Step 10: We Need to Avoid Common Pitfalls

When people get together and try to make change happen, there’s a pretty consistent set of obstacles they have to overcome.

When people get together and try to make change happen, there’s a pretty consistent set of obstacles they have to overcome.

You know, we tend to mystify successful movements, as if there’s some secret, elusive formula.

But really, successful movements do one thing, and one thing only.

They get a critical mass of people to act differently.

Not think differently. Not feel differently. Not believe differently.

It’s all about getting enough people to do the right thing, in the right time and place.

I mean, it’s not easy. But it’s not complicated either.

Once enough people get together and set their minds to changing the world, there are certain obstacles that need to be overcome, certain pitfalls that need to be avoided, certain things that have to be accomplished.

  • They have to be patient. They have to stay focused on the big picture, even amidst setbacks.
  • They have to avoid getting dragged down into the mud, or smeared by people threatened by their progress.
  • They have to avoid exhaustion and burnout, and complacency and cockiness.
  • They have to prevent people from feeling like it’s safe to stop doing their part, because there’s enough other people to do their work for them.
  • They have to avoid becoming too tribal, exclusive, or extreme, while still sticking to their principles.
  • They have to avoid being hindered by harmful, internal power struggles.
  • They have to avoid being co-opted or compromised by other groups, and other interests.
  • And they have to make sure the people who end up running the show don’t silence the minority voices in the movement, or alienate the folks who are doing all the work by being out of touch.

Like I said, it’s not easy. But I think if the groundwork is laid properly, if the stuff in the previous nine steps is carried out, it ought to be pretty straightforward to implement.

Most movements don’t fail in the execution. They fail before they even start.

They fail because they don’t have the right balance of idealism and pragmatism. They fail because they don’t have enough resources. They fail because they don’t have a good plan.

Check off those boxes first, and then avoid these common pitfalls—and I really believe great things are possible.

 

This is the 11th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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