A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems

A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems

by Justin Dillon


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You are exactly what the world needs

What if your search for meaning could solve the world’s problems? What if everything you are passionate about could save a life or change history? Justin Dillon argues it can, and A Selfish Plan to Change the World shows how.

In this paradigm-shifting new book, Dillon—the founder of Slavery Footprint and Made in a Free World—reveals the secret to a life of deep and lasting significance: the discovery that our need for meaning is inextricably linked to the needs of the world. A Selfish Plan to Change the World delivers a revolutionary method for meeting both needs.

Drawing upon his own unlikely transformation from touring musician to founder of a global movement and telling the stories of other surprising world-changers, Dillon shows how to create a life of deep purpose by stepping into the problems of the world. Taking readers on a journey from sweatshops in India to punk rock concerts in Ireland, Dillon exposes the limitations of the "giving back" approach involving donations and volunteerism to reveal the unexpected power of "giving in" to pursue self-interest in a way that alters the very dynamics of the world’s most challenging problems.

A Selfish Plan to Change the World is your "self-help-others" guide to a life that matters, demonstrating how you can repurpose your existing talents, backstory, and networks to improve the lives of others. Changing the world no longer belongs only to martyrs and professional do-gooders. You can live an extraordinary life. You can change the world. All you ever needed was a plan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718084530
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 05/23/2017
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 823,279
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

A professional musician turned filmmaker and social entrepreneur, Justin Dillon is founder and CEO of Made in a Free World, an award-winning platform that brings together consumers, organizations, and businesses to disrupt the $150 billion business of human trafficking. Justin’s leadership as a “practitioner of change” has awakened a global movement of more than 30 million, improved laws, and freed thousands of slaves. He has advised the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the White House, the Vatican, Fortune 500 companies, and more on issues of innovation and social justice. He is the director of influential films—with voices such as Cornel West, Questlove, Amber Valletta and Nicholas Kristof—including Call+Response and Common Dreams for CNN. Justin has been featured by the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Vogue, Huffington Post, CNN, CBS, FOX, MSNBC,NPR, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Rolling Stone, and more. His work has received many high-profile accolades including a Cannes Lion Award and a SXSW Interactive Innovation Award.

Read an Excerpt

A Selfish Plan to Change the World

Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems

By Justin Dillon

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2017 Justin Dillon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-8457-8



Oct OBER 21, 1977 Dublin, Ireland Examination Hall, Trinity College


The Bishops walk offstage drenched in the sweat and saliva of the raging boyos in the front row. The band knows that the manic applause roaring behind them isn't so much an affirmation of their performance, but rather the unbridled anticipation for the headliners coming up next. The Bishops just plowed through a set of songs reminiscent of their influences, such as the Beatles and Dr. Feelgood. But tonight this city, this venue, and this audience aren't interested in looking backward.

The twelve hundred or so acne-laden concertgoers have come to rage inside the sonic advent of a new era that matches the ire and restlessness of their day-to-day Dublin lives. The testosterone-powered crowd entertained themselves by launching salvos of goobers — or phlegmy spit — pelting the Bishops throughout their set. The Bishops knew that this was not the show to fight back, so they received the incoming DNA samples with labored dignity. The goober-launchers now make a few meager requests for an encore, but the Bishops push on to their dressing room as the houselights come up. This isn't the night for an encore. Rock-and-roll honor code forbids such a pitiful grab from an opening band. Everyone is here for one reason: to see Britain's hottest new band perform their first concert in Ireland. What no one here tonight can possibly know is just how much this concert will change their lives — and the world.

Trinity College's Examination Hall is not the ideal venue for a show like this. For hundreds of years the university has earned a reputation as one of the few academic institutions to uphold the value of free speech, making it a symbolically fitting venue for this show. But this antiquated hall has some serious sonic limitations. Its statues of dour academic achievers, its lavish Georgian design, and its cathedralhigh ceilings make it more suited for Gregorian chants than for a rock concert full of war-painted teenagers out for a fiercely good time. The owners of the football stadium across town wouldn't book this show for fear of violent mobs, and the show in Belfast last night was canceled hours before the doors were to open due to similar concerns.

The stage is a simple temporary platform installed about a foot off the ground so the performers can look directly into the eyes of their audience. And what an audience it is. The youth of Dublin represented here tonight look to be in the middle of a style renaissance. It will be hard to find soft-rock handlebar mustaches and Jim Morrison coifs tonight. Standard issue consists of tight leather jackets, military boots, striped T-shirts with perfectly torn holes down the sides, all complemented by King Tut-inspired mascara. Examination Hall was designed for students to take tests, but tonight the hall will be tested by the students.

The headliners have just arrived backstage and are taking their sweet time preparing for their performance. Despite having formed only a year ago, they have already mastered the art of anticipation — something performers wield like puppeteers over their audiences. Great performers don't give their audience what they want. They give them what they need, when they need it. They build an imaginary world through their songs and take listeners to it with their performance. Isn't that why we go to concerts? We want to visit another world. We turn our bodies and emotions over to globe-trotting troubadours, trusting them to transport us from our here to some other there. Tonight is no different, and the headliners backstage know it. The roadies have finished setting up all the instruments and checking the microphones. The houselights dim. It's showtime.

A cacophony of screaming teenage voices bounces off the sculpted ceilings while triumphant arcs of goobers, reminiscent of the fountains at Versailles, launch across the hall. Nicky, Paul, Mick, and Joe swagger onstage as the first punk rock band to play Ireland. The large backdrop behind the drum kit bears an image of bobbies (British police) swinging clubs at a race riot in London, an image that looks all too familiar to this audience. This band is leading a new movement that's sweeping across the globe. Their movement challenges status quos with distorted guitars, reveals class inequalities at 101 beats per minute, and advocates for minorities through the poetry of biting lyrics. Tonight, Ireland is finally being introduced to the only band that matters. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the Clash.

It's 1977, and Ireland is an ancient land wrestling with its national identity — again. For seven hundred years the Emerald Isle had been part of the United Kingdom, until in 1920 a revolution resulted in independence for southern Ireland, now called the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland remained within the British Empire. As with all territorial wars, religious divisions played a role. The Irish were now left to deal with not only a dividing line across their land, but ideological divisions between the majority Roman Catholics and the minority Protestants.

Due in part to economic downturns in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, a period of intense violence began, commonly called "the Troubles." Northern Ireland was split between the Nationalists (Roman Catholics), who considered themselves truly Irish, and the Unionists (Protestants), who identified as British. Their capital city, Belfast, was ground zero for their differences. Paramilitary groups on both sides armed themselves, creating unspeakable terror for average citizens. Car bombs, gang warfare, and targeted assassinations were what Northerners called Tuesday. Add to this the presence of the British military, with their failed attempts to remain neutral while keeping the peace, and you have a tinderbox of sectarian conflict. Over the twenty-eight-year run of the Troubles, thirty-five hundred lives were lost and countless others were injured.

Dublin is about eighty-eight miles south of Belfast, but by 1977, the effects of the violence have already shaped many of the young adults here in Examination Hall. Violence can work its way into your skin like the salt air blowing off the Irish Sea. The lack of jobs for this emerging workforce only adds to the compression building inside Irish youth looking for an outlet. Punk rock couldn't have come at a better time. It carries with it a tactile response to the daily socioeconomic challenges the young people in Examination Hall are facing. It's a call to arms for a generation who never got their summer of love. It's the Rosetta Stone used to interpret the aching questions of a new generation. Punk rock is like a new religion, and the singer walking up to the microphone right now is its mercurial cult leader.

Wearing a military-style shirt bearing spray-stenciled words like war and vandalism, Joe Strummer leans into the microphone, surveys the crowd, and shouts, "Let's have some fun tonight!" Then he screams toward the sculpted ceiling, "London's burning!" Nicky responds on the snare drum, rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. "London's burning!" Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. And the band explodes into their angst-ridden anthem "London's Burning." The crowd erupts into a raucous response. It's reasonable to assume that some teenagers here tonight are interpreting the song a bit more personally as "Dublin's Burning."

Somewhere inside Examination Hall, away from the human-blender mosh pits, stage diving, and goober crossfire, stand four teenagers indexing everything their eyes and ears can take in. Four middle-class white boys who came as fans are about to become followers. A year before, one of the boys posted a flyer at his high school, asking if anyone wanted to start a band. The other three joined and the foursome immediately started rehearsals. They knew they needed an iconic band name. Something epic but intimate. Easy to say but laced with meaning. Naming a band is like naming a child: you want to capture some future character trait early in the hope that it will develop over time. After donning a few ill-fitting names, they eventually landed on the Hype. It was technical and raw, and it captured their rock-star ambitions.

As the four boys watch the Clash, at a somewhat safe distance, they feel as if they are witnessing the birth of a movement for which the barrier to entry is low. You don't have to be Jimmy Page; you just need to rage. You don't have to be Ringo Starr; you just have to believe you're a star. You don't have to be Simon and Garfunkel; you just ... you get the idea. The sounds of unchained melodies and train-shuffle snare drum hits roll over the four lads like fog over the Cliffs of Moher. But this isn't a safe come-as-you-are-love-is-all-you-need type of movement. There's no clearly illuminated exit sign in the back. Once you decide to walk into the purifying fire of this punk movement, there is only one way out — forward. You are either the solution or the problem.

The game has officially been changed for these four lads. Rock and roll is no longer just about melody and rhythm and girls. It's a vibrant hazing ritual of enlightenment. It's no longer about installing hot tubs on private jets and throwing televisions out the window of your Hollywood Boulevard penthouse suite. It's about letting the dissonance of life arrest you, disturb you, and emanate back out of you with beauty, volume, truth, and justice.

The Hype see in Joe Strummer a next-level rock star. There is no barrier between him and his audience. He is as much a savant as any artist of any medium. Dali. Hitchcock. Nina Simone. Bowie. Sacred and profane. Transparent and enigmatic. Inside this explosive performer is a man trying to intimately connect with humanity. In fact, it's been said that if you want to get into the Clash's dressing room after a show, just knock on the window and they will kindly let you in, maybe even offer you a drink. Joe is manic while singing, but in between songs he dons a shepherding demeanor with the audience ... that is, unless someone in the audience tries to hurt someone. That's when the punk comes out of the rocker. Joe has a reputation for stopping concerts when he sees someone getting hurt. He can rage against the system while standing in the gap for the oppressed. He's a natural advocate.

The Clash is a white band writing white songs about black issues. To Joe, black issues are his issues. The black people on the receiving end of the bobbies' sticks are his friends and his community. In fact, everyone in Examination Hall tonight is his community, just like the multiethnic vagabonds he house-squatted with on the south side of London, or the students at the boarding school where his parents dropped him off, or the street children he grew up with in Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico. Joe is keenly aware of his white privilege, and he is always looking to leverage it for others without privilege.

As much as it has tried, the seventies hasn't yet produced its Elvis or Beatles like the fifties and sixties had. This decade has served up everything from mustache yacht rock to disco, all without a point of view about what is happening in the world. The world is hungry for a point of view from its artists. From Belfast to the Bronx, white to black, punk to rap, young people are looking for new music that can contextualize their socioeconomic limitations and transport them elsewhere. The members of the Hype, and everyone else here tonight, have been hungry for something authentic, opinionated, and worthy of emulation. Tonight they have found it in the Clash.

The band breaks into their first single, "White Riot," and the crowd goes wild. Joe moves across the stage like Elmer Gantry at a revival tent meeting: "White riot, I want to riot, White riot, a riot of my own" The audience heeds his call and releases their own riot, increasing the circumference of the mosh pit and the rapidity of stage dives. But his emphatic message to this mostly white audience isn't simply to rage at a show, but to find a riot they can own for themselves. The violent image behind him of bobbies swinging their clubs at a race riot makes it clear that the black community has their riot. They have no choice but to riot. But middle-class whites don't have a cause to riot for. Joe is telling them to live for something bigger. Don't let the world tell you how to operate. Challenge the status quo with truth and justice for everyone. Find your riot or become another thick bloke.

The moment Joe screams, "Are you going backwards, or are you going forwards?" a lightning bolt runs up the teenage spines of the Hype. This white riot playing out in front of them feels like a pentecostal worship service in black Harlem. It's out of control, yet altogether holy. Sacred and profane. Turn or burn. The pounding of the drums, the hands in the air, the reckless abandon all point to something bigger than themselves. They are called to the carpet by a punk rocker screaming prophetic messages into a distorted microphone. Music is no longer a career choice. It's bigger than their rock dreams. It's a calling. From here on, there is no Plan B or going backward for these boys. They are ready to go forward.

Joe is using his talent to riot for a world he wants to see. This riot is in his blood. It pumps his heart. It's a fire in his bones. He can't live without it. He's been releasing this riot like a virus into the atmospheres of basement nightclubs, television studios, football arenas, and now Examination Hall. Tonight the members of the Hype, Larry, Adam, David, and Paul, have contracted this airborne riot virus, which will guide them for decades to come. The riot inside of these Dublin teenagers will go on to change the atmosphere of every school auditorium, dive bar, festival, theater, television show, arena, and stadium they will ever play. It will take them to places few bands have ever gone, but first they will need to change their name to U2.


One morning around 5:00 a.m., my son, three years old at the time, was keeping my wife and me awake with his constant pleading from his room. He was going through a sadistic phase of waking up at dark o'clock, expecting us to share his joy of a new day — before it was technically day. I suggested that my wife go sleep downstairs while I brought our little boy into bed with me. I had the delusional hope that he might fall back asleep.

He was quiet for a few minutes, allowing me just enough time to glide into the early stages of REM, when I heard his little voice whisper through the tunnel of slumber: "Dada?!"

"Yes, son," I replied with my eyes closed.

"Dada?" was his response.

"What do you want, son?" I said, still not opening my eyes.


It's important to note here that I had been teaching my son to look people in the eyes when talking to them, and now those lessons had come to punish me. "Dada?" I turned over on my pillow to see his cute little very-awake face staring me right in the eyes. Now, certain he had made eye contact, he delivered his important message: "Dada, I smell chaos." Thinking I might still be asleep, I asked him to repeat himself. "I smell chaos," he said, only this time he raised his little hazelnut eyebrows up and down like Charlie Chaplin to punctuate his declaration.

"You smell chaos?" I repeated back as a question.

"Yes," he said with a smile. Clearly satisfied, he then closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

This might sound like just another cute story of a three-year-old with a sleeping disorder, but hearing my son tell me that he smelled chaos was an alarm clock to my soul. Did this little sleep-hater understand what he was saying? Chaos? Where did he learn that word, and why was he saying that he smelled it? We were well beyond potty-training. Was it possible he knew what was going on?

My life was, in fact, full of chaos at the time. I had recently come off of an eighteen-month film tour and had begun leading an organization focused on ending slavery. I was tired, worn-out, and desperate for something certain, something predictable, and something that just worked a little easier. Fighting for the rights of others is profoundly chaotic, ambiguous, and void of certainty. This chaos had taken a toll on me, and I felt that I was failing my work and my family. And yet here a sweet little voice on a pillow, a literal place of rest, was telling me in the darkest hour of the night that it was okay to rest amid the storm of chaos. I was being given permission to keep walking despite the darkness because the light was going to come out soon.

I didn't always live with chaos. Like many, I was raised to pursue a life of certainty. As a parent myself, I understand that no loving father or mother wants a life of chaos or uncertainty for their children. My parents had paid a high price for the certainty and stability they gave me as a child. Both of them had gone through chaotic experiences in their lives, and they understandably did all they could to protect me from chaos. They created a safe environment, which came with a carefully written script for my life. Paint inside the lines of specific moral codes, finish college, get a job, find a wife, populate the earth, and go to church on the weekends. I'm not saying that's a bad script. It was just missing a few important lines. Actually, it was missing an entire second act.


Excerpted from A Selfish Plan to Change the World by Justin Dillon. Copyright © 2017 Justin Dillon. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part 1 Why Change the World

Chapter 1 Find Your Riot 3

Chapter 2 I Have a Soul Dream 21

Chapter 3 A Poverty of Means 37

Chapter 4 Don't Try to Save the World 49

Chapter 5 A Poverty of Meaning 69

Chapter 6 Your Needs? What About My Needs? 87

Part 2 What Keeps the World from Changing

Chapter 7 Bread and Circuses 105

Chapter 8 Altruism (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves) 117

Chapter 9 A Spoonful of Fiction 135

Part 3 How to Change the World

Chapter 10 You Were Born for This 153

Chapter 11 Don't Wait for Permission 165

Chapter 12 Hit Your Money Note 179

Chapter 13 Win at Losing 193

Chapter 14 Practice the Art of Change 205

Chapter 15 Solutionists of the World Unite 223

Acknowledgments 231

About the Author 233

Notes 235

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A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
4aussiegirl More than 1 year ago
A Selfish Plan To Change The World Find bigger Purpose In Big Problems By: Justin Dillon Justin Dillon is a musician this for starters makes you wonder how in the world he plans to selfish change the world. Well if you read the Bible you see God uses the most unlikely people to help Him with His plan to glorify His name. A lot of times I don’t read the introductions to the book because I want to dig right in to the book. Really take time to read the introduction I did for whatever reason and I was so glad I did, it’s very interesting!! We all cry out we want meaning and hope in this fallen world of ours. We as Christians know we can call out to God for anything and He is there for us. Mr. Dillon tells how we can find what our soul cries out for do you want to be a doer or a talker? Some of us get scared if we go out of our comfort zone. So read this book and see how Dillon will show you “if you give you surely will gain”. The story on page 13 brought me to tears and I thanked God for helping raise my two children. In my heart I know He helped watch over my two beautiful children which are adults now. If you ask yourself how did the world get this way and why wasn’t something done, then this book is for you. See the problems and solutions through brand new eyes as Justin takes on a whole new journey in a selfish plan to change our world. I recommend this book highly. I received this beautiful book free from Booklookblogger for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review just an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are entirely my own and no one else’s. 5 Stars ISBN 978-0-7180-8453-0
summer_no9 More than 1 year ago
This is book was a wonderful meaning writing and compelling to read with all the very true of the real story that we all had been thinking of and mostly happing with all of us in our life that someone might even know how is happening. Sometime we are all scare to do change something that we never had been done before but what we need is a plan and more than that is what we all have to decide about who we are and what we're going to do with our lives. This book giving us all inspire and clean path to life of meaning for all of us finding the way to living life of meaning and happiness. This will be a changelings to fight for change to find a dream as a good for all of a generation to find their riot and that meaning if you can live your dream while doing good for others. Powerful and so you can change the world too. This book will offering us a lot of key and tools to bing you and comfort you to the end of your dream. The Author of the book Justin Dillon a professional musician turned filmmaker and social entrepreneur, He is founder and CEO of Made in a Free World, an award - winning platform that brings together consumers, organizations, and business to disrupt the $150 billion business of human trafficking. I highly recommend to everyone must to read this book. " I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers for this review