The art of never giving up

When you spend your life advocating for what’s right you often feel as though you are the lone candle in the midst of a hurricane. A single candle can be seen for miles. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go inside and put the candle in the window.

“You should never give up” is a refrain you often hear in advocacy circles. it is important to stay strong against opposition and it is even more difficult to fight against apathy. Do this long enough and you will achieve burnout and want to give up. I strongly believe that giving up is not an option or a luxury that we have. That does not mean that we need to continue to do the same things that we have been doing.

There are two easy traps we fall into:

  • The first trap is “this worked before.” Maybe it worked well in a given time and place but may not work again because we are in a different time, in a different place and who or whatever you are opposing may have come up with a new strategy to counter that technique.
  • The second trap is, “it’s new so it must be better.” This trap is dangerous because things that are too new may not have as much influence, or laws may not yet be in place to give proper protections.

An example of the first trap is the large protest. While getting several thousand people together to march for a cause is impressive, they can be used against the cause if the protestors interfere with some other cause, or normal activity like getting to work. Also, protests are easy to infiltrate with agitators who are there only to cause trouble, damage property, start fights and so on.

The second trap can be illustrated by social media. Social media platforms have been used to great effect for coordinating activities but rarely spur unmotivated people into an action that requires more than a tap on a screen. Social media does not get people up out of their chairs; it keeps them firmly planted in them.

Both of the examples I give can also be powerful tools, but you need to learn how to use them and when to use them. You will not motivate a group of cats to follow you if you’re offering them bananas. Learn about the people you want to motivate, learn about the people you are opposing, and adapt.

A common strategy for people who are losing is for them to change the game they’re playing. We can learn from them and change the game in ways that they are not prepared for. Adaptation and cooperation are the best survival strategies. It has been proven time and again.

So, the next time you feel like giving up, sit yourself down alone or with like minded people and ask yourself how you can do something different, something new. Listen to every idea even if it seems too out there. Unpredictability and surprise, coupled with solid research and preparation, can really make a difference.

Be prepared for the other side to change too, plan for it, and plan on it.

I admit that it is hard to stay motivated and keep your energy up. Find what really pushes you and hold onto it. We all keep going for different reasons and we need to hold them close, remind ourselves that we might be the only one standing between that and the uncaring world.

I do what I can to defend those who cannot defend themselves. You are not alone.