A Primer for the Young(er) Idealist

I began this as a helpful little BLOG entry for the young(er) idealist, and got on a roll that resulted in the essay being a stand-alone manifesto. For the full essay, go to http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/idealist.htm . Some excerpts…

Your ideals are only as valid as how well you stick to them when nobody is paying attention.

Avoid prefacing any expression of your ideals with:

  1. “I think …”
  2. “I believe…”
  3. “It is my opinion that…”

Duh! Of course it’s your belief or opinion, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying it! Those phrases are extraneous, frivolous, useless and a waste of time. They constitute a passive form of communication, expressed from a point of weakness. Speak and write confidently and strongly, not from a position of passivity and vulnerability.

Straight talk is best. Be blunt. Get to the point! No euphemisms, beating around the bush, stammering or vague hints. Shooting straight with your audience commands instant respect. It leaves the least chance of confusion or uncertainty about your points or ideas. This way, you communicate most effectively, you’re least likely to be misinterpreted, and the potential is lowered for your words being twisted into something different. As with the above phrases, any form of dancing around an issue — including hints or euphemisms — is weak, passive and vulnerable, and a terrible way to communicate. So…

Always communicate from a position of strength and confidence. They’re your ideals! You are passionate and knowledgeable about your ideals or you wouldn’t have them. Show it.

Listen and read. Understanding is not possible otherwise. If for no other reason, you cannot debate a viewpoint you don’t understand; and you cannot mitigate a threat you don’t understand. And you might learn something.

Understand your opposition’s views as well as, or better than, they do. Sun Tzu, hundreds of years ago, warned that we must understand an enemy in order to overcome him. Therefore, listen, read and learn all you can regarding ideas you care about, especially opposing viewpoints. It’s in your best interest. It’s not easy, and it may make your stomach turn to do this. But the reward is worthwhile. If you reach a level of understanding where you can thoroughly argue for the opposing viewpoint, you’re now familiar enough with it to be able to tear it to pieces.

Get the facts straight. Nothing — I mean nothing — undermines your argument worse than factual error. By contrast, nothing will speed you along faster toward victory for your cause than irrefutable factual correctness.

Get the facts relevant. Just because every hurricane in the Atlantic formed right after somebody in Australia drank a beer doesn’t mean they are related!

Idealism is the enemy of hypocrisy, and vice versa. As an idealist you will spend your life in a mighty struggle against hypocrites, in any and every cause about which you carry ideals. Many of them will be well-liked and/or -financed, or will sit in positions of power and authority above yours. Be prepared.

Expose hypocrisy at every opportunity. Hypocrisy is like the vampire — the way to kill it is to bring it to light. Only the sociopath will proceed unrepentently with hypocrisy in the face of its exposure.

Artifice is the playground of the hypocrite. Avoid artifice in any form (such as pretension or pandering) and at all costs. Resist its temptations of convenience. Discourage artifice everywhere you see it.

Never, ever sell out! Money, power, fame or “advancement” will tempt you and every idealist eventually — often repeatedly. More on “selling out” in another essay devoted exclusively to this topic. The urge to sell out happens to every idealist. [Even Jesus (an idealist to the core!) was tempted intensely in this manner by the master of temptation, and of course, did not give in.]

Never forget your roots. Your idealism stems from a strong desire for truth and justice. Chances are that some event, or more likely many events, inspired this in your childhood. Close your eyes and take yourself back there often in order to stay well grounded.

Keep and nourish your sense of humor. Much of life is, when you really take a close look, pretty darned funny! Cut up sometimes. Laugh often, including at yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Respect authority…when they earn it. Position or title alone says nothing, and does not, by itself, command respect. It’s how that position was attained, and what that person does with it, that will show you whether they are worthy of your respect.

Get a thick skin. You will be ridiculed, denied, mocked, punished by “authority,” persecuted by opponents and told to get real. Learn to deal with it.

You will not please everyone, so don’t try. The sooner you outgrow the desire to be accepted, to be applauded, or to be popular, the better. Then you can…

Be excellent for its own sake. Excellence is self-evident, intrinsically rewarding and needs no outside applause. Recognition is nice but isn’t necessary; in fact, quite often your excellence may go unnoticed, unappreciated or taken for granted. That’s their problem, not yours. As long as you’ve done your best, you don’t need any validation from anybody else!


Many more tips for the young(er) idealist are in the full essay. Check it out. Comments can be made here.

[Edited 10-19-5 to fix a typo that resulted in a bad link to the essay.]


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