Forget Everything You Know and Do This
Ok, let’s agree on one thing first. The world is pretty fucked up right now.
Sure, there are lots of really cool things. We’ve got the internet, which is pretty rad.
I’ve got a phone that I can unfold and turn into a tablet. Damn!
And yet, it sure feels like everything is burning down around me. I have absolutely no faith in the US government to hold things together. All I see is more and more fighting between the two sides while things tend to get worse for the people at the bottom. You know, most people. So, it kinda feels like we’re sitting on a powder keg, ready for things to blow at any time.
So what’s a guy to do?
I’ve been studying change for a long time now. I wanted to understand what brings lasting change to the world. I’m building a startup, so change is something that I need if I ever want to be successful. I need to understand why people adopt products, why they change their habits, and what ways I can improve my users’ lives. That’s how lasting change can start with a company. You improve the lives of your users, and you can build a company that ends up making a difference.
So why doesn’t politics follow that pattern? Sure seems like it should. And yet, it seems to be the opposite.
And that has led me to a realization. If you want to enact change, here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Stop Donating to Politicians
Watching how much money politicians raise and the results they promise versus what they deliver has shown me something.
At best, politicians are inept and at worst, they are grifters. They collect a ton of money. Where does it go? It pays their expenses, it buys yard signs, it pays for attack ads, who knows where else? But where should it be going? Let’s look at it from first principles.
As a politician in a democracy, there should be 2 main goals: understanding what the constituents in the area you represent want and need, and making it happen.
Here’s the problem with the money: that money goes to political parties. So there ends up being a lot of coordination between different areas so they can work on controlling the biggest piece of the country. So if you donate to a local politician, it’s likely that at least part of that is going somewhere else. And then there is pressure from a political party on local politicians to conform to party lines or else they won’t get backed. All of this money flowing into different areas of the country is driven by people who don’t understand the people who live there. So instead of fixing problems, they attempt to drive outrage. If you get peoples’ emotions up, you can achieve the outcomes you want. And that’s why we end up so divided.
So instead of contributing to that division, contribute to a solution instead. Donate to a charity or group that is actually getting results. That’s going to be a much better use of your money. Hell, donate to an individual person who needs it. The economy is really skewed right now and there are a lot of people who need help. Make a real impact on someone’s life.
Step 2: Be The Solution You Want To See
Ok, so you’ve stopped donating to politicians. That was pretty easy, wasn’t it?
Now it’s going to get a little harder. Now it’s time to start doing something. We tend to be on overload a lot, because we are getting slammed by news from all over the country, all over the world at all times. There are so many problems, we become overwhelmed and it’s super easy to throw your hands up and just give up. Don’t do that.
Instead, pick a single issue that you care about the most. It’s probably something that impacts you directly.
Remember, there are a lot of people out there trying to keep you outraged about everything. They do that because people who are overloaded are easier to control. They’ve figured out that this is the best way for them to build a unified group that they can mobilize. The problem is that this is happening from all sides. And so everyone is just flying around in highly emotional states. And that’s a good recipe for a powder keg.
So instead of letting yourself get outraged at everything, pick just one thing. It’s the problem you are going to work on solving. Here’s the secret that you need to know: you are more powerful than you realize. That’s why there is a focus on keeping you outraged: when you’re outraged, you can’t access that power. So it’s time to tap into it. So take a deep breath, and move on to the next step when you are ready to tap into that power.
Step 3: Unleash Your Potential
Ok, now it’s time. Step into your role as a catalyst of change and make it happen.
There are two things that you need to really bring about big changes: data and organization. And the internet gives us the ability to do both easily and at scale. So it’s time to use it to do so.
Most people are using social media to share their latest meal or their latest outrage. You’re going to use it to make things happen.
Let’s start with data: one of the biggest issues politicians have is that they can’t predict how people will vote because different people care about different issues and certain issues make people more likely to vote one way or the other. So they try to constantly say what they think will resonate with the most people. And the national parties like to put together a platform that sounds good to the most people that they think might vote for them. Whether or not they actually do anything in those platforms is something else entirely.
Remember: the goal of politics isn’t to change anything. It’s to get elected.
So you need to start collecting data on three main things.
- Who else cares about the problem you are working on. This will be really important for the organization part of things.
- Who’s actually working on solutions to the problems. It’s really tough to figure out who’s solving problems at the national level, so start with who’s making a difference locally.
- What the people working on solutions need. When you find out who’s working on solutions, it’s usually really easy to find out what they need. Hell, ask them.
Ok, so you’ve got a bunch of data. It doesn’t need to be in a database or anything fancy. A spreadsheet or Google doc is fine.
Cool, so now it’s time to move on to part two: organization.
I’m going to let you in on another little secret: almost every problem is a problem of how to best organize people. And this is because we end up trying to organize large groups of people. But I’ve noticed that the Law of Diminishing Returns ends up playing a big role in trying to get large groups of people to do anything. You end up with so many layers of management to help keep everything working together in some semblance of working order that the overhead needed ends up dropping the efficiency of large groups to a point that it’s much better to work in smaller groups.
You’ll be shocked at what you can accomplish with 10 people who want to change something. The internet/technology lets us accomplish incredible things with minimal inputs. Use the leverage that technology gives you to achieve outsized outcomes. That’s why you found a group of people in step 1 of your data collection. This is the group you are going to organize. What you’ll find is that people have a bunch of different skills that they can apply to a solution. So as you start figuring out which groups need which skills, the people you are working with will volunteer for the things they can do.
People who are motivated will mostly self-organize. You don’t need to have special project management skills. Most management skills are trying to get people who don’t give a shit organized enough to achieve an outcome that disproportionately helps a small group at the top. A group of people who care won’t need much management.
So now you’ve got some data and a small group of people that you’ve organized. What next?
Step 4: Share the Data
Ok, so you remember earlier when I told you that one of the hardest things that politicians have to do is figure out who’s most likely to vote due to what issue?
This is where you can make a big difference. Share the data you’ve collected with the politicians that:
- You will be voting for (depending on how spread out your group is, this might be several politicians across different levels of government)
- You think will actually make a difference on the issues you care the most about.
- Actually do what they say they will. Hold them accountable. And if they aren’t doing what they say they will, tell them. Let them know where your votes will go if they don’t start acting the way you expect.
Because here’s where most of the money goes: it goes to guessing. Projections, media spots, analysis, whatever they can get.
Do you know what’s better? Actual data. Actual voters. And once you start opening up these lines of communication, you can then start working on gathering others into your group. People who care. People who will be voting.
It won’t take much effort. Talk with people on social media. Figure out a little info. Validate that they are registered voters. Help them register if they aren’t.
Money can’t compete with that. Start locally. Local elections have the most impact and can be most immediately changed. Find the people who care and work with them. Ignore the outrage machines that are acting against you. Validate the people who are local and work with them.
And pay attention. Make sure they are doing what they say they will. Share what they are doing. If they are doing well and doing what they say they will, amplify it! Let the rest of the world know. Especially the people in your group and the others you’ve talked to.
We rely too much on news and media to tell us what we need to know. But there is so much going on and they are competing to be heard, so they are fighting for attention, not to hold people accountable. They’ll focus on what gets views: the outrage.
I know first-hand what kind of views outrage can get you. But I’ve also found out that trusted views are worth 100x. Build trust. Share what’s important. Hold your leaders accountable.
And if they aren’t doing what they say they will? Share that too! Amplify it! Let the people around you know. By building up trust and consistently focusing on a specific group of people, you won’t need to compete for attention. You’ll just need to share the info that needs known.
And the outrage machines will spin themselves out while you are actually accomplishing things.
And then, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve made more progress than you can ever imagine.
- Stop donating to politicians. They don’t need your money.
- Be the solution you want to see. Focus on one main issue that you can work on a solution to.
- Unleash your potential. Collect data and organize people.
- Share the data. Don’t make politicians guess. Tell them what matters and hold them accountable.
There’s a lot of money in politics right now. And as an average person, you can’t compete on the money part. Large companies and wealthy individuals can pour more money than you can imagine into races all over the country. So you’ve got to play a game you can win: the elections. Companies don’t get to vote. You need people on your side. Money controls opinions based on the media. So you’ve got to collect data and be your own media, but trusted media. Build trust, organize, get results.
That’s the secret you need to change the world. You’ve got the power.
Now go out and use it.