So you want to be influential? Right. Start at the top! But that may be a bit hard to do. So maybe you could start at the bottom, instead. I suppose that’s where I started. And I learned a few things on the way “up.”
I’ve worked for liberty as a student activist, an author, an editor, a petitioner, a campaign manager, a public relations agent, a rabble-rouser, a seminar organizer, a think tank officer, a journalist, a public speaker, a teacher, and a lobbyist. I’ve promoted libertarian ideas in academic lectures and seminars, on talk shows, on national television, in debates, in one-on-one conversations, in parliamentary and congressional testimony, in scholarly papers and books, in op-eds in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other papers in the United States, and in papers abroad, such as Die Welt, Caijing, Al Hayat, and The Spectator of London.
I’ve done so in Baghdad, Kabul, Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, London, Accra, Jakarta, Berlin, Istanbul, Nairobi, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and even in hostile territory, such as Washington, D.C. I’ve set up libertarian projects in fourteen languages. You name the job, and chances are I’ve gotten some experience at it. I was an intern at the Cato Institute and ended up as vice president for international programs there. (I’m now a senior fellow at Cato and vice president for international programs at the Atlas Network, to which we transferred Cato’s international programs.)
So, what did I learn? I’ve come up with seven things I think I’ve learned and that I think you may be able to put to work to become a more influential and successful promoter of liberty. I will share them here on AFF’s blog in this new series, which is adapted from the Institute for Humane Studies’ “Creating Your Path to a Public Policy Career” guide.
First, be the person on whom others can rely to get the job done. If you develop a reputation for making things happen (and not just talking about how great it would be if something were to happen), people will look to you for leadership, as well. Projects don’t just happen. They are projected and implemented by someone. Be that person. (There’s some irony in writing that, when my submission of this essay was after the deadline, but I was busy! My only excuse is to cite an adage that I’ve generally found to be true: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”)
It’s good not to be known as a clockwatcher. The best way not to be known as a clockwatcher is not to be a clockwatcher. I generally find that the project, not the clock, dictates the schedule of a successful person. And, on a related note, don’t be seen as the person who finishes a job and then goofs off. Finish your work and then—if you have the time—ask your colleagues what else needs to be done.
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