How to Change the World

Originally published Feb 20, 2007

When The Name Inspector decided to go into business, the first book he bought was Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start. Why? Well, it did get great reviews on Amazon. But another factor was the poetic title. Not only does it rhyme, but the word art is orthographically and phonetically contained in the word start. Like the slogan I like Ike, famously analyzed by Roman Jakobson, this title uses linguistic form to highlight its meaning: There’s an art in starting something. And that’s a powerful and appealing idea. The use of the expression the start, rather than startups or starting your business or something equally specific and pedestrian, promised that the book would present a kind of philosophy, which it did. The Name Inspector was not disappointed.

In addition to nuggets of wisdom that can only come from experience, the book offered the kinds of useful checklists of ideas about which it’s easy to say “I could have thought of those myself”. But the thing about such ideas is, unless you actually do think of them at just the right times, they don’t do you any good. Ideas are tools, and they need to be right at your fingertips when you need them. If you have to tighten a bolt when you’re on the road, having a wrench in the toolbox at home doesn’t help. The Art of the Start makes you feel equipped.

Guy Kawasaki’s current blog is called How to Change the World. According to Guy, that’s also the planned title of his next book. This is a deceptively simple name. It combines the kind of grandiose message that’s typical of business books with the ubiquitous instructional formula “How to …”. But that combination is kind of clever and funny. Changing the world is something for which there should be no step-by-step instructions, but here’s a blog and a book promising just that.

Because the name How to Change the World has this almost imperceptibly odd juxtaposition, the mere act of interpreting it can cause a cognitive shift. Why? Well, we know that it’s intended to say “This is going to tell you, the reader, how to change the world”. Of course, many people don’t believe that they can change the world. Such people are bound to be a little suspicious and to look for some way to reconcile their own modest activities with the idea of changing the world. The shift occurs with the realization that all action changes the world, at least in some small way. That may take some of the awesome luster away from the idea of world-changing, but it also adds a special importance and dignity to the things we actually do. It makes a person want to take work seriously and do things right.

Another interesting thing about the name How to Change the World is that its audacity and optimism, while standard fare for business books, is actually pretty surprising in the context of blogs. Blog titles tend to be ironic, self-referential, self-deprecating, obtuse, or just silly. Blog titles often say “This blog is about nothing”, because a lot of blogs are about nothing. Blog titles often say “Don’t expect too much”, because a lot of people are ambitious enough to have blogs but not ambitious enough to try to get people to read them. How to Change the World really puts it out there.

The name How to Change the World projects the same kind of personality that Guy does in his writing. It’s optimistic without being simplistic, and, with its common monosyllabic words, it’s solid and friendly.

This entry was posted in Name Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *