The Paper Towel Man changed my life. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. I wish I could say it was God or Obama or Toni Morrison that threw me for a loop recently, but really it was the Paper Towel Man on that TED talk.
We all watch TED talks, right? And then we share them with our friends and we say things like, “You HAVE to watch this one. Life-changing!” But how often do those videos really fundamentally change the way we live our lives? Be honest. We watch, and we forget probably 90% of the time. Right?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful, inspirational TED talks. I love “Every Kid Needs a Champion” by Rita Pierson and “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer and many others. But the video that changed one of my daily habits was “How to Use a Paper Towel” by Joe Smith.
Stop and watch the video now. Seriously. Stop reading and click and watch it. 12 shakes, fold the towel. Do that every time you encounter paper towels in a restroom and it will change something you probably do almost every day in your life. It did for me.
Once I started the 12 shakes-and-fold method, I tried going back. I used two towels and still ended up with wet hands like before. But when I use the 12-shakes-and-fold method? Dry hands … and a sense of accomplishment. It might only be saving one paper towel a day, but what if everyone did that? How big would the savings be then to this world? (Joe Smith says, “If we could reduce the usage of paper towels, one paper towel per person per day, 571,230,000 pounds of paper now used. We can do that.” That’s kind of amazing.)
And that’s pretty much a great way to look at many things you do every day. One more piece of trash picked up, one more hug given, one healthier meal eaten. By themselves, nothing massive. Done every day, by one person? At the end of a month, substantial. Done every day, by many people? At the end of a month, huge. Done by many people over the course of a year? GIGANTIC.
As we look around the world today, we see many reasons to despair. Poverty, climate change, riots, war. But when we look around the world today, we also see so many reasons to rejoice. Love still exists, and often it triumphs! Crazy when you think about it. Love is a huge, powerful force. People are smarter than ever, technology is rapidly advancing, and global society is more connected than ever before. We can buy paleo goods in a supermarket. Think about that for a moment. That’s kind of wild too, right? And in the midst of all of that, we have people who are still wanting to do their share to help in this world. People who would watch a video, learn to shake their hands 12 times and fold a single paper towel. Small and huge at the same time. Little things, done repeatedly over time, result in big changes.
Change your paper towel ritual, change yourself, change the world. You got to start somewhere, right? (If you still need to watch the video, click here. You’ll be glad you did.)