provoke the world




“What makes the content you create awesome is that it’s a story told through your unique lens. It’s you, telling a story. It’s you not giving a fuck about anything but telling that story. ” — Paul Jarvis

I have a friend who likes to say he’s out to change the culture. (Oddly enough, I have a character in my novel-in-progress who likes to say the same thing.) I have friends and friends of friends who want to change the world. A few of them actually are.

This can put a lot of pressure on the rest of us.

We’re a generation that somewhere along the line developed insanely great expectations of what we’re supposed to accomplish with our lives, and what our work life is supposed to accomplish for us (higher meaning, deep soul satisfaction, startling revelations of identity, free coffee).

Dominate the world. Put a dent in the universe. Be a bestselling writer. Find true love. Get ripped abs. Save the children. Find good childcare. Lead the company to a huge IPO. Find my car keys. Follow your bliss. Save the whales. Leave your highly paying but highly stressful job to go open a cheese shop in Botswana just like you dreamed of when you were a child. Raise millions of dollars on Kickstarter for your documentary about opening a cheese shop in Botswana. End global warming. Make money blogging. Save me from putting my wallet on the roof of my car while I’m putting in gas and then driving off with the vague feeling that I forgot something but not remembering what it was until a truck drives alongside me with the guy in the passenger seat gesturing like a mime on crack about how he saw my wallet flying off the roof of my car. Find said wallet.

It’s good to think big, of course. Crazy big. We need a little crazy. But what if you flipped that around and, every so often, thought small? What if small could be the new big?

Instead of changing the world, what if you decided to provoke it a little? click to tweet

Provoke the world.

Maybe not even the whole world, just, you know, a part of it.

“Mom, Dad,” you can imagine a child saying (or maybe you can’t, but that’s kind of beside the point, so nevermind), “when I grow up, I’m going to provoke the world. Or at least poke at it a little.”

Hell, what if you decided to provoke yourself?

It’s that what-if in the back of your mind. What if you started that blog? What if you decided to do 100 words a day on that thing you’ve been wanting to write since the fateful winter of 1996? What if you drove through the streets of your town and randomly handed out pieces of cake? What if you went to Burning Man? What if you subtracted something from your life just to see what new solutions you’d be forced to create? What if you wrote a haiku everyday and used it as your Facebook status update or emailed it to friends?

What if you started saying no?

What if you started saying yes?

It’s about engaging the world in some new way, or some new-to-you way, not to get famous or make a million dollars or find someone willing to have the wild monkey sex, with or without the masks, or the wigs, but just to see what would happen. Just to shake things up. Just to get out of that rut. Just to reframe things, add a playful twist and some spirit of mischief and maybe an olive. Shaken, not stirred. Or straight up.

Just to have fun.

What if that small thing led to some other small thing led to some slightly bigger thing led to some bigger thing and so on and so forth? Maybe the culture would change. Maybe your life.

It’s a crazy world, and these are crazy times.

What if you tossed aside that five year plan and fully lived each moment in front of you, explored it, followed those whispers of intuition? What if you put your ear to the ground of the culture and spent some time listening, listening hard?

What if life was no longer a rat race or a treadmill locked in the ON position but an idea lab, a living art project, a social experiment, if even for an hour or half an hour or twenty minutes every day? What if you created a space for yourself where there are no mistakes, no failures, only lessons, and each lesson takes you closer to that place you don’t know you’re going but will recognize when you get there?

When you finally come home to yourself?

You came, you saw, you provoked.

Who knows? You might do it again.

May 12, 2013

8 comments · Add Yours

I love this. Yes, we are all told to change the world in big ways…it seems to be the new mantra! To me, it’s overwhelming, to say the least, and quite tiring trying to figure out how to do it. I’m not a “I can do something huge for the world” type of person…I’m not that confident (I want to say egotistical actually and maybe that’s unfair). There are people capable of that, but for the rest of us, the small things can count too. Thanks for a great article.


LOVE this!! Gorgeous writing!!! I’m supposed to be out partying or something right now; instead I’m at home devouring all your writing–a party of words, effortlessly and unforgettably strung together. :-) Best to you. I find this blog very inspiring!


Hmmm. What if I made all your what-ifs into a to-do list and did one a week? One a day? One an *hour*? Thanks for the inspiration. You always bring it. Always.


Absolutely love this!
Can’t write more…… I’m off to provoke the world a little!


How very refreshing. Takes a load off my back.


“What if you subtracted something from your life just to see what new solutions you’d be forced to create?”

“What if you tossed aside that five year plan and fully lived each moment in front of you, explored it, followed those whispers of intuition?”

Yes, yes, yes! Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read right now. You’ve certainly provoked me!


I find this post so freeing. We’re constantly putting pressure on ourselves to ‘dream big, accomplish bigger’. For many, I think that can be not only overwhelming, but paralyzing! If we can’t make it in the present, we won’t make it in the future. Start small, and those things add up over time! Sometimes we just need to stop and see how true that is.


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