I am a simple country boy from Colorado. But I learned a thing or two on the farm. And over twenty years of winning political battles.
I learned that hard work is usually the difference between winning and losing.
Successful campaigns aren’t made of magic; rather they are built with hard work and discipline. In campaigns (just like real life) there will be times when you make mistakes, face somebody smarter or slicker than you, opposition with more money, experience or a better-connected family. That’s life – there’s not much you can do about those circumstances.
But you can control your effort. You can plan more, work harder, and be willing to do the little things – the tasks no one else is willing to do. It makes the difference.
After hard work, you must have attitude and be enthusiastic about your campaign or issue. You will not win if you do not believe you can – and should – win. Among political insiders today, it’s fashionable to be a critic, to focus on blame and failure. They revel in telling you why something can’t be done or pointing out mistakes. Finding a way to get it done takes brains and guts. Too many people in politics don’t have enough of either.
My grandfather once told me, “riding the fence will give a fella a mighty sore crotch” – that was his colorful way of saying “make a decision.” It takes courage to make a quick decision. It takes judgment to make a good one. In politics, you need both.
If you believe you can win, make good decisions and work hard, you still need a plan. You must know where you are, where you’re going, and the figure out how to get there. It is all about numbers. Pundits talk about “strategic development and quantifiable objectives,” – that’s just a fancy way of saying: “make a plan and measure progress.” Whenever possible, keep it simple.
Finally, there is loyalty. Cynics and pessimists think loyalty is outdated, that compromising principles, pandering, switching sides or "pivoting" is the way to get ahead. But I believe that a good team will beat a good individual almost every time. And teams don’t work without trust and loyalty. And real loyalty is a two-way street, that’s why it works.
Hard work. Enthusiasm. Judgment. Planning. Loyalty.
A strong hand has five parts (fingers) that must work together to be effective – a strong philosophy does too. And that’s what you get when I shake your hand and commit to your organization, issue or campaign.