They vs. We - Thoughts on Change and Mental Models

November 2022

“Why can’t they fix the grift in healthcare?” “Why won’t they make Twitter better?” These phrases unconsciously determine the mental framework of the speaker or thinker. They relegate the person to a powerless third party, unaffiliated and uninvolved, without the ability for either direct affiliation or involvement. Compare these questions with slightly tweaked versions: “Why can’t we fix the grift in healthcare?” “Why won’t we make Twitter better?” The adjustment is subtle, but it makes all the difference in the creation of positive change for the world. When speaking about change, one should always strive to use “we” as opposed to the amorphous force of the beyond: “they,” as “we” puts the power to create great things and improve the world in the hands of the individual.

The “they” are no different from us. Steve elucidated this point when he said, “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.” We built this world, and it was and will never be the same again. Once we realize that we have the innate ability to create and change and mold things in this world for the better, we can begin to do just that. It is the trap of “they” thinking that causes people to fall down paths of mediocrity instead of attempting to be that tallest blade of grass that the other blades must strive to grow to.

“They” removes personal autonomy in exchange for a world of lukewarm passivity. They will take care of it. They built it, and they will fix it. As George Orwell writes in 1984, “But if thought corrupts language, language also corrupts thought.” This simple phraseology of they vs. we causes a total shift in mindset, for better or for worse: either a shift towards freedom and autonomy or reliance, compliance, and conformity. We need to work on building the future, not them. We need to take accountability for the mistakes along the way and seek to iterate fruitfully through the feedback loop of life. We need to create the beautiful ideas in the world.

Change is inevitable. However, the way that change occurs is not. Some people will make the conscious decision to mold change the way they believe it should occur. These people are no different from you or me. These people are not “they”: these people are “we.”