Tuesday 23 December 2014

Subway on the Train = Straw on the Camel's Back

"How Little Things Can Make a Difference"
(Gladwell, 2006)

The old proverb relating to the straw that broke the camel's back came to mind today when I felt the ridiculous urge to cry when I left my rarely bought footlong-subway-veggie-delight-toasted-with-cheese-and-sweet-onion-sauce-with-everything-apart-from-jalepenos, on the train. Gladwell, talks about much more epic tipping points in his book aptly named The Tipping Point.which I was reminded of. Here's what I had to say about it in September 2006:

The Tipping Point

Full of facinating facts on how change works and how to make change...how to create social epidemics...a handbook for change. 

How Little Things can Make a Difference, his title continues - and encourages us to start positive social epidemics of our own. 
It asks questions like:
  • Why do teens smoke in greater and greater numbers, when every single person in the country knows that cigarettes kill?
  • Why is word-of-mouth so powerful?  
  • What makes TV shows like Sesame Street & Blues Clues so good at teaching kids how to read?

The title The Tipping Point comes from the study of epidemics where at some stage the epidemic in question reaches its critical mass. For Aids it was 1982 where it tipped from a rare disease affecting a few to a worldwide epidemic. Similar change applies to New York's unbelievably high crime/murder rate which tipped and fell in the mid 1990s. The same tipping point is described in areas from suicide to cigarette smoking to mass shootings to literacy to general attitude change. If you want a message spread or a concept 'sold', this is the book for you. 

In 2006 I said I loved the book and its ideas and looked forward to studying it more closely and starting some positive epidemics.

So instead of thinking of the negative 'straw that broke the camel's back' I thought I should think of some of the positive 'tipping points'.
  • Like the girl who now can't put a book down who once asked, when it was suggested we read some books, 'Why?'
  • Like the confidence building up in a young person to the point when they feel more able than unable, whether creating a lego building, a piece of writing or animation, playing games or building relationships or navigating and negotiating the difficulties and joys of life.
  • Like the journey from childhood to adulthood it takes to go from a 'special' school to college to work and still be a volunteer at our centre and Father Chrismas for the Christmas Parties..
We have started to spread some positive epidemics. Ideas are contagious. Like our pom-pom tree. It started with a nine year old girl who had made one. We then went on to make many. Here stands the Christmas pom-pom tree. Next year there will be many. And you will know where it all started!

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