Just … Do It

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. ~Chinese proverb

You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. ~Irish proverb


Sometimes what’s standing in your way … is you.

A story. Chef Jose Andres went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. When he arrived, he visited a friend and fellow chef who had a freezer full of food that was going to go bad. Another friend had a generator.

The next day he was feeding San Juan.

The next week the Salvation Army was asking him for food.

Now, as the founder and driving force behind World Central Kitchen, he’s spent years feeding the world after major disasters.

They had no “strategic plan,” no mission statement, no funding, no long-term analysis and no distribution network.

“We decided we would just start cooking.”

He fed hungry Puerto Ricans – including people in mountainous areas that are hard to find and even harder to reach – literally millions of warm meals and sandwiches.

How did he do it?

He saw a need, realized that his unique talents could be useful, and acted on it.

Another story. In the wee hours of November 2016, as the election was being called for Donald Trump, Jonathan Zucker saw his Facebook feed erupt into a shouting match between Democrats who blamed one another for this electoral apocalypse.

Recognizing that this blame game was more than unhelpful, and recognizing his particular talents (as a campaign finance lawyer-turned-tech-guru, the first COO and second CEO of ActBlue and the founder of Democracy Engine) he saw the need for a fundraising platform that unified Democrats and made political donations accessible by using small-dollar monthly donations… starting today.

And then … he acted.

And “It Starts Today” was born.

Since then It Starts Today and its projects have raised – and distributed – millions to Democratic nominees. All leveraging the power of tens of thousands of people chipping in the cost of a cup of coffee per month.

I can hear your inner voice telling you right now that these two stories are special cases, and special situations, with special individuals. That you don’t have time, or you don’t have special skills, or you’re not special enough to do something so big.

Poppycock. Stop selling yourself so short.

And please stop talking yourself out of taking action by talking everything to death and recognize that beyond being smart folks who are top of their game, both Chef Jose and Jonathan have one thing in common: they’re people of action.

A friend once told me that a Democrat would take a white paper to a knife fight, and he’s not wrong. As a more … ahem … “cerebral” community, we’re a community of thinkers.

There’s great power in that.

There’s also great risk.

The power is obvious. Being prepared is not a bad thing.

But there’s risk that we bog ourselves down in the mental exercise of action and forget to “do the thing.”

I’ve heard from many of you – smart, talented, thoughtful individuals who are looking for a way to make a difference in an inhospitable world.

Sometimes it’s as simple as just … doing the thing.

Reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a TedTalk… That’s all great stuff.

But the world was not conquered by people who just read, or listened, or watched.

The world was conquered by people who acted on what they learned.

We get one shot at life, folks. And there are a lot of people who gave a whole heckuva lot for us to be able to live the one we have with vibrance and gusto.

There are a lot of things that are scary about living right now.

But the scariest thing, to me, is to do nothing at all.

I’ll bet you feel the same.

So let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of May 25, 2021

Tuesday: Honor George Floyd

Today, call your Senators and encourage them to vote for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March. Among other things, the bill does the following: 

  • lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution, 
  • limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer,
  • grants administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations,
  • establishes a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels and limits the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds.
  • creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct and establishes new reporting requirements, including on the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches).
  • directs DOJ to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies and requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.

So, call your Senators today and encourage them to vote for this bill.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at [Zip]. I’m calling today –the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder –to encourage Senator _____ to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The Act would do a lot to improve policing by increasing transparency and accountability and improving the training of our officers. I hope the Senator will make a statement today about what s/he is doing to ensure our state takes action to make it a safer place for all of its residents.

You can also join the NAACP in a virtual phone bank of activists from around the country to encourage the passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and holding our law enforcement accountable. Register here. https://naacp.org/events/george-floyd-virtual-day-action

Wednesday: Help Democrats in Close Races, Starting Today

Believe it or not, 2022 is right around the corner. The control of the House and the Senate will be up for grabs. It’s going to be tough.

We don’t yet know which of the races are going to be the true “nail biters” – but we know the Democrats in those races are going to need our help. That’s why I like the It Starts Today Congressional project that helps regular folks start contributing to those races now. (Yes, this is the very same It Starts Today that I referenced above!)

Why should you care? Because it’s something you can do right now to support those critical races in 2022. Putting aside $5 or $10 a month makes it easy for you to contribute a really meaningful amount toward those races without breaking a sweat.

Think of how powerful it would be if all of us participated. If 10,000 folks donated $10/month for the next 17 months, we’d have $1.7 million to help support those critical races.

This is a no-brainer, folks. But the power is in starting early, and spreading the word.

So get started here: https://contribute.itstarts.today/congressional_project and spread the word about It Starts Today: www.itstarts.today.

Thursday: End Qualified Immunity

One of the sticking points in legislation regarding police accountability is qualified immunity. If you hear that and wonder “what-what?” here’s a great, short description from the ACLU:

Cops shouldn’t have a “get-out-of-court-free” card, whether they’re using lethal force, making unlawful arrests, or racially profiling people. But that’s what qualified immunity lets them do.

Qualified immunity shields police officers and other government officials from liability by requiring proof an official violated “clearly established law” – putting the burden on victims to find a nearly identical court case that found the action unconstitutional. This is a key element of the architecture of impunity that amplifies police power and keeps them above the law, and disproportionately impacts those targeted most by law enforcement including people of color, particularly Black people, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals.

The ACLU makes it really easy for you to send a message to your legislators, encouraging them to end qualified immunity. Or, you can simply dial up your Congresscritters and tell the staffer over the phone that qualified immunity is harming our communities, and that it’s time for Congress to end the doctrine and funnel support to community programs.

Head over to the ACLU’s helpful resource HERE.

Friday: Encourage Young People to Get Vaccinated

It’s going to take all of us who are able to get vaccinated to do so in order for us to really beat this virus back in a meaningful way. That’s why it’s really important to encourage young people to get vaccinated. You can help!

Join Vote Save America and NextGen on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays as they text young people to encourage them to get vaccinated. NextGen has a goal to text 1,000,000 young people to encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Texters will provide information on where they can get a shot and answer questions they might have. Each shift will begin with a script huddle so you feel ready to go! Head here to get started: https://www.mobilize.us/crooked/event/388675/

DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE A ROCK STAR? I DID. SUPER PROUD OF YOU!

If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

P.P.S.: If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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