You Personally Are What Is Wrong With This Country

…If you don’t go vote in local primary elections. Right now.

This may not be quite the ludicrous sentiment it seems.  Here’s why.

Primary elections have one of the smallest voter turnout of any electoral process, specifically if there aren’t during major elections cycles (i.e. the President).  So who does show up?  People who are extremely passionate about their politics… and often equally polarized in their opinions.

This creates a scenario where a candidate with moderate, rational views who is willing to see both sides of an issue is at a major disadvantage for winning a primary election because they don’t indulge these extreme demographics (of people who are guaranteed to actually vote).  Thus, because local primary election voter turnout is low, the candidates who end up ultimately representing their party on the ballet are very rarely a genuine representative of the people, but rather champions of the limited view of the few that actually show up to vote in the primaries.

This is where the downward spiral begins.  It generates extreme polarization at the polls where voters who are somewhat in that middle (which is… you know… most people) either end up casting their vote against one candidate they don’t like, vote straight ticket because it is easier than thinking, or just don’t end up voting at all because they don’t agree with either extreme.  And you know what?  These polarized groups depend on those in the middle to react that way.

Politicians know this, so they often have to be extreme in their promises to get elected… and then they have to be consistent in these extreme views throughout their term to stay in office.  How much of your mail right now consists of political propaganda stating that “This conservative senator that is currently running didn’t vote to the extreme on this one issue, so he must be stopped before he destroys America!  Visit http://www.GuessWhoIsActuallyACommunistSpy.com for more information on how awful they are!”

Because of this, both sides end up unwilling to work together on big national (or local) issues because they have to gain or maintain the approval of this tiny primary voting populace… and that’s the way this tiny voting populace prefers to keep it.  It gives them unwarranted power on an international scale just because they are willing to show up at somewhere at an appropriate time.  Unfortunately, this means there can be no compromise on finding a rational middle ground that is a more reasonable representation of the ideals of the general population.

National news stations know this to be true as well, and have evolved into pandering to extreme demographics because it earns more viewership, which brings in more advertising dollars.  This biased view of political news creates even more extremely polarized people, who are also more likely to vote… Meaning this problem is only going to get worse.

General apathy, lack of information, and “I’m too busy for democracy” has allowed extreme views to rise to authority… and, really, they’re all pretty terrible excuses for letting democracy fail.  Spend an hour Googling your local candidates – be it senator, judge, or anyone else – because their job is important and it will directly impact you more than the current SportsBall game or the newest episode of Zombie Prison Hero Show.  And then actually show up to vote in the primary elections.

If extremely polarized views still win the day, then great; at least they are a fair representation of what people actually want.  But stop being lazy.  Stop making excuses.  And vote in the most underrated, but often most important, part of democracy.  I’m not exposing some grand secret by letting you know that your vote actually does matter, particularly in a primary, even more so at a local level.

And guess what!  The state even makes it easy on you.  In Texas, you can vote at ANY polling station in your county (on your way to work, headed home, or even when just out getting tacos) during early voting (February 16 – February 26, 2016).  Or you can wait until the last minute and vote on March 1 at your designated polling station, which can be found at http://www.votetexas.gov/voting/where/ (along with other pertinent voting information).

Either way, you get a pretty rad sticker and earn the right to complain if things don’t turn out the way you think they should.  But… you might be surprised at how much of a difference a small group of people can make.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

 

Above image borrowed from The Economist article available at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21689543-marvel-jaw-dropping-spectacle-then-worry-american-politics-has-taken-dangerous

 

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Sports Ball Leadership Insights with That Guy From The 49ers

Book Review: “The Score Will Take Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh was the head coach and general manager of the 49ers in the early 80’s that took them from being in last place to winning the Super Bowl in 3 seasons.  I’m not the biggest sportsball fan, so I’m sure many of the anecdotes were lost on me, but it does a good job of bridging that by making sure the leadership principles discussed are fairly universal.

The books is pretty lengthy, so I decided to try the book-on-tape route to and from work as recommended by my cousin.  It took about a month of transit to get through, however there were a lot of really good insights.  A lot of it offers top down leadership advise on managing every aspect of an organization, so it’s a book I will likely re-read later in life when some of the ideas are more applicable to my level of responsibility and authority.

That being said, there is a through line of a micro-management style of leadership, which is not one that I personally am fond of, however I can appreciate how it was effecting in the context in which it was used.  It was interesting to get a very different perspective on leadership and it does offer great advice on setting goals, creating a plans and contingency plans, actively teaching, analyzing and evaluating strategies, having open communication, and adhering to a standard of excellence; some of which I will start incorporating in to my everyday life.  However, I could also see where someone could potentially read this book and justify a closed-minded approach to management without utilizing the aforementioned qualities, which is why I would might hesitate recommending it without a few caveats.

The title of the book comes from the idea that if you focus on continual improvement, attention to detail, and establishing high personal accountability, your team will eventually become so efficient that “the score will take care of itself”.  The book features a lot of different lists of ideas for surrounding different situations, however the predominant one is Walsh’s “Standard of Performance”.

  1. Ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Respect for everyone in the program and the work that he/she does.
  3. Be committed to learning.
  4. Demonstrate character and integrity.
  5. Honor the connection between details and improvement.
  6. Demonstrate loyalty.
  7. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  8. Put the team’s welfare ahead of my own.
  9. Maintain an abnormally high level of concentration and focus.
  10. Make sacrifice and commitment the organizations trademark.

 

It was more difficult to pull quotes from the audio book, but there were a few that really stood out (with a few more and additional commentary to be included in a follow up post).

“Few things offer greater return on less investment than praise.”

“Hearing someone described as being able to “Fly by the seat of his pants” always suggests to me a leader who hasn’t prepared properly and whose pants may soon fall down.”

“Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.”

“Your enthusiasm becomes their enthusiasm; your lukewarm presentation becomes their lukewarm interest in what you’re offering… When the audience is bored, it’s not their fault.”

“Victory is not always under your control… However, a resolute and resourceful leader understands that there are a multitude of means to increase the probability of success. And that’s what it all comes down to, namely, intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing in a competitive environment.”

 

 

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