There are times I am filled with a quiet rage. A rage made more terrifying, even to me, by its quietude. There is a stillness. A quietness. A deep still lake of defiance filled by my Scots Irish ancestors and tended by me and mine. Fires are built and banked, swords sharpened, precious things are laid by for contemplation at a later time.
Defiance. My blood runs hot and cold in the same moment. I shall give no quarter and I shall ask none. I will win or I will lose and that is enough for me. I detest cowards. I detest liars, thieves and moochers. I admire men and women who get their hands and clothes dirty at work. Children who obey their parents. Men and women who stand against the day and refuse to be victims. I fight for them. I won’t let them down.
It seems I’m always five minutes from crying or getting in a fight.
Having been a business and political consultant for 30 years means I’ve learned a few things about the kind of people you should have around you in your campaign. I’ve also learned a few things about the kinds of people you don’t want to have around you. If you have a team that includes a backstabber, a naysayer or a blame shifter on it then do yourself a favor and get rid of them now.
There is almost nothing worse on a campaign or a team than people who, through words or deeds, won’t accept responsibility or who are negative. Get rid of them.
Just this last year we consulted on a winning campaign where the power of positive thinking helped us time and time again. Early on, some people left the campaign after clashing with the leadership a few times on strategy and tactics. Of course, it might have also been because our first poll had us behind by 55-15. It felt bad at the time but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A positive, committed team turned that into a 54-46 victory in just six months. There were disagreements along the way but we had a forward-leaning posture, great team chemistry and strong leadership. That’s a winning combination in politics, in business and in life.
My first political campaigns were in 1984. I worked for two men, Bart Gordon and Joe Haynes. Bart won a crowded primary to become a congressman in Tennessee’s 4th District. Joe Haynes defeated an incumbent Democratic state senator. The confidence they placed in me launched a career in electoral campaigns that has now touched almost all 50 states and around 600 campaigns. I represented Bart and Joe, along with my business partner John Rowley, until 2010 when they both retired from their respective offices to focus on their legal careers and families. They remain my friends even until today.