Friday, August 30, 2013

The Magic High Five

Up high! Put 'er there! Don't leave me hangin' :)

There, I've just given you a high five today. Whatever you're trying to do, consider yourself encouraged. Lots of times, we give high fives when something awesome happens like Neil Patrick  Harris does on How I Met Your Mother, but today I'm talking about the kind of high fives you give a runner on a marathon race course. I call that a Magic Five.

A Magic Five is one given when someone is doing something hard and running out of steam. That ineffable transfer of energy from one human to another. Maybe it's Chi? I don't know. But I do know that there is a palpable burst of energy and resolve that results from someone making a gesture to say "Way to go. You got this. I believe in you." It could be a fist bump like the Obama's, sure, but I'm clumsy and might end up clocking the very person I'm trying to encourage. However it's given, everybody needs them whether they are trying to set a personal best in running or advocating to change the world.

The best place to see Magic Fives are a long distance race course. I love lines of spectators lining 1/2 marathons to give high fives to others while waiting to see their own runner. The most magical of fives come from little kids and Disney characters, of course. I've run down a line of folks feeling like an emotional energy vampire as I gained strength from every one on a full marathon course in Walt Disney World. But I've given and received them on my everyday runs when I see a friend exercising in a park or even with fellow lobbyists on Capitol Hill on RESULTS' Lobby Day.

Actual physical contact isn't always needed either. Sometimes the virtual high five can be just as powerful. I have a Nike+ running app on my iphone linked to facebook, so that when my friends "like" my status saying I'm out for a run, it sends a burst of applause, cheers, and cowbells into my earbuds so I know I'm not alone. And my virtual club on Twitter - #Run3rd - is a real-time tapestry of inspiration and cheers for teammates.

How does this relate to advocacy? Well, advocacy is tough and lonely work. Not everybody understands it, so you might not have a ton of local support especially if you are new. At a new advocate training session, I once had a young man raise his hand to confess, "One time I had a meeting and the only person who showed up was me." What I could say to him is, "Yeah...that's happened to me, too." Advocating Congress to end poverty or any kind of world change is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, endurance, and pacing. We lose a lot of potentially powerful activists because they were not supported or encouraged at the right time. 

So, today I'm offering virtual Magic Fives. To my #Run3rd teammates out in Disneyland this week running the 1/2 marathon, to my co-workers enjoying a rare day off, to the novice advocates that have trouble finding colleagues to lobby with, and to the experienced activists who have been advocating for years and are feeling a tad burned out. Put your hand on the screen wherever you are in the U.S. or the world - you, too, Indiana! - in 3, 2, 1..!

Way to go. You got this. I believe in you.

Now go Magic Five someone else :)

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