Who’s Your Favorite?

Who’s your favorite Blogger? Me? Halley Suitt? Andrew Sullivan? Seth Godin? Or: Martin Luther? Tom Paine?

I assume I lost. And that my magnificent pal Seth lost, too. My own vote goes to Tom Paine.

I have two huge points to cram into this wee blog: (1) Ideas matter. (2) Grassroots idea brushfires (called “Blogs” in their current incarnation) are your tool and mine to change the world.

The trigger for all this is the very important election 2004. Its monster shadow over almost every breath I, at least, take has shaped my Summer Reading Program. I’ve effectively and intensely been living in the 1770-1800 period for the last several weeks. I’ll share more later, but for now I’ll limit myself to a single book: 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence, by Scott Liell. Turns out that 229 summers ago, as the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in July 1775, the sentiment for full-fledged Independence was not at all clear. One year later the deed was done. Many things happened in the intervening year, but none more important than the arrival of Tom Paine’s Common Sense in January 1776. John Adams later said, “I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs … than Tom Paine.” Author Liell says of the slim, 46-page rant, “Within the space of a few short months during the winter and spring of 1776, Common Sense accomplished what even bloodshed at Lexington and Concord could not—a wholesale annihilation of the emotional and intellectual ties that bound the American colonists to the British crown and country.”

So Paine was the clear instigator of the World’s most famous “tipping point.” His unvarnished language—ever so widely and rapidly distributed to the masses—moved those masses to in turn push their often reluctant Continental Congress representatives to embrace the Declaration of Independence. He was, my fellow bloggers, the common man who was the trigger for the most Beautiful Revolution in human history.

There are actually far more than the two aforementioned messages here. Among them: Ideas matter! (A LOT!) (Lexington and Concord were important—but it took Common Sense to make common sense out of what was and what could be.) “Viral Marketing” Rules! (Luther’s 95 Theses posted on the door of Wittenberg castle in 1517. Paine’s scant 46 pages which “annihilated” the longstanding ties with Britain.) (See my recent Rants on Direct Marketing!) “End runs” are required. (When the idea is new, one must find a route and medium that circumvents the conservative “establishment”—in this case the Continental Congress of 1775.) Keep It Simple, Stupid. (The new book’s title: 46 Pages. Not 466 pages! And in the language of the masses to boot. “The” book’s title: Common Sense. Not: A Discourse on the Nature of Humanity and Its Relation to Those Who Would Choose to Rule, or some such obscure twaddle.) It takes a Renegade. (T. Paine, a newly arrived immigrant, was no colonial establishmentarian, and he chose not to take his case “through channels.”)

These are lessons that affect our careers and businesses. And I hope you’ll take them to heart. But I’d add, if you are deeply concerned about the election in November, regardless of who you support, get off your backside and volunteer. Blog. Stuff envelopes. Help “get out the vote.” Whatever. Just don’t put it off, then engage in “coulda-shoulda” on November 3 if your favorite finishes second.