What A Lion and a Wizard Taught Me About Social Impact Writing
Read Time – 4 minutes.
When writing for social impact, you likely have a mission in mind. You want to influence others, or create a positive wave in the world with the way you shape your words on the page.
One of the key aspects of creating an effective message is intentionality. In previous posts—and in my book, Catalyst—I’ve highlighted how it’s crucial to shape your message around your audience. You need to know who they are, how they think, and what their needs are before you can shape your words to impact them in a positive way.
For most influencers though—particularly in these current times—there is another factor to consider. Even if you craft a message with your best intentions, carefully consider your audience, and skillfully shape your message, it isn’t always going to land as you anticipated. If your message makes an impact, there is often a tidal wave of responses that you couldn’t have even predicted. This often creates a fear for many emerging social impact leaders, activists and thought-leaders. If you are like many of the clients I’ve worked with, you have probably found yourself holding back because you don’t want to rock the boat. One of my favorite quotes on this topic came from Dr. Melva Green when I interviewed her several years ago. She told me:
‘I do not believe that we have the right to hide our light. If we have been put on this planet at this point in time for humanity’s evolution, and we have something to share that can shift that consciousness, it is our responsibility. We have taken sacred contracts and sacred oaths to rock the boat.’
If you are just starting out with your message creation, and you’ve been afraid of rocking the boat, I want to share two stories from about a decade ago when I was at the beginning of my career as an author. I’m going to share how a lion and a wizard taught me that we can never really predict how something is going to affect others. Both of these events occurred around about the time that my second book had just been released—a co-authored bestseller that was released in over 15 languages globally. The book took me from being relatively unknown to suddenly having an engaged email list of tens of thousands. And two people from that list taught me a vital lesson that I continue to share with my clients and workshop participants today.
The first time I met her, ‘Sally’ and I were both in a difficult place. We’d bonded because we’d been chronically ill for several years, and we were attending an emotional health seminar that was to change the course of my life. The seminar was hosted by Karl Dawson and at the point I did not know that he would not only be the one that helped me heal from chronic disease, but also that we would co-author a bestselling book together. Sally was there too, and I remember her as someone that seemed very stuck. You could tell that she desperately wanted to change but there were a lot of internal blockers for her to overcome before she could move forward. She had that intense look in her eyes of someone who really wants to break out of their own prison, but doesn’t know where to start.
The second time I met her was several years later, and this time, Sally had dramatically transformed. She greeted me with a huge hug and a smile, and now, her eyes were filled with light. They began to fill with tears as she told me about her transformation.
“It started with your newsletter,” she said. And it turned out that what had helped her wake up from her own prison had nothing to do with me. And everything to do with a lion!
Because I was working in the field of emotional health and trauma, at one point I’d decided to end my newsletter with a short video that inspired hope and joy. One week I’d shared the video of Christian the Lion. As the video went viral, you may already know the story. Two young men in England had adopted a lion back in the 1970s (before it was illegal). They’d tried to raise it in their apartment in London, but when it got too big, they’d taken it to a wildlife park in Africa. The video was of the incredibly touching moment where the two young men had been reunited with the lion years later at the wildlife park, and the unconditional love between them all.
In that moment, when Sally saw the love that passed between the three of them, something inside her cracked open, and she experienced unconditional love for the very first time.
(The reunion is from minute 1 onwards if you just want to skip right to the heart of it.)
The point is, I had no way of knowing the impact that video would have on Sally, or anyone else. And this is the first important lesson for us to take away as activists or social impact influencers. We cannot truly know what positive impact a message we share will have on others. We can only share everything with a positive intention and trust it will land as it needs to. We have no real control over how it lands.
We cannot truly know that positive impact that a message we share will have on others.
The second lesson came at about the same time and was a seemingly light hearted comment that I shared with my mailing list. This time, however, that comment managed to offend.
It was around the time the Harry Potter films were popular. In that time, I was teaching and working with a technique that seemed fairly magical. It was a powerful protocol that gave exceptionally powerful relief from emotional trauma. It was the technique that had helped me heal from chronic illness, and was also the subject of my bestselling book. Somewhere in the newsletter I’d made a Harry Potter reference to “wizards and muggles” (if you don’t know Harry Potter, “muggles” are the non-magical folks). It was intended as a light-hearted nod to popular culture. But one reader had taken great offense. He’d believed my lighthearted message to mean that I somehow thought I was superior, and a slew of bitter emails followed.
The lesson that came out of this exchange was that just in the same way that you can’t tell what will influence, you also can’t predict what is going to push someone else’s buttons.
You can’t always predict what is going to offend others.
These two incidents helped me to understand some of the most important elements of writing for social impact; lessons that still stay with me today. If you really don’t know how something is going to have a positive impact or push a button in someone, then you can really only do one thing. Well, a series of things, I would say.
These can be summarized into the following:
- Come from a place of immaculate intention:You know you want to create good in the world, or influence others towards more equality, peace, community and connection. You keep your good intention at the center of everything.
- Craft a message with your intention in mind: You keep in mind who your audience is, where they are in their lives, and the ways in which you want to influence them.
- Share your message with the world: With your intention and your audience in mind.
- Navigate the outcome: You don’t get too caught up in the praise, or derailed by the criticism. You don’t attach to the outcome. You just show up and do your thing.
If you can master these four elements, you are well on your way to sharing a message of influence in the world and being an effective social impact leader.
For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of the last couple of years, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change.
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