Over twenty years ago, we stated that we did not want to start an organization. That still holds true. Time has revealed many instances that affirm the wisdom of our decision. Likewise, we have avoided titles and ranks. There are no leaders and no followers. Our goal is to help folks empower themselves. Empowering means independence.
We steered clear of several groups and individuals. Time has validated those choices. We avoided entanglements that could have hampered us. Likewise, we refused alliances that could have tarnished our reputation and impeded our work.
Another thing we refused to do was alter our work to “fit in” with the current trends. Two examples are our refusal to adopt the “Nine Virtues”, a modern compilation similar to a Christian creed. We also would not switch out our words for the Runes to adopt “proto-Germanic”. Our work stays true to itself and takes no account of what others might be doing.
There are friends we made, friends we kept and friends we lost over the years. We did not back down on our principles. Though we are not the biggest name in our field, we are still here and going strong.
Here are a few of the lessons we learned over the years of doing this:
Groups come and go, as do newsletters and other programs. The big name of the day might not be so big a year from now. Indeed, many who thrived in the 1990s are no longer there. Some got smaller and some changed. Some just folded their tents and went away. Likewise, popularity is a shifting thing. The big names and big causes of the day can become small, the flow of popularity going to others. Changing trends are a constant thing.
Do not change yourself to accommodate any group or person or trend. Though it may seem easier to jump on someone else’s bandwagon, it is better to be consistent than to go with the favorite of the day.
Many people have diminished their credibility by making what I call an “asshole alliance.” That is where two sides agree to endorse each other for their mutual benefit, even if one or both is shady. Both sides want something. The shady side is willing to play along with the other. The other side is willing to drop some of its integrity in return for the benefits promised by its shady counterpart. It is better to stick to one’s principles than give up a little integrity for the passing gains promised by scoundrels. Because after a while, it gets hard to tell who is not a scoundrel in such a fool’s alliance. One compromises the other and they both end up on the weasel list.
Never lend your name to anything you do not control. You will be surprised at how careless some folks can be with your name. Likewise, be slow to endorse anyone or anything. If you do endorse, keep it low key. Never give a 100% whole hearted endorsement because all too often, it will come back to bite you on the ass. You will be surprised how someone who seems like a good fellow might have a nest of weasels for a heart. Endorse rarely and make it discreet.
If you make a mistake, try to get ahead of it. For example, if someone you endorsed turns out to be a jerk, you need to retract that endorsement as soon as possible. Handle mistakes succinctly. You do not need to hash out every detail or blame everyone else who was caught in the mix. Most people do not care for a long, detailed report of the whole thing. Here is an example from the previous statement about endorsements. If you need to retract an endorsement, do it quickly and clearly. You ought not go on about the offense. Many can be handled by stating, “Due to circumstances, we no longer endorse so-and-so. We no longer recommend him and have ended contact with him.” A quick statement is often all you need to get ahead of a mistake.
Avoid feuds, spats and “witch wars.” If someone wants to start one, do NOT feed into it. There will be people who will not like what you do. They may dislike it because they disagree on some points. On the other hand, their animosity might be because someone they like happens to dislike you. There is no reason to bandy words with the fools. Let them sputter and carp by themselves. Take the high road. When you argue with a fool, after a while it is hard to tell who is who.
Do not get involved in these feuds on behalf of friends. They can argue with the fools on their own, if they so choose. Do not become part of it.
Avoid name-calling. It always looks bad.
When the work stops being enjoyable, then it is time to lower your profile and step back. Take a break and focus on other aspects of your life.
Set clear boundaries as to how much of you is public and how much is private.
Don’t let idlers and hangers-on sap your energy. Send them packing.
Know the place you inhabit. If you are a provider of information , then do so. Do not try to be their problem solver or social worker or guru. Again, set boundaries.
Whatever wrong someone will do to others, he will just as easily do to you. Character is reflected in one’s actions. For instance, the one who steals from family does not have a separate character for non-family. The same character which pillages the family funds is the one that deals with you. Better to distance yourself when someone is revealed as a bad fellow. You stand to lose if the company you keep is the wrong type.
Know the difference between real friends and conditional friends. Real friends know your name, know your dog’s name and know you well. Conditional friends are the various allies and pals with whom you offer mutual support with the work. They likely have never been to your home or petted your dog or know what your favorite sport is. Never expect the same loyalty and helpfulness from a conditional friend that you get from real friends.
Family and your own well being come first. Never let the work get between you and your real-world life. The work is something you do because you enjoy it. It is not your whole life. Your life and your loved ones take precedence. If it comes to a toss-up of one or the other, drop the work and keep your life.
Be especially good to the customers and friends who support you. A little generosity on your part goes far in acknowledging your recognition of them.