertainment, and other industries through a different lens, and start engaging in meaningful education and conversations that build awareness around where these industries are flawed.
Again, that is heavy. And yes, that’s the point - for you to realize that the “power of one” is truly influential! And right here, right now, you have power. You cannot change the past, nor can you skip to the future. Now is all you have. Now is when you can educate yourself on what you are buying, its ingredients, mission, sourcing, production and the business practices surrounding it. It takes a lot of time and effort, and we do have to realize that we could never research all the brands that we consume or support throughout a given week. Start slow and allow yourself to feel the power of shifting towards conscious decisions. Please do not fool yourself into thinking that keeping your money in the bank and away from brands or corporations exonerates you, because there is a macro effect to that decision that should be equally explored as well. A conscious decision that is made with a true understanding of both the micro and macro effects will change the way you consume, the way you share, the way you vote, the way you read...the way you do everything. It will change the way you stand up and participate. And in this day, in this age, the Urgency of Now has never been more crucial. Rise up and embrace your “power of one”. Remember Martin Luther King's "fierce urgency of now", and recognize your power to make an impact - right now.