One of my favorite things in life is listening to, reading about, meeting and talking with global thinkers. These are people who speak with fire in their eyes, whose passion saturates their words, and whose brains never stop working. They have a source of energy that doesn’t die quickly. They have certain anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo, and want to do something to change it. They’re silly and a little wacky. They have a good sense of humor—a necessary trait, I think, for anyone who attempts to think of problems whose scale is as big as the world; if they don’t have this sense of humor, they’d go insane or turn bitter very quickly. This passion that has struck a cord deep inside their soul just emanates out of their skin and they can’t help it. All it takes is one conversation, a few sentences, and you just see them take off. What a delight!
These global thinkers, the real ones at least, are engaged in some small scale, local projects. They pursue their interests, always widening their experiences and skill sets, and most likely hold a regular day job as well, just like everybody else. On a day to day basis, they may not be working on some big, glamorous, or prestigious projects – in fact, their work may be quite mundane. But there’s a difference, because those mundane tasks are infused with a sense of purpose. They see their local, small scale activities as laboratories to test and refine their models and ideas, with a wider sphere of influence in mind.
The most amusing trait that I love about these people is that they’re unabashedly them. They’re weird, and they don’t care. They embrace their individuality and their gifts fully, so even though you can get a group of global thinkers in a room, each of them is distinctly different one from another. The nerds are unabashedly nerdy; the artists are unabashedly artistic, etc. They know how to focus in their areas, because those who try to multitask and juggle multiple global problems usually end up overwhelmed and not doing anything. They take care of that one circle really well and they get something accomplished. This boosts their morale and makes them think they can do more. The circle then expands a little bit. They get another triumph, and they get even more excited. Bit by bit they advance, and call them delusional or crazy, but they actually think they can change the world: they have proof that it’s possible.
We have a lot of these people in society. Go to TED.com and you’ll find a bunch of them there. But they’re not just on stage; these people really are everywhere. Oh and one more thing with this group of people—age is irrelevant.
When you combine global thinkers and the properties of the complexly connected world today, what you have is a potentially explosive combination. In an era where problems, issues, ideas, and cultural attributes cross national borders, the notion that a country’s problems can be exclusively confined within its geographical boundaries slowly disappears. Neighboring states get entangled almost immediately, and the problems magnify. On the flip side, however, this phenomenon also opens up opportunities of global impact because just as the problems cannot be contained in a geographical place, the solutions can spread out quickly as well. In an article for a recent publication by the Indonesian embassy, I wrote the following statements concerning the energy issues, which I believe is applicable for anyone and to any problem, “Because of the effective nature of the current communication network, a local or national solution to the energy problem contributes directly to the international portfolio of energy solutions. If and when Indonesia has found and implemented a successful approach within its borders, it immediately provides an adaptable model for other countries and communities. In other words, the endeavor to solve the local energy problem is an opportunity for global leadership.”
What this means is that as a citizen of this kind of world, making global impact is a real possibility. In fact, I think this mindset is no longer optional. Global thinkers are not born; the potential exists in every individual.
Global problems require global thinkers. Why? Because in problem solving, the solution can only be (at most) as good as your assumptions. The only way to reach the solution to these problems is if the proper scope and scale is taken into account, and the ones who can do that are the global thinkers.
To the Christian, there is one global problem that has supreme importance, more than the other ones that exist today. This problem is such that once it’s completed, the aftermath will ultimately solve all of the other problems, namely the renewing of the earth, when the old heaven and earth pass away, and the new heaven and earth are established. The problem statement is written in Matthew 24:14, the charge in Matthew 28:18-20, and again in Revelation 14:6-7 (read verses 6-12 for the whole package). It is what it is—a global mission.
If a 21st century world citizen needs to be a global thinker, there is no excuse for the Christian not to be one. Christians are called to be global thinkers, which mean that there’s something wrong when the only thing they do is to sit by their fire and bask in the comfort their own spirituality. What about the rest of the world?
If this global problem is to be solved, Christians need to think, plan, and strategize in the global scale, because the scope of the thinking affects the kinds of ideas that emerge out of that thinking. Creativity needs to be fostered and developed in implementing these plans, and I bet they’d see marvelous things that never happened before.
You know what’s really amusing though? You would perhaps think that these Christians walk around with furrowed brows, being serious all the time. But that’s not the case. These Christians are actually the most delightful to be with, because they have all the characteristics that I mentioned in the beginning of this piece. They’re a little ‘hyperopic’—they can’t really see the petty problems around them too well, so they are less susceptible to discontentment, bitterness, and weariness from these small, local, and temporary trials. It just sounds like a really great way to live.
Global thinkers. Be one!