On my recent trip to Texas I read the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They are the founders of 37 Signals, a small and very successful company that makes applications for project management and CRM, along with some other things.
This isn't a book about activism, but I found many valuable ideas in it that can be applied to activism and small organizations that can potentially make us more effective and powerful.
37 Signals has built a successful business by breaking the normal rules of business. They've stayed small, opting for sustainability over growth. They embrace constraints, simplicity, and have flipped the traditional software development process on its head. Their first book, Get Real, was a very fun-to-read look at their software development process and is worth reading for anyone working on projects of any kind. (If you follow that link you can read the whole thing online for free.) A lot of the ideas from that first book are contained in this second book as well, but more refined and with broader application.
Rework focuses on the authors' ideas about starting and building a business – ideas which can be very easily applied to animal rights projects and organizations. Here are some of my favourite little gems of brilliance, but I'll leave it to y'all to think about how you might apply this to your own activism (or any aspect of your life).
Stanley Kubrick gave this advice to aspiring filmmakers: "Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all." Kubrick knew that when you're new at something, you need to start creating. The most important thing is to begin. So get a camera, hit Record, and start shooting.
If you want to do something, you've got to do it now. You can't put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can't just say you'll do it later. Later, you won't be pumped up about it anymore.
Don't make up problems you don't have yet. It's not a problem until it's a real problem. Most of the things you worry about never happen anyway.
The most common excuse people give: "There's not enough time." They claim they'd love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren't enough hours in the day.
Come on. There's always enough time if you spend it right. And don't think you have to quit your day job, either. Hang onto it and start work on your project at night.
Instead of watching TV or playing World of Warcraft, work on your idea. Instead of going to bed at ten, go to bed at eleven. We're not talking about all-nighters or sixteen-hour days—we're talking about squeezing out a few extra hours a week. That's enough time to get something going.
"I don't have enough time/money/people/experience." Stop whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you've got. There's no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.
Forgoing sleep is a bad idea. Sure, you get those extra hours right now, but you pay in spades later: You destroy your creativity, morale, and attitude.
Keep in mind that the obvious solution might very well be quitting. People automatically associate quitting with failure, but sometimes that's exactly what you should do. If you already spent too much time on something that wasn't worth it, walk away. You can't get that time back. The worst thing you can do now is waste even more time.
When is your product or service finished? When should you put it on the market? When is it safe to let people have it? Probably a lot sooner than you're comfortable with. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there.
You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a crappy product real fast by trying to do them all at once. You just can't do everything you want to do and do it well. You have limited time, resources, ability, and focus. It's hard enough to do one thing right. Trying to do ten things well at the same time? Forget about it.
So sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Cut your ambition in half. You're better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.
A strong stand is how you attract superfans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider, and more passionately than any advertising could.
Strong opinions aren't free. You'll turn some people off. They'll accuse you of being arrogant and aloof. That's life. For everyone who loves you, there will be others who hate you. If no one's upset by what you're saying, you're probably not pushing hard enough. (And you're probably boring, too.)