I am not a fan of politics. I don't attend political rallies. I don’t watch C-Span. I never donate to political campaigns. When I first registered to vote as an idealistic 18-year old, I registered as an independent -- my personal protest against both campaign financing and partisan politics that skew our governance at every level. I was a bit of an aspiring zealot at the time. I have since joined an actual party. But I still find it all rather distasteful.
Occasionally I have permitted political vapors to infiltrate my world. I once hosted a fundraising party in my backyard. OK, I didn't host it; I provided the venue by offering up my new deck that I wanted to christen. I once planted a state Senatorial race election sign in my front yard. OK, it was for Hank the Cat, a fundraising campaign cleverly designed to benefit a network of animal welfare organizations. And there was that time that I worked for the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy. But I never worked on his campaign. I joined the staff post-election to serve on the neighborhood policy team with the mission of promoting more productive community engagement in prioritizing and partnering for better delivery of city services. That's just good government.
I also took not one but 2 courses on political rhetoric in my undergraduate days. Ted Windt was a fantastic professor who taught one of the most popular courses at the University of Pittsburgh – Presidential Rhetoric I & II. I majored in Public Administration but minored in Organizational and Political Communication so this wasn't just for fun. I had fun anyway. Professor Windt had a way of delivering lectures through his own unique rhetorical style with tell-it-like-it is honesty and a healthy dose of contextual perspective in both style and message. To my surprise, I was occasionally inspired by a few political pearls of wisdom presented in the prose of Presidential speeches. He was lecturing about the rhetoric of Presidents in the civil rights era, after all. I am kind of a fan of civil rights.
Today I found myself reading a short article on a local candidate for city office, Roger Wilson. A former consultant turned Frederick County public servant has launched his campaign for a spot on the 5-person Board of Alderman for the City of Frederick. I don't know much about him, but I must say that I liked the messages, yes, rhetoric, that came through in the article. One message in particular stood out for me.
"There are three things, I think, you just can't get back: time, words and opportunity," he said of his decision to commit his life to public service and to live a meaningful life with purpose, not regret. I still don't like politics. But I can appreciate a good campaign quote. Time. Words. Opportunity. Yep, Mr. Wilson is right, these are three things that, if misused or wasted, can lead to regret. So, how do we avoid that?
Time in Tiny Increments. Always be in a state of making progress, no matter how small. It's incremental change over time that actually results in fundamental changes to your leadership, your organization -- and our society. Fellow procrastinators and perfectionists, I am talking to you! Stop waiting for the right time or the ideal solution. Make small progress toward something important every single day creating perpetual motion toward a goal. Then no day is ever wasted.
Words Matter More than you Think. I am a casual student of the relationship of human behavior and communication. Maybe because I occasionally put my proverbial foot in my mouth with force great enough to loosen a few teeth. Rhetoric. Strategic narrative. Neurolinguistics. Take a class or workshop in something that increases your knowledge of and skills in using language to influence people. When you become more aware of the power of words, you elevate your awareness of your impact on others and can use words more thoughtfully. (Yes, I said it – use your words!)
Buffet of Opportunities. Some of us see way too many opportunities and need a little assistance to focus on just a few at a time. While others are so focused on the day-to-day that they need a little assistance recognizing the wealth of possibilities that surround them. Hire a coach. (Hey! I'm a coach!) Request a mentor. Just a few productive conversations are probably enough to help you make good choices about a vast array of opportunities.
OK, so politics isn't all bad.