The world is run by those who show up

Chris Crawford
5 Mar 2009

The quote the world is run by those who show up is attributed variously to anonymous sources or to an engineering expert, Robert B. Johnson, in a 1999 article in the Journal of Management in Engineering. It succinctly describes what most of us observe in our personal and work lives … that people tend to fall into two groups: those who are disengaged from the world around them or those who are active participants trying to shape the future.

Do you ever notice when someone gets an award, you often learn that they are also coaching their children’s Little League team, serving on the local food bank board of directors, and chair of a committee in their professional organization? Do you ever notice that there are a limited number of people you reliably can turn to when you need something done? Is it a surprise that these same people are usually in both categories?

So what’s the deal? We’re all busy, and many of us are fortunate to also have loving families that deserve our attention and limited free time. Why should we also be expected to provide community service and philanthropy? There are no easy answers, but here are some general tips

Charity begins at home

There is nothing more important in your life than taking care of your family and raising healthy children if you have them. Individuals should not feel pressured to take on more than they can reasonably be expected to accomplish, especially if the extracurricular activities significantly diminish your family life.

Acting as a role model

Notwithstanding the first tip, children need good role models and should learn early on that public service and caring for the community are not only good things, but something that should be expected. Balancing these priorities is the trick.

Shaping the future

Have you ever been bemused when someone complains about politicians, but then admits that they don’t vote? The same can be said of a lot of things including public policy, effective government, youth recreation and our profession. Decisions, policies, laws and programs are put into place by governing boards, citizen groups and professional organizations that rely heavily on volunteer leadership. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another thing entirely to manage, fund and determine how that idea it put into practice. Those who show up actually end up doing it all.

Where you can participate

I can’t tell you where you can best serve in your community. That decision should be driven first by your interests and talents, and second by community needs. In your profession, start by joining and actively participating in your professional association, whether than is on a local, state or national level. If you are a technology specialist, look into the Redwood Technology Consortium (, a local nonprofit organized to serve as the primary information and educational resource on issues related to the technology industry on California's North Coast. Their mission is to diversify and strengthen the economy and quality of life on the North Coast by enhancing the technological capabilities of our region through advocacy, outreach, and education.

If you operate a business, it’s also a good idea to join your chamber of commerce. Meeting other local business representatives and sharing experiences are great ways to improve your chances of success.


Crawford is president of Justice Served, a court management and technology consulting firm working with courts and justice agencies worldwide. He is an active member of the Redwood Technology Consortium ( and is Chairman of the Board for the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce (

Copyright 2009,Eureka Times Standard Newspaper. The print edition of this article first appeared n the 3/5/09 version of the Times Standard.