1. “Call me Trim Tab”
Even the biggest ship changes direction thanks to one of its smallest parts. Way in the back of a boat, down inside the rudder, is a small part called a trim tab. This mechanism moves one way, and the ship turns in a new direction. Bucky reminded us that we are all trim tabs, tiny parts of a big systems, all working to move the ship in different directions. He had served in the US Navy during WWI, hence his naval knowledge and metaphor.
I often quote Bucky on this when I get asked how one person can really ever make a difference. The world is constantly changed by the individuals that make up the larger collective. Everyday people are actively working to challenge the status quo, and when we look at these people, they are the quiet superhumans shifting the larger systems at play; they are the trim tabs of the this beautiful round ship in space, Earth.
2. “Integrity is the essence of everything successful”
This concept of personal integrity being the essence of all that one does, was provided by someone who sought out to prove the viability of integrity as a force for good. For Bucky, integrity was structural; anything that has integrity holds its own shape regardless of the external forces, so to make change, one must first find their own shape. In his last public statement before he died he said “only integrity is going to count.” Begging the question, If you don’t have integrity in what you do, why would you do it?
3. “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, only co-pilots”
The pure magic that is planet Earth was a constant reminder of possibility to Bucky. He wrote an entire book, called “Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth,” and reminded us that we are all on this ship together. We all breathe air produced by the same trees, eat food farmed from the same fertile land, and drink fresh water to quench our thirst. Even if we are to find ways of populating another planet, we would still need these three life support services to survive — and this, my friends, is the bounty provided by this Planet. So far, no other planet has been able to provide even one of these life-giving services.
4. “The best way to predict the future is to design it”
Participating in the construction of the type of future you want to live in is a perfect way to describe a change maker’s agenda. The future is anything but defined, it is created by us. And no mater how shit things can be, there is always the possibility to change the trajectory of the present hurtling towards the future — we just have to design it well! Bucky also said, that if you want to change a systems, don’t fight the existing forces, design a version that makes the old one obsolete. For me this translates, as designing new normals.
5. “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
Nature is full of wonder and the metamorphic potential of a slimy little grub is totally mind-blowing to me. In the case of a butterfly, extreme metamorphosis occurs at every level of its being — from a land-locked, legged, leaf eating grub, to a beautiful, symmetrically appealing, flight-gifted, peaceful butterfly. Everything has the potential to metamorphosis into something better than before. Can-do inspiration aside, this also means we’d ought to think twice before dismissing or judging someone — who knows what talents they’ll develop, what insights they hold, what impacts they’ll go on to make.
6. “Don’t fight forces, use them.”
It was in 1932 that Bucky first made this statement. He noted that tension and compression are not opposites, but rather complements that can be found together. The synergy between these two is what he called ‘tensegrity’.
I think about this when I deal with tension and challenge. They are forces that have much power over us humans, personally and socially. But there are creative catalysts buried deep within them (remember how even something as horrible as Bucky’s daughter’s death became a creative catalyst?). When we can understand and overcome tensions and challenges, we are rewarded