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Seven Days Post-Election

Tom Sullivan

November 15, 2016
Tom Sullivan

Deciding What the Future Holds

 

The election is over and so is the most divisive political campaign in modern history. That’s a good thing.  I am not saying I am happy about the outcome, but that’s not the point. In the last seven days I have had many conversations with family, friends and business associates and I am sensing a lot of anxiety.  The question becomes – how do we deal with this palpable anxiety?

 

In the first 48 hours after the election, the most common reactions were surprise, shock and disbelief. That is in contrast to the first 48 hours after the 2008 election. Democrats and Republicans alike were proud of our democracy. They were able celebrate the election of the first African American president despite differences in philosophies.  In 2016, we have not witnessed a unified or celebratory reaction. This is not surprising in the wake of a year of divisive political rhetoric on both sides.

 

In more recent days, I sense lingering unhappiness, concern and anxiety about what this election revealed about the division of the political and world views of Americans and what the future holds for our country. What direction are we moving in?  What is the strategy for improving opportunities for all Americans, while strengthening our nation’s ability to lead compassionately in an aching and dangerous world?

 

To help people deal with these anxieties, I have been sharing advice around one general theme: take your mind off Washington by getting actively involved in something local where you can make a positive and lasting impact.  Getting involved and making a contribution is a healthy way of living as a human being.  Working with others to accomplish something transforms us from victims or passive observers into active participants and agents of change. While the work is hard and the results are not quickly evident, we ourselves are changed by the process of working with others who may be different from us demographically or politically, but who share the same goals.

 

So where do you begin? Here are some guidelines for thinking about how to get involved:

 

  1. Identify the intersection of the issues you care most about and your ability to make a commitment to an on-going contribution at the local level.
  2. Identify one cause that you can get behind and research the best existing organizations you can work with to multiply positive impact.
  3. Share your idea with your family, friends and business associates. Get their advice and support before you jump in. Not doing so will threaten your ability to sustain your efforts over time.
  4. Take the first step. This can be scary because inertia is hard to overcome. You can overcome that inertia if you have a family, friend or colleague willing to take that first step with you.
  5. Be humble and helpful when you engage with others who are already engaged in the cause you seek to assist. Ask questions, offer assistance and recognize that you will be more effective if your primary strategy is to build trusting relationships. Doing so will expose others to your talents and enable them to enlist you more effectively.

 

These five points of advice come from personal experience.  Over the years I have sought out ways to use our small company as an agent of change. We have been that agent for Special Olympics New Jersey, Homefront, The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, The Boys and Girls Club, and Activity Works. The major causes, organizations and initiatives we have embraced since 1990 have all addressed a combination of issues that I’ll call the Trifecta Principle. You can apply this principle to your own goals and personal engagement strategy.

 

The Trifecta Principle:

The achievement of a sustainable societal goal must be driven by:

  • one focused mission
  • an integrated or holistic strategy that addresses root causes
  • inspiring stories of human collaboration and achievement supported by measurable impact across a population of people

 

Here’s an example for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mercer County. We served for three years as the brand strategists and marketing campaign resource for their capital campaign, which doubled their footprint and their impact.

 

  • The mission of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mercer County is to enable all young people, especially those in greatest need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.
  • The strategy is to attract and engage children and teens with fun and interest-based programs that connect them in mentoring relationships and support their academic and social achievement to prepare them for a positive future.
  • The impact is incredible. Beyond the many inspiring stories of human collaboration and achievement, Boys and Girls Club seniors have a 99 percent high school graduation rate or double the rate of their peers in Trenton, New Jersey.

 

So, let’s focus on the positive messages we have heard from President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the last week. Rather than turning inward, let’s turn outward and connect with others to contribute.  We are not powerless in shaping our future; after all, we are Americans.