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Reflections on Zeitgeist 2017

This article originally appeared on on Nov. 25, 2017.

The world moves quickly, and for those who don’t have infinite amounts of time to keep track of the groundbreaking innovations and advances unfolding across the globe, it can be hard to stay in the loop. Even with these difficulties, it’s essential to remain informed about the spirit of the age—the zeitgeist—in order to have a hand in shaping it.

That’s why Google hosts an annual conference for its top partners, appropriately titled Zeitgeist, where brilliant minds discuss some of the most important issues facing our collective society. Non-commercial in motivation and tone, I think of it as TED meets the World Economic Forum, Google style.

This year’s lineup of speakers was nothing short of spectacular. It included Executive Chairman of Alphabet and former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, as well as current Google CEO, Sundar Pichai; former Vice Presidents of the United States, Al Gore and Joe Biden; Ohio Governor and former presidential candidate, John Kasich; Salk Institute President and Nobel Laureate, Elizabeth Blackburn; actor Leslie Odom Jr.; Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code; and more. Video of remarks from many speakers is available on

Each year that I attend the conference, I’m inspired by the optimism and the passion that the speakers have when it comes to addressing the dire realities and daunting challenges of the world. In a room full of captains of industry, titans of politics, and veritable geniuses, it can be tempting to focus solely on the problems of massive scale facing the globe.

While that’s understandable, it’s important to remember the seemingly mundane issues that people are plugged into every day. After all, there are countless individuals without Nobel medals or vice-presidential experience who are passionate about affecting positive change in the world—what are they to do? Some advice for these men and women, as Gov. Kasich said from the stage, is to remember that small actions really matter. When we zero in on enormous and far-reaching issues like war or climate change, we tend to forget the fact that we all live in communities with problems that can benefit from our compassion and our attention as well.

In these seasons of reflection, with Thanksgiving just behind us, followed soon after by the Winter holidays and the New Year, I invite everyone to focus less on the size and scope of these immense problems and to find the avenue that will allow you to act out the change that you hope to see in the world.

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