Against The Odds

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Last cycle, I had a potential client who was considering a run for local office. Someone had told him that he would need to meet with local party muckety mucks, and other people he thought of as influence-brokers.

This wasn’t to tell them he was running for office, but to seek their approval. He had this idea in his head that if they didn’t support him, he couldn’t organize and run a successful campaign — he’d be working against the established local power-base and it seemed intimidating, overwhelming, and futile. The odds, he told me, were stacked against him.

This kind of “we’re beaten before we even start” attitude is hard to overcome. Remember in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Han, Leia, and C-3PO are trying to outrun the bad guys through an asteroid field? C-3PO (we’re really getting dorky here) does the calculations and tells Han how much of a longshot this effort is. Han famously retorts with “Never tell me the odds.”

It’s an odd sentiment to value; you don’t want to be completely ignorant of risk when you make as big an investment as running for office: it requires an incredible commitment in time, money, effort, lost sleep, relationship compromises, and more. But Han Solo isn’t ignoring the obviously difficult task ahead of him — he wants to keep his mental state positive, and free from the conflict pollution created by knowing that it’s gonna be tough. He knows that if anyone can do it, he can, so he needs to try, odds be damned.

The odds will always be against you if you let them. Some obstacle will always be a probably-good-enough-excuse for you to quit before you even start. The question is whether you want to be a passionate thought-leader ready to disrupt the political establishment or just someone else who decided running for office would be too tough. One of these is a viable brand, and the other is a toxic, self-defeating mentality that is more self-fulfilling prophecy than anything.

When she ran for state delegate in Baltimore City, (now Delegate) Brooke Lierman, a civil-rights attorney and community organizer, just got out there and did it.

“I just organized myself and got out there and starting talking to people,” said Delegate Lierman, “I talked to community leaders, families, and Baltimore City residents every day. Those are the people who matter.”

Waiting for the stars to align is rarely, if ever, practical. Your moment is your moment because you make it so. Delegate Lierman had a goal. Any opening she saw was going to be her chance. The odds were irrelevant, because she knew she could do it.

One of these is a viable brand, and the other is a toxic, self-defeating mentality that is more self-fulfilling prophecy than anything.

If you can get five people to believe in your message, you can get fifty. If you can get fifty, you can get five hundred. The name of the game then shouldn’t be “waiting patiently for the right moment, and the right people” but instead “organizing your thoughts and values into a platform that people can rally behind” (which, not coincidentally, is what we’ll discuss next time).

Patience is valuable, but at some point it ceases to be patience and becomes procrastination.