I talk a lot about burning shit down.
And I’ve gotten plenty of heat for it. During FREE SCHOOL, the negative feedback I heard most through the grapevine was, “I’m sick of hearing Rachael complain! When is RKA going to talk about The Solutions?”
But that’s not my job. Not because I don’t want to focus on solutions or because I’m shirking responsibility, but because it’s not the best use of my brilliance.
This weekend, I hosted a client who is making tremendous change in the world. We spent two amazing days visioning and planning the future of her business, which is her tool for helping to create The Solutions she clearly sees that her community needs.
Sure, she’s got a fire starter within her — we all do! But her role is less about burning shit down and more about holding a vision for the way things can and should be, building a bridge towards that future, and taking people by the hand and helping them across that bridge.
Check her out — her name is Ebony Beckford and she works with kids to educate about financial literacy, as well as their parents — moms, specifically, around nurturing a culture of generational wealth in communities of color.
Keep your eye on her because she’s got big things in store!
I grabbed her money box last year for my 4-year-old and she loves it as a way to learn about saving and spending and how to use money as a tool. We use her coloring book, Madison's First Dollar, all the time and Alice was so jealous I got to meet "Madison's mommy."
We talked a lot about what it takes to use our businesses and platforms to promote and support change. And in these conversations, she helped me see my role in change making, and why it’s not explicitly about giving people a play by play of The Solutions — because I believe my audience has the solutions they seek inside them and that those answers need to be pursued within the collective, not only as individuals — and that my role is more about defining exactly what we need to burn down and the questions to pursue to help us define The Solutions to our problems.
This led me to understand what I believe are the four types of people making change in the world today. And I wanted to share them with you to see if this resonates and where you see yourself in that change.
The four types of change makers:
- The Compassionate Reformer
- The Visionary Innovator
- The Revolutionary Fire Starter
- The Luminary Bridge Builder
The Compassionate Reformer
The Compassionate Reformer knows that we must make change, but also understands that people need to find ways to live well within our current systems of oppression. Their role is to reform the systems from within, to alleviate suffering within the frameworks we are forced to operate within. They are the change makers who fight to make companies more inclusive, lift up diverse voices, speak truth to power, and demand that we make things better now — not one day far in the future. They aren’t willing to wait for the better world to be built — they care about the people who make the wheels turn in our current system and ensuring everyone has the best life they can possibly have today.
The Revolutionary Fire Starter
The Revolutionary Fire Starter — that’s me! — is focused on critiquing what we need to burn down next, which elements of the system are harming us and why, and explicitly naming the systemic oppressions that are holding humanity back. Our role is to torch the bridges that need to be burned, to dig deep into the historical patterns that have brought us here, and to clear the path for our fellow change makers to do the work that needs to be done so we can live more sustainably and find more meaning in our lives long term. We aren’t as focused on prescribing The Solution as we are about naming The Problem. But the fires we set are lights that help The Solutions become more clear to our collaborators.
The Visionary Innovator
The Visionary Innovator has a big, bold vision of the future, beyond what we are living in now. They see what is possible and are brave and unabashed in painting the picture of the world we can step into together. Their role is to dream bigger and push us further than we ever imagined. They may look like idealists because their vision is so far beyond “the box” that the status quo wants us to think inside, but they are passionate realists about the types of solutions we really need for all of us to live in harmony on the planet. They aren’t held back by impossibilities — they are led by their wildest dreams and they know that our world is capable of so much more than what we have today.
The Luminary Bridge Builder
The Luminary Bridge Builder — this is Ebony! — brings all the types of change making together, not only to set fire to old paradigms, but build bridges towards a better world. Then, they take us by the hand and lead us towards the change, knowing that the next generation that will craft the new world, but that we need a path to take us there. Their role is to meet us where we’re at today, and help us understand that we can’t stay fixed in place if we want something better — so with fierce love and bold vision, they take us by the hand and lead us towards the change we seek, reminding us that we are not in this alone and that no single one of us is tasked with building the future on our own.
Of course, we all have a reformer, a fire starter, an innovator, and a bridge builder within us.
But knowing our core strengths and where we can best position ourselves as we fight for a better world will help us get out of our own way and actually make shit happen.
If I didn’t embrace my role as the Revolutionary Fire Starter and instead had listened to my detractors who insisted I was wrong because I wasn’t focusing on The Solution, first and foremost, I wouldn’t be able to step into my purpose and do the work I’m meant to do in the world.
Yes, I have ideas about The Solutions we seek — but someone’s gotta burn shit down. Someone has to be willing to name what’s wrong, without mincing words. And that’s me. (By the way, this is what I wrote about in my essay “If Capitalism Can’t Solve It, What Will?” and what Anand Giridharadas describes in his book, Winners Take All, re: the thought leader (the reformer) and the critic (the fire starter).
I am not avoiding The Solutions, but instead of focusing my time and energy on crafting them, I'm always looking for collaborators who are just as passionate about reforming, innovating, and building bridges as I am about fire starting. I can’t do this alone.
We need all hands on deck.
And we need all types of change makers.
Which one are you?
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