Things I learned from battling the government

I am usually not one to get involved in politics. In all honesty, November 2008 was the first time I set foot in a voter booth. My entire career has revolved around the design and message behind marketing and advertising and to me, politics always seemed like one more big ad campaign.

So when the topic of getting involved in the battle against the Advertising Tax came up, my game plan included letting those that knew what they were doing… do it. Really, I didn’t know what to do or how to do it – heck I didn’t even know where to find out how to get started. So, I really had no intention of getting involved although I did offer “let me know how I can help”.

For months local networking groups would casually bring up the topic “start talking with your reps”. I never did. I had no idea how that worked. What would I say? How could I interrupt this seemingly important person in the middle of their busy day to talk about a hypothetical? I’m just one me and I really don’t know all that much.

That was prior to last week.

Yesterday, after a mindbogglingly fast week of blindly battling for affiliates to keep their jobs in Colorado, I realized how much we did and how little it really took.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. The easy part was common sense. I had previously over thought the process and over complicated my involvement, however when one has to think on the fly… it’s amazing how many of the complexities disappear. It’s that fight or flight mentality – we only see what’s necessary.

So here are a few things I learned through it all, and maybe in my seat of my pants flying, you might be more prepared if and when a similar bill hits your front door.

Legislators are people too – they also have families and lives outside the government. They bleed, they get hungry, they even have to pee from time to time. Remember this when you talk to them. Talk to them on a people level not a fancy schmancy business level. Their job is to help the people they represent, remember them you are one of those people.

Don’t be afraid to speak up – the people you need to talk to are really just human and the worst thing they can do is ignore you. If they really do tune you out, who cares? They weren’t listening to you before you started talking anyway.

Don’t sit on the side lines – watching it all happen because you aren’t sure where you can help does nothing for the cause. Also, just because you aren’t directly affected, doesn’t mean your voice isn’t valued, important or better yet helpful. Get involved at some level. Reach out to others that can help guide you in a direction you can do some good… even people that aren’t locally affected might have advice you can use. Jump in because the more that voice the same message, the louder that message becomes.

Find a unified voice – it’s fantastic for every single person to get involved, however if every single person is shouting something different, no one is heard. Try to find a single connector or message or central point and help spread the message among all those involved to join that angle.

Too many chiefs are bad – no chiefs is worse – If too many people are trying to take a lead, find one that moves forward… don’t try to fight to become a leader yourself. These kinds of battles are no time to argue amongst yourselves or be soft skinned due to opinion differences. Look for the leaders in the group and jump in with whatever you have to help. If you find no one is truly leading, grab the reins and push forward. Sometimes you’ll find a few groups unified amongst themselves but not talking/working directly with each other… this might be a good place to jump in and connect the dots.

If you are feeling burnt out ask for encouragement – don’t sit and wait for something to pump you up but do try to recognize that you are losing sight of the positive goal. Build up a support group where you help each other stay on task and focused on the outcome you want and don’t let the frustrations cloud your view. I often found myself talking to out-of-state collegues for extra support. Although those that were literally standing side by side were great to have near, the out of the direct line of fire friends were invaluable to my remembering our potential.

We all have knowledge and expertise. I’ve heard it from others but didn’t really believe it myself until this past week. I was in a state of turmoil and distress (to a certain degree) and I didn’t have time to stop and second guess myself. Every day should be a day we don’t second guess ourselves. We really do know what is best for us and we really do need to listen to that little voice inside our heads… even if it does like to hum funny little ditties when we’re trying to be serious. Believe in yourself – you should be your biggest fan and you’re the only you that you have.