Last weekend I led a candidate training program run by the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. It is a bipartisan four-day session that brings experts in all the important aspects of campaigning — planning, fundraising, message development, communication, GOTV, and more — and wraps it all in a framework of ethics. (I helped design the program, which is unique in the nation and produces successful candidates.)
In the wrap up session at the end, I did something a little different than I normally do. As the days unfolded, I had been noticing many students (all first- or second-time candidates) resisting some of the advice they were getting. Even more interesting, some of the most-repeated advice was the advice most strongly resisted.
For instance, most consultants repeated that the best thing for a local candidate could do is to knock on doors. Yet many students would later make plans about attending large events or meetings, talking with press, and other things — almost anything but knocking on doors.
I began to realize there was a list of things that people just don’t want to do that was behind this resistance. This is not criticism of the students. I believe these are natural things that most people would rather avoid. It’s just that, in the campaiogn world, they are necessary.
So I repeated the list to the group. Here it is:
- Ask for money for individuals
- Do in-depth homework and really know issues
- Work very hard
- Research ones’ self and face shortcomings
- Knock on doors and talk directly to voters
- Give up control of the campaign to a campaign manager
- Feel anxious or uncomfortable (especially speaking in front of people)
This relates to Seth Godin’s “lizard brain.” That’s the part of your brain that paralyzes you with fear, distracts you, and tells you that you don’t have to out in all that work.
I have very high hopes for this group of candidates. There were a number of real stars. And I got the sense that once these areas of resistance were named, they would be much easier to work against.