Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Designing a better candidate

There is a widely accepted history of Abraham Lincoln that goes something like this:

In 1831, Abraham Lincoln failed in business.
In 1832, Abraham Lincoln was defeated for state legislator.
In 1833, Abraham Lincoln tried a new business, and failed.
In 1835, Abraham Lincoln’s fiance died.
In 1836, Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown.
In 1843, Abraham Lincoln ran for congress and was defeated.
In 1848, Lincoln ran again, and was defeated. Again.
In 1855, Lincoln ran for the Senate, and lost.
In 1856, Lincoln ran for Vice President, and lost.
In 1859, Lincoln ran again for the Senate. He was defeated.
Then, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln ran for President and became the 16th President of the United States.  
Can you imagine if Lincoln was running today?  I can just see the ads - Lincoln in rehab after a nervous breakdown.  Lincoln's economic policies being ripped apart because he couldn't even run a business.  His opponents would paint him as a loser who has no business running for anything.   So with that in mind, how was he able to become one of the greatest leaders in history?  As you may have suspected from the title of this post, the answer is rooted in Design.
In nature, every thing is designed for a purpose.  It is our job as Designers and Architects to employ those things for the best possible purpose.  We do this with intent.  Most designers have a unique perspective that makes them interpret the world in a certain way.  This is the essence of our individuality and determines our path in life.  Our perspective.  
In politics today, it is hard to know who stands for what.  It seems the main purpose of being a politician is to raise money and spend it on marketing and PR.  The better the PR, the more likely you are to win.  That's where Lincoln went wrong.  For most of his life, he didn't have alot of money and he didn't have alot of power.  But he did have a unique perspective.  And in that sense, he was a true designer. 
Lincoln imagined the world that he wanted to live in much like Designers do.  He imagined a world where all Americans were united regardless of color or social standing.  He spoke out strongly against a government that permitted slavery and segregation. He made this position the foundation of his platform and he won the election of 1860 despite losing in practically every southern state in the Union.  After he was elected, the South was so outraged they started a war of secession.   And in those days, it probably would have been easy enough to let them go.  But as everyone knows, that just wasn't part of the design.  In his 'House Divided' speech of 1858 Lincoln stated that the plan was for all of us to be united, one way or the other.  Although Lincoln lost the Senate race that year, he did not change his plan.   Lincoln's mission was not really to be President.  His mission was to live his life in fulfillment of the way that he was designed.  He couldn't help being a leader.  If he wasn't a leader, he wouldn't have kept trying after every failure.  He wouldn't have stuck to his post when everyone else was telling him he was crazy.  Does this sound like anyone else you know?  Steve Jobs?  Frank Lloyd Wright?
It is certain that the current Presidential election will be the most expensive in history.  Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on TV ads, billboards, robocalls and bumper stickers.  This excessive spending comes at a time when most politicians are trying to get elected by saying we need to cut excessive spending.  The irony is amazing.  What I'd like to see is a return to the days where you have two people running on the strengths of their convictions without fear of having every mistake they ever made thrown at them on a screen.  Let there be a candidate who has a vision of the world that they want to live in with the acknowledgement that there will be consequences.  Let there be a candidate who wins a vote on the strength of their character and not the flaws in their opponent.  Let's see someone with a plan- or even a Design for the America of the future.  I think that a candidate like that would win - eventually.