Heidi Demars is a lot of things, but one thing she is not is sorry. In her inspiring TEDx Talk entitled “DIY Community Building: Leading with Authenticity, Heart, and Hustle,” Demars talks about how one person can create real social change within a community, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Lesson One: Trust Yourself. How many times have you shied away from something because it felt too overwhelming, or you didn’t think you could do it alone? Demars shares how the actions of Rosa Parks inspired her to be that stone that creates a ripple. After her legendary refusal to move on the bus, Parks said her strength came from the knowledge of all her ancestors had built leading up to that moment. Demars asks: “What if more of us looked at life that way? With the powerful grounded conviction that we had the strength of our ancestors with us, of all the groundwork that has been laid out before us, and to trust that a path will unfold?... To me, DIY Community building means being grounded enough in who you are and what you care about so that your ideas can take flight.”
Lesson Two: Do It Yourself. “Stop wishing and start doing,” Demars advises. Circumstances will never be perfect, so don’t wait for the stars to align, or you’ll be waiting forever. Fear and timing are common culprits, but as Demars says, “we must say yes to those things that scare us the most.”
Lesson Three: Be Yourself. Demars shares a time when her community project “tomato bombs” had caught the eye of a large organization. She applied for their leadership fellowship and recalls the fear she experienced when they called, wanting to fly her out for a four-hour interview. Demars went into full-blown panic, buying countless books on leadership, thinking she had to morph herself into someone else to fit the qualifications of a “leader”. In the end, she made the choice to shove the books aside and be herself. “Sometimes,” Demars says, “leadership is just showing up and doing the work.”
Striving for social change, especially as a remote student looking to make a difference, can be intimidating. But as Demars tells us, “Hold the vision and trust the process.”