Five Essential Tips For Every Activist

Taken from the Art of Non-Conformity (chrisguillebeau.com)

No matter how noble your cause there will always be a group of people who will vehemently stand against you for no particular reason.

Countless stories from history and the present day conclusively paint a picture of polar opposites when it comes to doing good. Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Buddha and others are everyday examples of noble people who faced severe opposition for advocating the ever elusive subject of peace.

If people as popular as the above were confronted with groups who not only opposed, but took action to physically stop them from spreading their message, who are we to feel we won’t receive and shouldn’t receive any opposition? It is truly humbling to read about what they went through simply to spread messages of peace, equality and justice.

I present a few pointers below for young and experienced activists alike. They are principles I hold dear and are principles which help myself and others get through times when it feels as if an entire community of people are against us. From environmental to religious to poverty issues, the words below will strike chords and provide comfort for those involved in all fields of activism.

1. They will put up a wall because you accomplished what they were not able to.

Jealousy and envy will be feelings which drive those who have failed in the field you are working in. When you accomplish goals there will be a few who will resent you, not because of the good you are doing, but because when they tried they failed. Don’t distance yourself from these people, but instead remember that these are natural emotions. Before these emotions turn into something worse, such as hate, take these people out for coffee or tea and attempt to involve them in your work. Consult with them about your activities, and genuinely heed their words. Not only will you learn from their mistakes, but this will give you the opportunity to create bonds and reignite the flame of those who share the same values as you.

2. They will always say you don’t consult enough or you’re not organized.

It used to be that I would defend myself and others from these comments, but I quickly learned that no matter how much you consult or how organized you are, these critiques will continue to roll in. We can’t please everyone, and we shouldn’t even try. Not one in all of history was able to please everyone, not even Mother Theresa. But, improvement? Always. Could you consult others? Of course. If you do both, will it stop the criticism? Never. It’s important to continuously strive to improve and evolve into something better, but not on anyone’s terms except yours.

3. No one will care until they see results.

Your ideas may be the best in the world, but they mean absolutely nothing unless you move forward. Until tangible results are shown in the form of work in progress (along a proper timeline) or a final product the majority of people will not put their energy behind you. This world is awash with brilliant ideas and yours will drown very quickly unless you show results. Just because your plans are brilliant doesn’t mean people will support you. Understand it, accept it, and humble yourself.

4. Remove yourself from people who say you can’t.

You should not find comfort or associate with friends, mentors and other folks who are consistently telling you to quit, give-up, or questioning your every move. Continuously associate yourself with people who share your same passion and you’ll move forward. Continuously associate yourself with those who don’t and watch your own demise.

5. You are your biggest enemy.

You will continuously get in the way of yourself. You will bend to fear, criticism, cowardice, pain and other emotions which won’t help you move forward. You are THE biggest enemy. Is change ever easy? In fact, change has always been something difficult. It requires constant sacrifice from yourself and a high level of endurance. It requires you to hussle, to be embarrassed and sometimes humiliated, to accept dislike and even disdain for your work and those supporting you. You will fail and sometimes you’ll hit rock bottom. It’s ok and it’s all part of the process.

When you find yourself tripping on your own feet, slow down, and get help from a like-minded individual. Find your passion, rejuvenate, and get back to work. You’re an activist. Change is waiting on YOU.

To end, I leave you with a timeless quote from Winston Churchill: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts and insight into the points above. Please share them below!

4 Comments

  1. Missy Gal
    Feb 22, 2010

    To add to the list, Your family can be your biggest heartache, if they oppose.

    No matter who your family is or how they are, facing their opposition has been the greatest challenge in which I quite often find hopelessness, loneliness, fear, but also strength, oddly enough.

    At the end of the day, it really just sucks to feel like an outcast or stranger within your own family.

    [Reply]

    Shariq Reply:

    You’re right. Activism isn’t an individual effort, it’s a family effort. When the activist/leader/manager is away from the family working for their base to help bring about change… it requires sacrifice from everyone.

    It takes a real understanding family to support an activist within their own ranks, and on the other hand, it takes a blind fool to neglect their family for the base.

    Thanks for the comment!

    [Reply]

  2. Hf. Imran
    Feb 22, 2010

    In activism I have found that whenever you do something one of four things happen.

    You are praised justly: Awesome, you’re doing things well. Sure a pat on the back is good but when you go around looking for it you’ll find yourself not being as effective as before. Plus pride can enter the heart.

    You are praised unjustly: All this does is make you content with being able to “wing” it. In the long run you are setting yourself up for failure. Luck runs out sooner or later.

    You are criticized justly: If the criticism is reasonable then it is an opportunity to adapt your ways and improve.

    You are criticized unjustly: This one for me is the toughest one to swallow. But it feels so good when you restrain your tongue for that one minute and just take the hit. It will make you a more patient, mature person.

    Thanks for the post Shariq.

    [Reply]

    Shariq Reply:

    When people criticize unjustly it’s definitely an exercise in patience. Sometimes people may criticize you, but what they are really doing is venting frustration from the past day or week. When they saw the tiniest thing wrong it set them off, and you were conveniently in the way.

    Great input!

    [Reply]

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