Success or Failure?
When I was young… well, younger… and struggling with decisions and pathways that seemed shadowed and uncertain, I had an older, wiser friend introduce me to one of my now favorite poems. Rudyard Kipling, inspired by military failure, wrote the poem “If”. I am still inspired by its profound message.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
-- Rudyard Kipling
I joined United Utah along with my husband last year shortly after making a dramatic change in my husband’s career as a foreign service officer. I left a month early from Indonesia with our children (getting them settled into school) and immediately got started. I helped organize a local meeting, worked on the party’s website, and hosted a house party. Only four people came to my house party, my parents and another couple, but that didn’t discourage me. The local meeting had a better turn out, but I could see from the beginning that this journey wasn’t going to be easy.
When my husband joined us, he was already collaborating with the party’s executive committee, preparing to step in his role as executive director. He had so many great ideas, I felt certain (and still do) that we had made the right decision. Living modestly and making sacrifices was something I enjoyed anyway. Facing other challenges and uncertainty didn’t bother me because I knew we were on the right path.
Still, this was all new to me. Well, the political part of it was all new. I have experience with start-up companies and organizing volunteer efforts, so certain aspects were familiar. But I had never been interested in politics and didn’t have an arsenal of political knowledge to pull out and use in defense against arguments that said our party could never survive because of the two-party system.
Throughout the summer and fall our family worked really hard. Parades and fair planning, preparation, and event dates soon filled the calendar. Almost every weekend we were involved in either a parade or a fair. We brought our kids with us and had them help too. We worked hard with others to create online ads, printed flyers, and videos. (Yes, now you know who to blame - or to give valuable feedback to. :) The learning curve for all of these activities was steep but rewarding.
And then November came, the ultimate test of our efforts, and all eyes were on the results. Would we succeed or would we fail?
I wasn’t sure what to think when the results came in and not one of our candidates won. At face value, it seemed like all of that effort and time had been wasted. I thought of all the candidates, money, and sacrifices that had been made to try to make things different. Had we really made a difference?
My husband loves numbers. He went right to work collecting data and putting together reports, comparing how the United Utah party candidates did against other political parties (both major and minor). Looking through his analysis, it was easy to see that the truth goes far deeper than “winner” and “loser” at the end of a campaign.
We found that the majority of voters who actually know about us, voted for our candidates. We did far better than any other third party in the state. We performed better head-to-head against Republicans than Democrats. Already an average of 1 out of 7 traditional Republican voters chose our candidates. We are clearly appealing to voters across the political spectrum.
People need us. Many are looking for an alternative to Republicans and Democrats, as well as hoping beyond hope that there is something that can be done to improve government and politics. Looking at how many people were willing to vote for our candidates when the odds likely pointed to failure -- it’s inspiring!
What do we do now?
For me, I look to that same reminder that helped me in the many other seasons of life when the path was uncertain and froth with struggles and failures.
If I can hold on through failure and disaster,
there is hope for future successes.
If I can remain undaunted by doubters and even my own shortcomings,
I will become stronger and wiser to face whatever lies ahead.