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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Who I’m Voting For

What if we were as passionate about our own potential as we are about politics?

It never fails. Every four years, I hear tons of people telling the masses to get out there and vote.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” we say. “This is your big chance to make a difference,” we say. “Let’s band together and stop {insert the name of your favorite political villain here} from taking over the country,” we say.

I get it.

If you’re one of those people, there’s no need to defend yourself. I understand the passion, the concern, and the fears that accompany presidential elections. I’m not here to mock you. I’m not here to make you feel guilty. I’m simply here to invite and challenge my fellow human beings to entertain a broader conception of power. Here are the questions I’d like to add to the discussion:

What if we encouraged people in daily life to make sure they show up and vote for their own potential with the same sense of urgency we exercise towards begging them to vote on election day? What if we constantly pleaded with people to embrace their own power, their own beauty, and their own creativity as if the fate of our world depended on it? What if we challenged people to stop being so apathetic, passive, and neutral on things like living a purposeful and passionate life? What if we reacted to people’s lack of self-love, self-respect, and self-knowledge as if it were just as horrific as {insert the name of your favorite political villain here}? What if we responded to the hateful and unhealthy things people said about themselves with the same disgust we have towards some of the words uttered during the presidential debates?

Day after day, I hear people say things like “I don’t want to preach to people” or “I don’t like forcing my views on others” or “I don’t want to be that one annoying person who’s always trying to tell people how they can improve their lives.” Fair enough. I get it.

When election season rolls around, however, our qualms about being preachy or annoying seem to miraculously disappear. The world is suddenly filled with prophets who warn us that our failure to vote will send the country to hell. The world is suddenly filled with preachers who proclaim the goodness of candidate X and the badness of candidate Y.

I love the passion. I love the fervor. When it comes to politics, we are not ashamed of the gospels we profess to believe. If we can somehow find a way to apply that same passion and fervor to things outside of politics, we can make ourselves great again.

There are lots of people who don’t show up to the voting booths. This troubles us deeply. There are far more people, however, who don’t show up for the everyday opportunity to live up to their potential. There are far more people who don’t show up for their families or their faith on an average non-super Tuesday. I hope we can become the kind of nation, the kind of world who will be equally troubled by our tragic contentment with mediocrity. I hope we can become the kind of world who will be equally troubled by the self-defeating philosophies that have duped many of our brothers and sisters into thinking they are worthless and powerless.

We respect the power of politicians very deeply. If we’re not praising them for their capacity to do good, we’re losing sleep over their capacity to ruin us all. The power of the individual? We respect it. Kinda. Sorta. We definitely respect the power of the individual when it’s measured in terms of who we vote for. Anything beyond that? Sure. Individuals have some power. In theory. Kinda. Sorta. BUT…”Let’s get back to all this personal development stuff later on. Let’s get back to all this lofty talk of self-actualization down the road. Let’s discuss this whole bit about non-political theories of social change in the near future. We gotta stump Trump. We gotta halt Hilary. We gotta do something about those liberals. We gotta do something about those conservatives. This is important stuff you’re talking about, but let’s revisit all this after the election, okay?”

Very well.

Let us please revisit this topic after election day. Some of you are going to be very happy on election day. Some of you are going to be utterly heartbroken. Either way, let’s be sure to revisit this topic when the dust settles. Regardless of who wins, I hope you don’t stop encouraging people to make a difference after that. I hope you don’t make the mistake of believing that your political vote was your one big chance to make a difference in the world.

T.K. Coleman will be speaking at the FEE seminar, Economics of Business Success in Durham, New Hampshire (June 27-30, 2016).

  • T.K. Coleman is the Education Director at FEE and a co-host for The Minimalists Podcast.