Whether you are a leading figure within a movement, a member of an organization driving a movement, a pioneer spearheading a movement, or an innovator shaping, branding and transforming latent potential into a movement, there are always pitfalls to avoid. This article will cover three of them.
(1) Big fish, small pond.
If the majority of your disputes involve a small handful of people in a particular county or region, of whom nobody outside of that circle or area has ever heard of, does not know or interact with personally, and frankly, could not care less about, chances are you are suffering from the big fish, small pond syndrome. Don’t sabotage yourself with such a narrow scope, and don’t allow anyone, no matter what affection you have for them personally, derail your focus and diminish your perspective that way. Keep your eye on the bigger picture, pick your battles wisely, and scale your efforts to a larger playing field.
The beauty of a national movement is freedom from narrow geographic confines. Nobody who is part of it is going to be concerned with what a backbiting little clique in this town or that county thinks of you or says about you. What they will care about, are the priorities you actively demonstrate, by where you put your time and effort, and what you base your decisions upon.
When we get sucked into pouring our time, energy and focus into a small-potatoes skirmish, I guarantee that the majority, who exist outside that tiny pond, are not even remotely interested in it or in all the extra characters and tangled webs involved. Think of it as the real-world equivalent of reading those tedious passages in a Tolkien novel, where nearly half an entire chapter consists of elaborating in full detail the history and struggles of some random character passing through the shire, who ultimately plays no part whatsoever in the larger story and is never mentioned again.
Spending time and energy to micro-focus upon this sort of thing reeks of amateur hour and reflects poorly upon the merit and validity of your work. If you need to keep swimming in minnow ponds to feel like a shark, others are going to notice and lose interest.
(2) Resorting to conspiracy-mongering.
(a) Refuse all counsel with paranoia.
If you are tempted to feel that everyone is out to get you, reach for Occam’s razor and give yourself a thorough close shave. The most plausible explanation is nearly always the least complicated one. In practical terms, this often translates into the explanation that requires the least number of additional explanations to make it plausible.
Is it more reasonable to conclude “Satan himself” targeted Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, trying to “ruin their ministry” — or that they exercised poor judgment, violated the standards they claimed to uphold, and got caught red-handed reaching into the cookie jar? Likewise, if someone goes three months without electricity and spins wild tales about government agencies running “ops” against them, which is more likely – that intelligence agencies focused their sights upon one ordinary working-class household? or that perhaps someone engaged in irresponsible behavior, fell behind on paying the bills, maybe lied to the wife and kids about it, and is now embarrassed to admit the truth?
Precious few of us, even among the most brazenly outspoken New Right headliners, will ever attract direct attention from government intelligence agencies, let alone warrant invasive maneuvers of siege-at-Waco intensity. Not to mention, if anything of that nature does actually take place, as it did at Waco, the whole nation will swiftly get the memo through every newspaper, radio and television across the country.
Delusions of this caliber not only wave a red flag indicating mental instability, but also flash an embarrassingly vivid, neon sign that someone shops his own bullshit outlet on discount, and cannot get over himself. It is one thing to be the hero of your own story, or even a legend in your own mind; it is quite another to insist that everyone else cash their reality checks at the same bank, so to speak.
The purpose served by wallowing in these delusions becomes glaringly apparent when every disagreement with an opinion prompts cries of a “cointelpro” scheme in progress, or every dispute or challenge gets narrated as the CIA, the devil, or the reptilians going after our “hero” personally to discredit him. When every hardship or setback a person struggles through gets woven into fantastical pulp fiction about “dodging the feds” and “spooks” spying on his home, hacking his electronic devices through a nearby cell tower, rational people who are not gullible notice the pattern. They may humor you to avoid having to deal with it, but mark my words, nobody’s buying it.
Those who resort to assuming or imagining bogeymen under every rock, or invoking bogeymen every time things don’t go their way, end up looking pretty ridiculous, if not mentally unstable and clinically certifiable. Nobody likes to be played for a fool; nobody wants to board a crazy train to get taken for a ride. Not only should we avoid all temptation to go off the rails ourselves, we should also observe the utmost caution in any association with those who do.
(b) Curb any addiction to drama or the exotic.
Once or twice in a lifetime, truth really can be “stranger than fiction.” Yet more often than not, the actual truth of a matter proves significantly duller than the enticing stories people invent to make their own experiences feel more exciting, or lend an appearance of weight and credibility to their outlandish arguments.
Take a walk in the desert, gaze at the stars, consider the span of human history, and then contemplate the age of the entire universe. On the grand scale, we just don’t matter that much, nor does anyone we know. By all means, we should fight anyway, act anyway, fulfill our passions, live large and make history anyway, but we should not swell our egos out of our britches. However vital we know or believe our work to be, the whole world is not watching.
Even 100,000 views on YouTube is only a tiny handful of the world’s population — roughly 0.14%. That leaves 99.86% of the world population who either never have heard of us or do not care that we exist. When we are dust beneath the ground the world will still be turning, and long after our sun supernovas and swallows it whole there will still be an infinite number of whirling, massive galaxies full of other suns. Some of these will even have worlds turning around them and histories being made on those worlds by species with nary a clue we ever lived or died at all.
Weaving that awareness into the foundation of our perspective may indeed feel gloomy and diminishing at first, but there is no better investment in the retention of a sane and balanced perspective. It guarantees a consistent yield and reliable return over time. It is perhaps the only thing literally “too big to fail.” When the drama escalates — and it will, if you are dealing with human egos on a daily basis, or if you attempt to move the world in any direction — this reality put things into perspective.
Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction sometimes, but more often than not it’s duller by comparison, less titillating, and definitely less inclined to flatter or support our sense of self-importance.
(c) Feelings do not constitute material fact.
We all have times where we feel like someone is “out to get” us when in reality, they simply disagree with our position or just don’t care what we are doing. It is a blow to the ego when we feel disregarded, and it feels much more satisfying to imagine we are being persecuted rather than ignored, or that someone else’s negative response is because we are a “threat” rather than a nuisance. We may feel betrayed, sold out, or “thrown under a bus” when someone lets us down, fails to live up to our expectations, does not prioritize us as we feel we deserve, or exercises freedom of association in ways that made us cringe.
It can be very difficult to manage those emotional reactions, separate feeling from fact, and remain objective about the situations triggering them. Yet our failure to do so can lead to hasty reactions and decisions which make things worse than the original situation itself. At such times, it is helpful to remember the simple truth that people are not perfect. Even the best-intentioned people who hold to the highest principles can mess up, make a mistake, pull a wrong move, make a poor choice – and that includes ourselves. There is no shame in being imperfect. The only shame is in not striving for excellence in all things, and thinking so highly of ourselves that we refuse to admit our “poop” stinks just as much as anyone else’s.
We also do well to keep in mind the sheer logistics involved. Other people generally don’t have enough time on their hands, let alone a panel of experts to advise them precisely on how to use it, to mastermind some maximum sabotage or disruption against us personally. Even organized groups dedicated to such nefarious efforts, like the antifa or BAMN, are still composed of individuals with limits on their time and their own personal needs to attend.
It is not unreasonable to suppose we have real enemies eager for any opportunity to take a swing, literally or figuratively, who will try to set us up or orchestrate our downfall if they can. Yet when we start seeing demons, bogeys or conspiracies behind every problem and setback, it may be time to consider whether our personal radar suffers the insidious taint of paranoid thinking. Most people are just too busy dealing with their own problems, managing their own time, and pursuing their own goals, to stay up all night plotting new ways to annoy or unsettle us, and will happily go about their business if we don’t stir tempests of irrational dot-connecting in their teapots.
(3) Letting others determine our agenda
(a) On managing conflicting loyalties
There are professional loyalties and there are personal loyalties. Confusing or conflating the two can become a recipe for disaster. Keeping them separated aids tremendously toward making smart decisions and filtering between fact and feeling.
Successful leaders typically segregate friendships from professional associations, for one simple reason: personal ties and affections make it very difficult to remain objective in any situation or dispute involving the object thereof. Friends who make great business partners, and business partners who become fast friends, tend to be the exception rather than the rule. To successfully occupy both roles simultaneously, one must heavily segregate and compartmentalize the two. Most people find that practice much more difficult to sustain than it sounds.
Choose and cultivate the kind of friends who can respect the importance of prioritizing the movement, your organization, and your role therein. Such friends recognize the obligation to discharge duty well and the wisdom in maintaining strong alliances for the benefit of long-term goals. It is far easier to explain to your buddies the reasons for tough decisions with the good of the movement in mind than it will ever be to ask the movement, and your fellow soldiers therein, to understand or forgive poor decisions made because of pressure from your pals.
(b) The company we keep
We have all heard moral platitudes about the importance of choosing our associations wisely. Unwise associations can erode sound judgment, muddy our resolve, compromise upright conduct, and subtly diminish our presence and performance over time. We may end up with chronic burnout, or find ourselves repeatedly fending off attempts at character assassination, as a result.
Maintaining friendships with people who coddle their own less desirable traits of character generates an inordinate amount of stress and take a hard toll on our energy levels. Those given to paranoia, those who become high maintenance or need continual reassurance, those prone to flying off the handle and burning bridges at the first sign of conflict or differences, those easily triggered who cannot de-escalate themselves, those who want to bend our ear with gossip or make us a tug-o-war prize in their disputes with someone else – all these classic “types” and more create a continual drain on our reserves and resilience. In addition to managing our own feelings and reactions, working on ourselves to stay calm when things heat up, we end up having to triage their reactions as well, or do damage control afterwards.
The company we keep need not always share every opinion or viewpoint we cherish, or always see things our way. Yet they should be mature adults who know how to pull their own weight, how to “play well with others,” and when enough is enough. They should bring their own substance and initiative to the table yet not view taking direction in collaboration with peers as beneath them somehow, nor seek to leverage what others have built as a vehicle to promote their own private agenda. They should be resolved upon any childhood issues with authority, able to respect the responsibilities others carry, and not the sort to seize upon any opportunity for privilege or position as a blank check to push other people around or secure personal advantages at the expense of shared goals, principles and values.
With such company, misunderstandings become opportunities to achieve clarity. Differences of opinion become ad hoc educational seminars. Disputes yield an invitation to achieve excellence together. Without such company, even complete agreement on all points of view can disintegrate into clashing egos, splintering cults of personality, infighting and ruin.
Being an effective leader is no easy task. Being an effective leader who is well-respected by your peers and foot-soldiers, while launching a revolutionary movement against entrenched forces in this world, presents even more challenges. Assiduously avoiding these three major pitfalls can greatly increase your chance of success in that endeavor.