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Micro Impacts

By: Michael Blankenship |

“It’s not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?”

– Henry David Thoreau

Did you know that cork comes from the tree bark of Quercus suber, a medium-sized evergreen oak? They strip the bark from the tree to make cork, but it doesn’t kill the tree and they can re-harvest again in nine years from the same tree. Each tree can provide cork like this for over a century. I just learned this because the “cork tree” is native to Portugal so I often see them while driving through the countryside. Turns out, cork is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. 

Micro Impacts

It’s no secret that a lot of us want to have a big impact. 

“Change the world”, even. 

Generally, that means making a difference in the lives of thousands or even millions of people.

But it’s often been said that you can either have…

  1. A big impact on a small group of people.


  1. A small impact on a big group of people. 

I’ve recently been thinking about the people who have a big impact on a smaller number of people. They don’t “change the world”… and yet they do change the world for the people who can feel their ripples. 

Let me give you a few examples from my own life… 

Rita owns a grocery store just across the street from my apartment in Portugal. It’s a simple store with a lot of love. Everything they sell is produced locally in Portugal and they are happy to spend a lot of time with their customers. Rita regularly organizes big lunches with customers (three of which we’ve attended!) and this has become one of our favorite things. We meet new people and immerse ourselves in Portuguese culture. 

I often do workout classes at the gym I attend and there’s one teacher in particular whom I really enjoy. He always has a big smile on his face and he clearly puts a lot of effort into the classes he does. His classes are always the fullest for obvious reasons.

The coffee shop where I like to work has a manager who loves his job more than most people. He is very friendly, puts a smile on virtually everyone’s face, and always speaks with me slowly in Portuguese to help me practice. I always enjoy running into him. 

Who are these people in your own life? 

Also, in what capacities are YOU this person to OTHER PEOPLE? 

The world has become very connected. 

It’s easy to dream big. 

But I think it’s important not to lose sight of the substantial, meaningful impact we can have even if we’re a grocery store owner, a gym teacher, or a coffee shop manager.

Everyone can have an impact. 

And oftentimes, having a big impact on a small group of people is a lot more gratifying than having a small impact on a big number of people. 

What Should You Do About It? 

So how do you have a big impact on a small subset of people? 

The first step is to recognize that doing so is possible… and even desirable. Everyone is built differently. But for some of us, sticking to our corner and making a positive impact from where we’re planted can be extremely rewarding and gratifying — even profitable. 

Here are some tips for having a big impact on fewer people… 

Find a Second Home — Even if you’re working toward something big in your daily life, find somewhere that can be a “second home” for you… it could be a gym or a coffee shop or a yoga studio, a tea room, a weekly meetup, or something else. To have a meaningful impact on a small group of people, you need to become a “regular” in a place that is special to you. If this place doesn’t exist, create it. 

Engage — How can you engage a bit more with your “second home”? If you only attend right now, you’re not going to have a very big impact. Find out how you can go a little bit deeper and volunteer to help in some capacity. Maybe this even means picking up some part-time work. When my “second home” was a local rock climbing gym, I volunteered to help set routes. When it’s a coffee shop, I make a point to try and talk to the workers and meet new people. Get creative if you have to and find a way to engage meaningfully. 

Remember The Trickle-Down Effect — It might feel like you’re not having a big, world-shattering impact. But don’t forget the trickle-down effect. If you have a big impact on one person, you will indirectly impact their friends as well. If the initial impact is big enough, it might even indirectly impact their friend’s friends. So don’t underestimate the impact you’re having just because it’s on a small group of people. 

Image of The Week

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

I have many faces, expressions, and emotions, and I am usually right at your fingertips. What am I?

This Week’s Journaling Prompt

Take some time to think through the following journaling prompt. 

What is the value of having a big impact on a small group of people? How might this be an important part of your own life? 

This Week’s Challenge

Find a group where you can belong and have an impact in some capacity. Or focus on increasing the impact you’re having in the groups you already belong to. Either way, don’t underestimate the value and gratification of having a big impact on a few people. 

Riddle Answer: Emojis.

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