How can I make a big difference in the world? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Nicolas Nelson, writing coach and book editor, on Quora:

There isn't just one way to "make a big difference in the world." There are many vocations with the power to "make a big difference" in people's lives all around the world and for generations to come.

The real key to this is threefold:

  1. Know yourself and develop your potential as best you can. School, sports, scouting, and learning to learn from books are all good ways to do this. Professional development of all sorts can also be helpful, from apprenticeship to volunteering to advanced training like the sort you get from the International Mentoring Network. I strongly advise my clients to read about the Five Love Languages, take the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory and the Gallup Strengthsfinder test. (Others swear by the enneagram, but I have not found it helpful; there are lots of similar tools, like the DISC inventory, etc. Find what gives you the best insights to yourself to maximize your human capacity and your ability to achieve your goals in life. Ignorance of yourself can be your own worst enemy.
  2. Develop your "servant leadership." This is a concept developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1977 that singlehandedly created a sea change in Western leadership theory and practice, turning it away from a model based on military command. Greenleaf's quiet revolution sparked a thousand other metaphors and models, but all of them strongly influenced by his ideas, often unwittingly (it's been a long and eventful forty years in the world of organizational management and leadership studies!). Greenleaf's essays aren't even the best work done on servant leadership, but they are seminal and concise. Search Google or Amazon or Goodreads for more book titles and read the reviews to see what might be most helpful to you now. The point is that your leadership ability is what will set you apart from the merely competent and give you the traction you're seeking, to help you become an influencer.
  3. Give your life to a world problem that must be solved, rather than "whatever you like to do best." One thing that sets world-changers apart from those who merely enjoy their career is a focus on others, not self; valuing impact over comfort; seeking a serious problem they are especially suited to solve, not a vocation in which they are especially suited to succeed.

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