Well, well, it’s been close to three years since I began this blog and I haven’t yet touched directly, at least, on what may well be my favorite topic of all. And that topic is…wait for it… competition!! You see, I am extremely competitive. My competitiveness is not dulled by familial ties, friendship, or, really, anything. But let me be clear, the person I compete with the most is…well, me.
Sometimes my competitive instincts are misplaced, as in when I try to win at darts, horseshoes, pool, or anything that requires a particular kind of hand-eye coordination combined with patience that I simply don’t possess, expect for the times when I do. For some reason, I am either so horrible at these games that I either lose miserably or, very rarely, I win in an almost miraculous way. There is no rhyme or reason to the latter so I would not advise placing bets.
At other times, my competitiveness is based on possessing at least some level of skill – the card game “Hearts,” for example (or most card games, to be honest) – but not enough to be an expert. Losing at these types of activities does not give me a lingering sense of shame at the time, but it is particularly frustrating nonetheless. Okay, I’ll admit, it’s infuriating – just ask my husband about a particular time when we were dating and he “shot the moon” at Hearts.
Then there are the sports/games/activities that I play to win and do not tolerate losing – things like soccer (before I blew out my ACL), horse-back riding (the sport of eventing, to be precise), swimming, a particular card game called “Hell Pile,” trivia games, and any advocacy issue that I have ever had the pleasure of working on (for UTC and APPA before that and for my bosses on the Hill before that).
While patience can be a struggle for me with some of these issues, in the advocacy area, I do have patience. I’ve realized that, particularly at the federal level, to win on an issue requires a lot of patience. It also requires dogged determination, the ability to pivot, to plan and execute on multiple trajectories. Most importantly, it takes a great team. In the trade association world, that team is comprised of association staff, but also allies – other trade associations, association members who are willing to put a lot of skin in the game, and policymakers who agree with your perspective and are willing to champion it. Ideally, the policymakers are of both political parties and sit on both sides of the Capitol. You also have to have good “equipment” – collateral like issue briefs, fact sheets, studies, and info-graphics that tell the story of the issue.
Kind of like in soccer, you don’t have to have the most resources to win (remember hearing about Pele’s start?). You do have to be on the side that’s telling the truth, that’s trustworthy, and that’s known. And you have to relentlessly educate – the media, policymakers (the ones who haven’t taken up the champion mantle), and other potential industry allies.
And unlike in sports or other events, the winning in the advocacy arena can sometimes be a win-win as sometimes, with enough pressure, the other side can figure out how to compromise and we can, too. When this happens, it is a true win. A win with a real-world positive, impact that’s even better than a trophy or bragging rights or achieving your personal best. Even when the playing field is uneven, the bottom line is, that kind of win is achievable with the right team, vision, and allies.
Until we meet again…