Going All Out
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
I’ve been trying to sort something for two days – and I finally figured it out.
I don’t think I’ve been going all out on this effort I’ve been growing to Shift the Country.
It’s a bit absurd to say that. Those who have seen the state of my personal life in the offline world might disagree. I mean… I’m pretty damn far in. Pretty far. There are impacts.
But something’s been missing. I haven’t known what. There’s been a bit of paralysis. Overwhelm. That’s fair – and makes sense. It's a big mission to build a unique Super PAC to help Shift the Country to the left in rural areas fusing engagement, persuasion, and amplification.
I think what’s missing is that I haven’t gone all out.
There are some uncomfortable things to be done – and I’ve not yet done them. They could be the difference to really getting this thing off the ground.
It's Not New
I’ve gone all out before. It’s intense to live that way, and it’s not super sustainable long term. Most of the time, you don’t need to go totally all-out to get stuff to work.
I went all-out in my last full-time job before I leapt into entrepreneur-ing. The job was this crazy thing where we were upgrading the emergency notification system (ENS) for the whole Washington, DC area – 18 different jurisdictions with 75 portals, serving 5.5 million citizens and also all of the first responders in the whole metro area. We moved the ENS from locally hosted technology to a cloud-based system. I’ll stop there because to non-tech folks this kind of talk probably sounds like sports-talk sounds to me: like the Peanuts cartoon teacher. Waa wa waa waa waaaa wa wa waaa.
Our team was successful though. The new ENS is in place in the National Capital Region. It works. It’s doing public safety stuff every day, and it’s pretty freaking cool… if I do say so myself.
I’ve gone all out on some other stuff, too. I went all out on becoming a park ranger… until I learned about wildland firefighting. Then I went all out to get wildland firefighter training and experience. Which went pretty well. Until I went all out to get onto a hotshot crew – but *not* all out to *succeed* on a hotshot crew. They’re different things. More life “learning opportunities,” we could say.
There was something I chose not to go all-out on. Deliberately.
It was whistleblowing. Fits to mention this today. It was for a major post-9/11 program called the National Incident Management System (NIMS). I whistle-blew that thing for two years, but I didn’t go all out. There were reasons. One is that I felt like I needed to maintain my Top Secret / SCI clearance for some reason, and later I did get a job where I needed it. Another reason I didn’t go all out on the whistleblowing is that I didn’t want to highlight our vulnerabilities for the terrorists. So they could see where our weak spots were. I used to stand across the street from the Washington Post building and debate telling them the NIMS story. Could never bring myself to do it. Had a burn phone too so I could try it that way if needed. As with any set of plans, there were many paths and contingencies. Not all of them were activated.
When I started whistleblowing, a very high-up Washington insider who I will not say more about had some sage advice. He said the only way to make something change in Washington, DC is to make it really, really messy and uncomfortable. To raise a fuss. A total ruckus. To make it extremely uncomfortable for change to *not* happen. So I knew that up front. I knew that that was probably what it would take to make the change I was seeking. I also knew I didn’t have the resilience, the reserves, the funding, the security, or the bandwidth to make that level of fuss happen Yet I needed to fight the fight anyway, and so I did. It was frustrating, but I knew where my lanes were – and I stayed within them. I survived the experience; job intact. I even managed to get my clearance renewed, and to stay in the national security world.
And while I didn’t go all out when I was whistleblowing the NIMS – I did go all out to help build it in the first place.
Left my career in fire; took a pay cut; moved myself to Washington before the work even existed. Found my way to it; found my way in. Figured out it was a mess as soon as I walked in the door, but worked to build it anyway. Tried to turn it around as it went downhill. Tracked it to the ends of the department (of homeland security) before I left – even after I stopped whistleblowing. Exhausted all the leads. Tracked down every point of light. No one else has walked that path for that fight. I did. Because I did what I did, I can live with myself here 18 – EIGHTEEN – years after 9/11.
That’s going all out. I know how to do that.
Which brings me to today. Here we are on September 11, 2019, and our national security is being put at risk by our own president, and by the republican party. They’re actively endangering lives and health and safety. They’re not even serving the citizens they’re elected to help. They’re serving themselves.
We have such an opportunity to Shift the Country. To reach out to rural Americans in rural cities and small towns – and to engage them in ways that campaigns have not engaged them before. There is innovative, cutting-edge work that can be done; work that builds on the incredible efforts that have gotten us this far.
I’d like to be able to dedicate my time to the effort to Shift the Country full-time. So the work to make shift happen gets full-time attention to get it rolling. It’s sociology; leveraging the power of community and connection. The sooner it starts... the more impact it can have.
To make this work, we’re going to need fundraising, resilience, reserves, security, planning, project management, technology, and good people. Most of those things are in place. Resilience is diminished because reserves are depleted; funding is still at the seed stage so growth is slow.
Since launching on August 9, Shift the Country PAC has raised a total of $715. I’m grateful for all of it. Every dollar has helped me inch this movement along. There’s not enough funding to make a living doing this yet, or to grow it by leaps and bounds. We can get there though.
So: next is a HUGE push. A push for enough funding for at least one person to work this full-time for a month or two while we seriously ramp this thing up and get to the next phase. The website has more on what we’re doing, and details on where the money would be spent.
For me, to make this shift happen – I’ve got to dig deeper. I’ve got to do the super uncomfortable.
The way you start raising money for a campaign is you start with the people you know.
It’s crowdfunding. The presidential campaigns are raising millions like $10 or $50 at a time - so we know people are willing to put money into this fight. It's the same fight. I’m hoping that if I reach out to enough people who can donate a little - it will create a foundation we can build from.
There are the fears tied to this for me. Persistent little buggers. I’ve definitely got the fears. Mixed in with the fears are the risks. The potential reactions. Some relationships and connections will likely shift around a bit as I ask for contributions. It’s okay. It helps to know that going in. It helps to keep telling myself that – because I know that. I know that.
Years ago I had a life coach who changed my life in a moment. Because I’d been so focused on everything that could go wrong all the time. The worst-case scenario. The fears. We spent some time in a conversation making sure those were clear.
Then she asked me something else. She asked… what would happen in the best-case scenario?
Well I’ll be danged if I’d ever thought about that. She actually had to help me out – because I had nothing.
So here’s what could go right with this. I could go ahead and jump in and start talking to (most) everyone I know about this campaign work. I could get some really good support (which I already have). I could get some unexpected offers (which I already have). I could get introduced to other people who I could talk to more to build and grow the work. I could meet more neat people through the people I reach out to. I could get to know the people I talk to even better in unexpected ways through the conversations we have (which has already happened, and been amazing).
We could actually get this thing fully funded. We could get it up and running with tools published and marketed by late fall – which is my goal.
Now this is where Imagination and Forming get interesting. Sometimes you’ve got an imagination for where things could go – but as reality unfolds… it brings stuff you’d never have Imagined. You wouldn’t have even thought to Imagine it.
So I’m going to hold space for all of that.
Vision is at the heart of the work to Shift the Country. It’s about the spirit of America; what it can be. What we want for this country – in the places where we live. It’s about taking real steps to realize those visions. It’s about the connection and community that help us get there. It’s about morality and doing right and taking care of people, too.
It’s a big dream. We need the big dreams. We need to have big dreams for the places where we live; for this country we share. We can champion them. We can sell them. We can bring our neighbors and friends and relatives and colleagues in on it. We can get excited.
In wildland fire – you anchor and flank. You find a safe spot; an anchor. You work the less dangerous flanks of the fire… working out from a safe spot rather than running head-on into the dangerous parts.
To Shift the Country, we’ve got to build out the safe spot. The anchor. The funding. The foundation.
We work outward from there.
We’re going to win the heart of rural America – by building community and connection. We win the democracy while we’re growing and evolving it.
If you’re going to go – you might as well go all out.
Let’s light it up.
We're doing campaign fundraising! This is a fundraising solicitation for the Shift the Country PAC, a federal Super PAC working on the 2020 election from rural America. Not authorized by any party, candidate, or candidate’s committee.
Details on anticipated expenses & fundraising goals are here: Funding Specifics To Get Shift Started. Details on the methodology are in the Proposal to Shift the Country.
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