As 2013 is coming to a close, we all start to think about New Year's resolutions. As individuals we tend to have no problem setting goals that will challenge us, but often, when it comes to electing the people who govern our state or our even our country, the status quo is the best we are willing to hope for.
"You don't need to have a 100-person company to develop that idea." -- Larry Page
I run a technology startup called MarketMeSuite. My co-founder and I saw a problem in the way small businesses had to approach prioritizing their social media marketing and engagement, and we set out to solve it. We weren't a big well-funded operation. We didn't have a lot of connections. But we knew we had a solution that would challenge the status quo and we went for it, and we come into work everyday enthusiastic and filled with passion, changing the world in our own way. It's part of our culture, it's what gets us excited, and this energy will propel us to each new level of success for our company.
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." -- John Quincy Adams
We know innovation is a recurring theme in the startup world, but what does all of this have to do with politics, as the title of this article clearly suggests? There's a campaign which is setting some pretty impressive New Year's resolutions of its own for 2014 here in the state of Massachusetts: To challenge the status quo, address the root of problems with real solutions, and to win.
Jeff McCormick is running for Governor of Massachusetts in 2014. He has no prior political experience and he's running as an independent. And, as I said, he intends to win.
It's hard to resist falling into the usual Hegalian dialectic of having to choose from the lesser of two evils and shouting out "an independent just can't win!" (Even though they have elsewhere). But, there's something that Jeff has that very few candidates are able to draw from: successful business experience. He has built up his venture company from the ground up, and in the process has turned startups with a bit of fire in their bellies into tremendous success stories. He identified when a market was stagnant, in need of some injection of innovation, and he has backed companies in this regard time and time again. And it is with this innovative mindset that he is approaching the race for Governor.
"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." -- Steve Jobs
Imagine if no one ever innovated? If everyone was okay leaving well enough alone? Maybe a lantern was good enough -- who needs electricity to create light? Or perhaps the telegraph was fine -- why bother with a phone? But it's in our human nature to challenge, to innovate, to always try to improve on what's come before us. It's how startups form and wind up turning into big successful companies (Constant Contact, another Massachusetts company and a McCormick investment, is a great example of this). And, in 2014, it looks like this innovation is coming to the Governor's race.
"Common sense is not so common." -- Voltaire
There's a certain satisfying logic around why we, as humans, so often challenge the status quo. We are simply not programmed to want to accept things as they are. When we see something broken, we want to fix it. It makes sense.
There is a logical leap then, when we allow ourselves to say "Well, there's nothing I can do about it," or "That's the way it's always been," which is truly astounding, and lacks a certain common sense that we all have somewhere inside us. On a personal level, we know it can affect and change our lives. That's pretty easy to accept for most people. It's why we set resolutions in the first place. So, it logically follows that this carries on to the societal level. Yet, so often we allow ourselves to be convinced that once something gets too large, we can no longer affect the outcome (as the usual dismal voter turnout would indicate). That is not a valid argument, but it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when people count themselves out of a conversation. Then, it's easy for the status quo to prevail, as it so often does in the political arena.
But this year, at least in Massachusetts, there's a challenge led by a man who warmly goes by "Jmac" (@jmacforgov). The startups he has invested in, and who have made him a very successful businessman, did so by identifying problems, finding solutions, and challenging a market that may have become complacent. And it looks like McCormick intends to use the same approach in his campaign. So while we're all making our 2014 resolutions, I'm eager to see the McCormick campaign carry out some of their own, making 2014 an uncommon year in Massachusetts politics, where we can finally embrace common sense and become unchained by the status quo.