It's been 1 year politicwise. I shared on LinkedIn my 3 lessons-learned. But the more I think about it, the more lessons pop up.
So below are my 10 lessons from talking to political leaders & practitioners over the last year.
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Now back to the 10 lessons-learned:
- Politics is not an easy ride: so you've got to have a strong 'Why'. Sometimes my guests had very personal reasons for going into politics. Often it took some digging to become clear about what was important and how politics would be the right channel. For most guests, their 'why' was energizing, an anchor to remind them in difficult times. For others, clarity on their 'why' was key to connect with people and build a community.
- It's not about how difficult it is, but why you're doing this. Starting politicwise, I had this perspective of: 'politics can be tough, I have massive respect of people who go into the arena, I want to do my part to support them through this podcast'. But then, I was surprised how much focus most guests had, not on the obstacles, not on how difficult politics is, but on why they are doing this. There was always a very good, positive reason that drew them to this work. And I also heard once or twice that they might not have made the jump, if they'd been thinking too much about the obstacles ahead.
- Openness is rare - how can we nourish it more in politics? I've been humbled by having open & honest conversations on the podcast. I also know that most political environments are not right for such openness and vulnerability. At the same time, there is value in openness. Listening into a genuine conversation, someone openly sharing their thought-process, including worries and doubts. It makes not just the guest but also politics itself more relatable, more like something that is part of all of our lives. It's a fine line and I'm still working on getting the balance right between openness and being mindful of the political environment.
- Open reflection helps. This is linked to the above. After pausing the recording, I would often hear from guests that the conversation helped: they were able to take a step back and reflect on questions that are probably not part of daily business. And it's not just conversations. Several guests are journaling as a way to achieve self-disclosure, new or renewed insights, and a less cluttered mind.
- Self-awareness is great, but be aware of self-obsession. When does thinking & becoming aware about ourselves - our emotions, thoughts, purpose etc. - become too much? A remedy: Emotional Intelligence - it's not just about being self-aware, it's also about managing your emotions, and - importantly: being aware of & managing emotions around you, in your relationships. Shift to that, ask 'How are people feeling around me?', 'How is that a consequence of what I do?', 'What can I do that would help?'
- Don't make this about you; it makes your life easier. Following from the above, guests have shared this advice as antidote to the stress from feeling you have too much responsibility. Criticism directed at you, is not about 'you', but about your political role, about what you've done in that capacity. As a candidate you might obsess over how you show up, whether you're doing well enought etc. But, again, this is not about you: it's about who & what you represent (constituents, volunteers, a party, a political programme), you're 'just' the messenger.
- Politics is personal growth on steroids. A steep learning curve, not least: understanding yourself better. There's quite a bit we might do to better prepare before going into politics. But as we often find in life in general, growth comes from exposure. So: doing and then learning from it.
- Resilience is what we need, not ease. We need to seriously do something against abuse & threats to those in politics in the broadest sense. Beyond that, politics will probably remain a tough environment full of adversity. It's how it should be: we're talking about how to live together in society, creating rules for that, and allocating significant resources. The question is not how can we avoid adversity, but how can we equip ourselves to deal better with it, as individuals, teams, system? Perhaps even grow stronger from it?
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And the last 2 lessons are about trying out something new that is out of your comfort zone (for me, politicwise):
- Sharing is caring. Being an introvert, I hesitated with politicwise, especially with sharing the podcast & insights from it on social media. My belief was: I do not care about self-promoting. What I realized was that this was part of me trying to protect myself from (critical) exposure. More importantly, I realized I owe it to be sharing more. I owe it to my guests, who take time to have the podcast with me, to spread the word. I owe it to whoever might find these insights valuable to not keep them to myself. Finally, I owe it to the quality & clarity of these insights to put them into words, share them, see what sticks and what does not make sense, and refine and improve.
- If in doubt, go for it and just test. 'Just do it' (sorry, I just watched the movie 'Air' about Michael Jordan last weekend). I wasn't sure if anyone would listen to the podcast, if I'd find any guests, or if I'd enjoy podcasting. The longer I thought about it, the less clear things became. Until I decided and went for it. I read somewhere about computer science/AI that the most efficient way to predict an outcome is to just run the test. I think it's true for humans as well.