Are you a politician? Maybe you might be one and don’t even know it. You could be a politician within your family, because if you’re successful, you’re probably doing what every successful politician does – manage relationships, situations, and knowledge.
It wasn’t until very recently that I considered “politics” and “politician” to be dirty words. Well, now I understand that everything is politics. It’s part of life. These words are only dirty if I decide not to get involved in anything. As soon as I do, it’s politics. Homeschool groups, church groups, neighborhoods, family…it’s all politics. The only way to avoid it is to not participate.
To be successful with other people is to understand that everything is politics.
I was scared of politics. But you know what, it’s what we all do. When we homeschool, we’re involved in our own private politics. What makes us successful homeschoolers is similar, if not identical, to what makes politicians successful.
And that’s why paying attention to what makes a politician successful can help us. Think of a politician who you think is successful – both in the professional and personal realms. What did they do right?
Here are 10 things that politicians can teach us as homeschoolers:
1. Have a clear vision – Although it doesn’t have to be “finish XYZ workbook this year”, it’s important that we all have a clear vision in our educational plan. What do we specifically want to achieve? Where do we see ourselves in 1, 5, 10 years? What are our underlying principles? Having a vision is a universal truth of all successful ventures. If we can put them down on paper, somehow, even better. (For me, I put my vision down on paper every time I write about homeschooling.)
2. Know your motivation – Why are you homeschooling? Living the life of a homeschooler is not an easy choice, nor is living the life of a politician. Both choices stem from some kind of deep motivation. Maybe we want to change the world, or maybe we have a strong belief in a certain kind of truth. Whatever it is, there’s a reason. People don’t choose homeschooling or politics without a fire in their belly. What’s your fire?
3. Have a plan – Successful politicians have a plan. They know which bills they are going to support, they know which districts they need to appease, and they know where their support comes from. This isn’t by chance. Successful homeschoolers can benefit from this sage process. Knowing where you are going, is the distant shore. Knowing what steps you’ll take to get there, is the bridge. And keep in mind that most of the time, the most successful politicians don’t have just the everyday, normal stuff in their plan. They do what others aren’t willing to do, they do things according to their own motivation, and they do things that surprise us. Having a plan doesn’t mean we have to do what everyone else has done.
4. Enlist the help of others – The nature of politics requires mutual back-scratching. It sounds so horrible at first. But think about two homeschooling parents who trade babysitting, or who take turns offering classes, or who bring cookies/hummus/store bought crackers to park day for everyone to share? This is back-scratching, too! Successful politicians aren’t asking help from others simply to get ahead. They do it because they know it is good for everyone. I help you, you help me, we both win. Homeschooling is no different. Enlist the help of others, and it will come around. Successful homeschooling cannot be done alone. Get help. Be helpful. It works in politics and it works in homeschooling.
5. Don’t get bogged down – How much time do successful politicians spend on their failures? Just enough, then move on. Be like them, and use your failures as an opportunity for growth, then move on. Also, do let silly, unimportant things get you hooked – such as snide remarks from family, the laundry list of undone projects, or the piles of undone workbooks. Do the important things. And no, not everything is equally important. We give politicians a lot of flack for not doing everything, yet they succeed because they know that they can’t do everything. Do what’s important, and what falls under 1) and 3).
6. Enjoy the journey – You think successful politicians hate their job? Ha! Ha ha! Successful politicians LOVE their job. They love politics and everything that goes with it. To be successful homeschoolers, we have to LOVE it. The journey is all we have, so we might as well get the best of it that we can. Make the choice to smile, find ways to laugh, and to enjoy the small miracles that are everywhere. That’s what makes a homeschoolers successful, just like successful politicians manage to smile and enjoy what they do even when they are in the thick of difficult and frustrating politics.
7. Feel the fear and do it anyway – That’s what politics and homeschooling is all about, really. It’s normal to have fear, and doubts. Successful people feel these things. They just don’t let them rule their lives. Feel the fear, give it only the attention it needs to warn us of something, consider it, then move forward. 90% of the time, fear stems from the stories we build in our head, not reality. Be a success and push past the fear, and do it anyway.
8. Be humble enough to learn – This is a big one. Because the politician who doesn’t do this might find some temporary success, and it might even feel really, really good to be right and be powerful. But when their reign is over, they fall hard. A politician who can’t learn, is doomed to failure eventually. Same with homeschooling. We might do great at first, and boy does being right feel good. But if we aren’t willing to learn and change, it’ll come back and bite us hard. We all have room to learn, no matter how much we’ve read, experienced, or thought about things. The world changes and people change. If we aren’t willing to change too, we’ll be left behind.
9. Take the high ground – It’s really hard not to get caught up in petty fights, isn’t it? Politicians do it all the time. But have you noticed that the really successful politicians don’t have time, or even interest, in all of that? They find the good in people, even when they disagree. They see how trouble can lead to positive outcomes. They have the opinion that anything is eventually solvable if we look hard enough for the solution. If we look at our homeschooling this way, we don’t get lost in the little squabbles and all the “bad” things that we see in politics. It’s interesting to put on the nightly news, but it’s not what makes good politics or good homeschooling. Find the good in life – it’s always there – and you’ll find success will follow you.
10. Never give up – This doesn’t mean be bull-headed. It means don’t be deterred from your goals. Listen, watch, and participate, but don’t let the people who want to hurt you keep you from doing your thing. And, if you watch politicians, you’ll see that the more successful a politcian is, the harder people try to push her down. It might happen to you. Don’t let it. Especially if you choose a homeschooling option that people don’t “get”. The more you get involved, and “out there”, the more people will try to show how what you did was wrong. Listen, and pay attention, but don’t be discouraged. Learn from the successful politicians who “never give up, never surrender” (10 points to anyone who can spot that movie reference).
We’re all politicians in our own life, and we have a lot to learn from national politics.
(The inspiration for this post came from a post about Obama, his overly-used “Yes We Can” slogan, and where his success came from.)