Neil Tambe

Let’s go.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

The art of being adamant about small, but transformative things

One of the things I do very deliberately when I am in public is to pick up single bits of trash I come across. I want the sidewalk to be clean And it’s really very easy.

I always hope that someone notices me doing it. I don’t want credit, but I will admit that I feel nice when the act is appreciated. What I do want people to think having a clean sidewalk is normal and caring enough to pick up a single piece of trash to keep it clean is normal, too.

A key question is: what critical mass of a community needs to be adamant about something for the culture to change? Some folks say 3.5% and others say 25%. It seems to depend on what the objective is, like whether you’re spreading an idea or a behavior.

The good news is, both estimates are much less than 100%. From what I’ve gathered and observed, the key is to be adamant about doing the very specific action for it to catch on.

These are worth being adamant about, to me. If we had even 3.5% of the population doing these, we would have a very different community:

  • Picking up a single piece of trash

  • Saying “hi”, “good day”, or nodding to people that pass

  • Running or riding a bike through the neighborhood

  • Shoveling snow promptly

  • Keeping grass cut (though I admit to slacking on this)

  • Saying thank you when I am a customer

  • Asking emotional questions and sharing emotional stories when asked

If a small group of people are adamant about something, it tends to happen. This makes it really important then to be adamant about something. And carefully considering whether those things we go to the mat for make things better, or make things worse.

A question for the comments: What’s something that is worth being adamant about?

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