• Julia

How My Life Changed with One Sentence - or - Collateral Impact

Updated: Jul 31, 2019


When we think about changing the world, we usually think about famous heroic individuals, like Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Ellen Degeneres - most relevant today are perhaps, Greta Thunberg or the Parkland Teens.


"How much of an impact can I possibly have?"

Then I think about myself: sitting on my couch, my 100 Instagram followers (or was it 128)? Yes, I try to take shorter showers, I recycle, I donate to charity... I try to volunteer but at the moment that has not been very regular. How much of an impact can I possibly have?

That can be discouraging - even frustrating to anyone who wants to contribute to our global community positively. Yes, famous heroes inspire us, but they may also make us think: "I will never be enough".

Well, this blogpost should communicate "You can never truly know!" and more importantly, the reason why I started this blog, which is: collateral impact.

Collateral Impact

"Collateral"is the side effects that of an event that are not directly related to the event itself. If a young College Student's apartment burns down, she has to move to a student dorm. She may be annoyed - sad and frustrated probably. But she accepts that she needs to move on so.

"Side effects"

Little does she know that the boy whose neighbor she becomes, will become her husband one day. That's collateral impact. Their (future) relationship has nothing to do with the fire, yet would never have happened without the fire.

Me again

Let me give you a real life example: when I was fifteen years old I desperately wanted to go abroad. Explore a new culture and find myself. One morning, taking my regular bus to school, I happened to talk to this girl - let's call her Lisa. I mentioned that I was looking for abroad experiences. "Well", she said, "maybe you should check out the United World Colleges?".

"What's that?", I asked.

"It's a collection of boarding schools all over the world. My teacher advertised it once, I don't know too much about it, though".

"My life completely changed because of one sentence"

Fast forward: I apply to this collection of schools, I get accepted and spend the most transformative years of my life in South East Asia. Moreover, because I graduated from a UWC I am now eligible to apply for a scholarship that allows me to study Psychology and Global Management in the United States.

I could go on and bore you with the details of how UWC changed my life but I hope that I have visualized the tremendous impact that Lisa had, simply by namedropping UWC to me. My friends, my relationship, my career, my life completely changed because of one sentence.

The (hypothetical) chain

But let's go farther than this, because the chain didn't actually start with Lisa. It started with Lisa's teacher handing out brochures about UWC in her French class. And who knows who gave those brochures to Lisa's teacher? Whoever introduced this teacher to UWC has absolutely no idea of my existence, nor that my life would be absolutely different if it wasn't for her. I will never know the exact length of the chain that it took for that information to reach me.

"My life would be absolutely different if it wasn't for

this person I've never met"

I do believe, by the way, that the same chain applies not only to potentially life-changing information but also to kindness. As shown in this video - our actions matter.

"I don't know. And that's the point: we never know."

My kindness may make someone's day a little bit better, which may cause them to help another friend, who is thus encouraged to succeed in a subject, who goes on to find a cure for cancer. I don't know. And that's the point - we never know.

We cannot let ourselves be discouraged by the fact that we don't always know the collateral impact of our actions - we cannot see the end of the domino chain of the little person in the picture.

"We cannot let ourselves be discouraged by the fact that we don't always know the collateral impact of our actions"

The One Person Theory

I am sure you have heard people say "If I can just reach one person with this, it will be worth it". Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus applied this principle when they toured their book "The Minimalists" (which ultimately became a huge hit) but as you can see in this Documentary - many of their initial readings were only visited by a couple of people.

If they would have simply given up many people would not have been inspired by the minimalist lifestyle.

But you can apply this to every single interaction you have with individuals throughout your daily life. One suggestion, one act of kindness, one smile... changes the trajectory of other people's lives.

That's the first thing - if anything - that I would like you to take away from this website and this blog. Don't click any of the links, ignore the resources and forget about Collateral Impact. But remember: your actions matter!

"Your actions matter!"

The second thing is: if you know (and sometimes we don't) who had that significant impact on your life - friends, teachers, acquaintances... Tell them! Let them know about the impact of their actions so they can continue doing it.

In Conclusion - or - Dear Reader

You who are reading this right now. You may know me well. But who knows - maybe this website reaches farther than I expect and you don't.

Regardless, if just one of all my readers sees something in this blog that inspires or encourages them in some way, I am incredibly grateful for being able to be part of that chain of collateral impact.

Thank you. Be brave. Be kind. And remember your collateral impact

- make it a positive one!

Thank You's - Acknowledgements

That said, I would also like to note that I am just part of a big chain. A great variety of people have contributed to the resources on this website (some of which I don't know because the master google spreadsheet that is behind this is online and available for anyone to edit). Thank you so much to all of you.

I would also like to thank my mum for encouraging me to think outside the box - always - but in the past months more than ever. Thank you for supporting me in all the crazy decisions I have made.

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