Photo Credit: Mashable

5 Simple Steps to Have A Meaningful Impact On The World — Or How to Not Be A Shitty Human Being

Gabriel Anderson
5 min readNov 22, 2015

“All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

Over the last several weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has been bombarded with people’s discussions on their thoughts on Syrian refugees and Muslims in general.

For full disclosure — I am a secular humanitarian. I want what’s best for our species. I don’t have anything against religion, except when it gets in the way of human rights (i.e. — when people use it to treat other people poorly).

In general, I’ve noticed my friends are on one of two sides, in this discussion:

Camp A. Those in the camp that think Islam is a violent religion, and that Muslims are inherently evil, and that we shouldn’t help Syrian refugees.

Camp B. Those that would liken people in Camp A. to that of Hitler’s regime and a bigoted group of individuals.

As I’ve been sitting back watching this discussion pan out amongst my friends, politicians and fellow citizens — I’ve had this gut wrenching feeling of being powerless. Wanting to do something to help, but unknowing of what to do.

I absolutely don’t agree w/ those in Camp A. and I don’t want to go around shitting on people in Camp B. We’re all on this spinning ball of dirt hurling through space, and none of us know what the hell is really going on. I think people, genuinely, are just trying to get along in life as best they know how.

So I decided to take my power back and try and do something. If you, like me, have had this feeling of being powerless, then hopefully this helps. And maybe, together, we can do something good.

In All Probability Your Life Doesn’t Matter

“Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.— David McCullough

Homo Sapien has been on this planet for ~200K years. There are literally Billions of dead human beings, and most of them have been long forgotten.

I have news for you. Whatever you hold dear in your life… Your job/career, your hobbies, your family — Let’s just call this your “Body of Work” from here on out. It’s all going to go away one day. And there’s a 99.99999999999% probability that your body of work won’t survive the next decade, let alone your lifetime.

If you’re lucky (like Dale Carnegie lucky, Warren Buffett lucky, or Elon Musk lucky), maybe your body of work… Your thing, will survive 1 maybe 2 generations. But there’s a 99.999999999999999999999999999999% chance, that you’re not that lucky.

And then there are those that are extremely lucky. Like, the best of us. These folks are better than 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of us, and their body of work miraculously survived several generations. These are folks like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, etc.

So your odds of your life mattering, and people remembering you for something are slim to none. Sorry… But in all likelihood, you’re not a special snowflake.

The Engineer’s Mindset

“I have far more respect for the person with a single idea who gets there than for the person with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” — Thomas Edison

But there’s a way out. And that’s to focus on making the world just a little better, right now, for all of us. Screw being remembered… be selfish. Live for now. And that ends up having a chain reaction.

I work in Technology, so I typically solve problems w/ an Engineer’s mindset. Which is:

Step 1: Identify problem

Step 2: Create hypothesis for solving that problem

Step 3: Create a rapid prototype (proof of concept) to attempt to solve problem and get data back quickly

Step 4: Collect data and see if proof of concept solved problem*

*If Yes — Move to Step 5 If No — go back to Step 2 and repeat

Step 5: How efficient was solution in solving problem said problem? Can you apply Pareto’s Law to find a more efficient solution**?

**If Yes — Go to Step 2 and start over w/ new solution. If No — Screw it. This’ll have to do.

This is a way of looking at the world, finding what’s wrong with it, what problems exist, and then creating solutions to solve those problems right now. And in doing so, making the world a little better for people, one problem and person, at a time.

Now It’s Happy Time! (Sorry for Getting Dark & Boring There for a Sec)

“A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called ‘meaningless’” — Christopher Hitchens

And this is the framework I use in my everyday life. I look at the world around me, and ask “what problem can I solve?”. It’s showing up and just seeing how you can make the world a little better.

And you can do this too. You don’t have to solve great big, grand problems. Solve the little problems. And sometimes, it’s not even a problem to solve… it’s just being nice to people. Which starts w/ being nice to yourself

Just by pausing for a second, and asking yourself “How will what I’m getting ready to do affect this person? Will it make their lives better in some way?”, you slowly create a world where we serve one another and help one another.

It can be as simple as sending someone a text and saying “I appreciate you! Thank You!”. Don’t you like it when people compliment you and say thanks? Doesn’t it make you feel better? Yeah… me too! :).

And all of a sudden it creates this chain reaction. Then that person is feeling good, so they make someone else feel a little better, and that person helps another person feel a little better, and… well… you get the point.

And next thing you know, you live in a world where people are helping each other out. And not being so shitty to one another.

And the best part is, you no longer have to think about how insignificant you are. Because you’re just living to make right now a little better for all of us.

“Our lives teach us who we are.” — Salman Rushdie

And if that’s too hard, and you can’t be kind… Your only job is to not be shitty to other people. If you can’t be a “net positive” to the system. Then just be a “break-even”.

And we can all stop having our Facebook feeds bombarded with people being shitty to other people… and get back to funny cat gifs.



Gabriel Anderson

MD of @Tachyon a serial entrepreneur with specialties in early-stage growth, customer acquisition, and business development. Philosophy, Technology, Biohacker.