“If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” According to Wikipedia, this is an English proverb from the 16th century usually used to suggest that it is useless to wish; better results come from action. I say this one often enough to believe that it was said regularly while I was growing up. I do know I regularly heard, “you know what is paved with good intentions, don’t you?” *
The wishes proverb occurred to me recently as I started a new book called “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” by Karen Armstrong. Armstrong begins the book by talking about winning a TED award in 2008. As Karen Armstrong describes it, TED gives the award to “someone who has made a difference, but who, with their help, could make even more of an impact. According to their website**, “TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” Each year they award the TED Prize to “an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, ‘One Wish to Change the World.’”
How cool is that? They have been giving TED prizes for about five years now and on the website, they show the winners, their wishes and an update on the progress that has been made. It’s fascinating! Each of the wishes and the people are fascinating in themselves, but what strikes me is the way the TED organization works to negate the meaning of the proverb at the top of this essay. The wishes don’t come true because they are worthy, though they are. They don’t come true because of the $100,000. The money helps, but all of the ideas are much bigger than a mere $100,000. They come true, or at least move forward, because TED helps find partners. Sometimes, as in Armstrong’s case, they brought together groups of people with a common interest. Sometimes they identified organizations to help build websites or make videos. Sometimes it was helping bring in other foundations with more financial resources. In every case, it was about partnerships. TED helped bring others into the conversation and wishes began to come true.
Also, in every case, it has taken time for the things to happen. Partners have to be identified. Conversations have to happen. Budgets have to be created. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s what we mean when we talk about collaboration and communication and creativity and connection. TED takes our Four C’s concept to the highest level. I know they can mobilize resources from around the world and we’re wondering about budget cuts. I also know that one of the best ways to cope with budget problems is to combine resources. Whether resources are dollars, ideas, or time doesn’t matter, we all have something of value we can contribute to making a difference in our university world.
The TED organization process makes wishes into seeds that can blossom rather than remain fruitless musings. We can do the same. So, what is your wish?
*In case you didn’t hear this from your mom, the answer is ‘the road to hell.’
**TED: www.ted.com; www.tedprize.org
Armstrong, Karen (2011). Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life, New York, Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf.