Do a search on disruptors, and the newest big thing you’ll find is from 2021.
Either there hasn’t been much disrupting going on the last two years, or the word has gone out of vogue.
Words, and even definitions, come and go. Once in a while the new definition prevails, but often the original is stubborn and sticks.
Disruptor, for instance, means a person or thing that interrupts an event, activity, or process by causing a disturbance or problem. This is often not good.
Perhaps you are more familiar with the “new” meaning: a company or form of technology that causes radical change in an existing industry or market by means of innovation. This is often good.
At least it is good in the long term. It often isn’t good for those who are making a living doing things the old way. Or even people who just like things the original way. Or the many people and businesses that relied on the old way.
Once I knew a fellow whose family was in the golf club business. Their company was called Orlimar, and the founder was a master builder of beautiful wooden headed drivers and fairway woods.
Tour pros used Orlimar woods, they had a very cool store in even-very-cooler Carmel, California, and life was good. Then along came TaylorMade, making a driver with a (What?) metal head!!
No one was using “disruption” in the modern sense back then, but that is exactly what happened to the golf industry. It is still having an impact today.
We used to call that creativity and invention. Edison did it. So did Bell, and so has Elon Musk.
In fact those who know him well say that Elon first sees something that needs to be changed and makes it his mission to change it. His purpose is not so much creation and innovation, at least at the beginning. His purpose is to make things better for more people.
For him the idea of disrupting something that needs to change comes first, and the how to do it comes later.
That appeals to me, in no small part because it is the same path we have taken at Do Good U. Our purpose was (and is) to bring more good into the world. The “how” came later.
Disrupting the world
It might be said that Vladimir Putin and Hamas are disruptors in the original sense of the word. They are “causing a disturbance or a problem.” Their goals are all self-serving, and they have a long line of predecessors who did the same.
Those who disrupt like that are known but never praised. Often their plans succeed for a while, but when they are seen for who they are they fail under the weight of their own selfishness.
Those who disrupt the world in a positive way are also known. Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein all fit in that category. The effects of their work still bless us, and we know it.
But there was a disruptor greater than all of those. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.
An unlikely force
When Jesus was born (an event we celebrate each year on December 25), few people noticed. Almost everyone looking for the coming Christ — which means “anointed one” — expected a royal birth and an earthly king.
Outside of the family, only a few shepherds (the lowest of the low) were there to see Jesus as a newborn. A little later a few wise men from somewhere east of the nation of Israel arrived. They had figured it out, knew that the promised King had been born, and they traveled far to see him.
Unfortunately they assumed others would have figured this out as well, so they went to a local king named Herod to find out where the new King was. Herod, threatened by the news of this child King, ordered that every boy in Bethlehem under two years old be killed in order to eliminate his competition. (Jesus and his family escaped just before the slaughter.)
And so the disruption began, because supreme selfishness, whether it is Herod or Hitler or Hamas, accepts no rivals.
Unlike earthly dictators who use force to disrupt, the ultimate disruptor came as the weakest of all humans. He wasn’t born in elegant, pristine surroundings, either. His crib was a food trough.
The great disruptor
In Who Is This Man?, John Ortberg begins with this. On the day after Jesus’ death, it looked as if whatever small mark he left on the world would rapidly disappear. Instead, his impact on human history has been unparalleled.
A couple of paragraphs later he notes:
Jesus’ impact was greater a hundred years after his death than during his life; it was greater still after five hundred years; after a thousand years his legacy laid the foundation for much of Europe; after two thousand years he has more followers in more places than ever.
But it isn’t just the 2 billion followers, it is the difference in the world. For instance, according to a study by historian G. M. Bakke, children first became people because of Christianity.
In the ancient world children usually weren’t named until the 8th day. Until then there was a chance the child would be killed or left to die of exposure, especially if the baby was deformed or not the preferred sex. It was Christians who changed that, because of the teachings of Jesus.
Hospitals worldwide, as well as cities worldwide, are named after Jesus or one of his followers. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale were all established to train ministers of Christianity. We even measure time from the life of Jesus.
Love, hope, faith, humility, community, kindness, generosity, serving, joy, equality, freedom, peace and goodness. Those were the teachings of Jesus, the great disruptor.
Live like that today, and you’ll be a disruptor too.