Why Focusing on Your Purpose Helps You Make a Difference

Some people get involved with politics because they want to be something, while other people get involved because they want to do something. ~David Axelrod

Pete Buttigieg has a way with words.

Whether it’s in front of a hostile Fox News audience or a crowd of friendly conference attendees, he just has a knack for communicating clearly, thoughtfully. Fully.

So when I see a video featuring him answering an audience question, more often than not I’ll stop to watch.

So recently I stopped to watch the video I’ll embed/link below:

In case you don’t have time to listen to the full answer (my link above starts around the 43:00 minute mark, where his answer begins) I’ll summarize his words and emphasize his point.

In a conference at the University of Chicago, Pete was asked about David Axelrod’s quote, “Some people get involved with politics because they want to be something, while other people get involved because they want to do something,” whether he agrees, and how people (students in particular) can make a difference in the world.

Of course he does agree with the quote and the sentiment – but then he expands up on it in some lovely ways, pointing out that when you focus on achieving your purpose, opportunities to further it just pop up – regardless of whether you get this position or that.

As Pete says, “If you know what you’re trying to achieve, not in terms of the title you’re going to have, but the difference you’re going to make, who knows what opportunities are going to come to you?”

Want to focus on Middle East peace? Perhaps the most expected route is to be an assistant secretary at the State Department.

But Pete points out that it’s possible that as an academic you could write an article that changes how people even think about the Middle East.

Or you could have a conversation with someone at a conference. Or you could have a viral moment on a street corner … and change the world without anyone so much as knowing your name.

In that way, focusing on purpose, rather than position, is liberating. It means you are free to achieve your goals even if you aren’t the head of an NGO, or a non-profit, or an activist organization.

Or, frankly, even the member of one.

I couldn’t agree with this more.

The trick – which Pete makes sound quite simple (it’s not) – is to know your purpose.

To use your purpose as the North Star of your life requires a lot of thought about what that North Star actually is.

I think that’s an excellent exercise. Especially in these closing days of the midterms, when your time and mental energy are likely at a premium, focusing your minutes and talents where you want to make the most difference is not only effective – but satisfying.

So, what is your North Star?

Is it democracy? Voting? Racial justice? Climate? Education? Abortion? Economic inequality? World peace? Hunger? Public health? Local elections?

What issues are you drawn to? When someone asks you what you’re fighting for, where does your head go first? Where does your heart go first?

Are those the same things you’re spending your time on?

Once you find your passionate purpose, setting priorities becomes easier. Suddenly it’s not so difficult to see the many ways that you can make a difference – even from the comfort of your couch.

And in these closing days, as the opportunities to pitch in come fast and furious, it’s not so difficult to choose where to spend your time in the closing days of the election.

Okay, friend. There’s a lot to do.

So let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of October 11, 2022

Tonight (Tuesday) @ 8pm: Swing Left Midterms Update

Join Swing Left for a discussion on the state of the midterms and how to get involved in must-win races in this critical final stretch. With only a few weeks to go before Election Day 2022, now’s the time to take action!

Yasmin Radjy, Swing Left’s executive director, will lead a panel discussion on the races to watch and the implications of holding and expanding Democratic majorities this year and beyond—on everything from abortion access to climate action to voting rights to fair elections.

Panelists include:

  • Simon Rosenberg (NDN)
  • Kelley Robinson (Planned Parenthood Action)
  • Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-53)
  • Ramón Cruz (Sierra Club)

To close out the discussion Swing Left will share easy ways to get involved—virtual or in-person—to help Democrats win in the most competitive races, up and down the ballot.

Sign up here: https://www.mobilize.us/swingleft/event/523576/?referring_vol=79828&rname=Matt&share_context=schedule-modal&share_medium=twitter&timeslot=3685871

Help a Resister-Sister Out!

As y’all know, Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water is a wonderful person and amazing activist. She’s also the author of Chop Wood Carry Water, a daily action list (how does she find the time??) that’s chock full of great ways to make your mark.

Her list yesterday was a bit of an SOS, and I know that some of your are postcard writers! From Jessica:

Y’all, I am in a tight spot. I have massively over-ordered on postcard packets for my hub—I think my anxiety got the better of me and also I assumed I’d have the same level of volunteerism I did in 2020. I do not. I have thousands and thousands of postcards that need writing FAST. If anyone knows ANYONE in the Northeast LA area who can write for me please, please send them my way. I am stressed about it.

Also, I can ship packets to people outside of L.A., but only if you can cover the priority mail cost—sorry I am already so out of pocket on these. You’d have to be able to turn them around very quickly on receipt, too. Like, in a day or two. 

I have:

Pre-addressed PA Voter registration cards (theoretically send by 10/14, but a few days past that is OK)

Pre-addressed Christy Smith cards to be mailed by the 16th (again, a few days past that is acceptable)

Postcards to Swing States going into North Carolina. Supposed to be mailed on the 17th exactly.

God help me. I have SO MANY MORE cards coming after these. Can anyone help? 

If you can help Jessica, email her at cwcwdailyactions@gmail.com.

Subscribe to her substack HERE.

Help Turn Out Ohio Voters!

So Tim Ryan absolutely WIPED THE FLOOR with JD Vance in last night’s televised debate. It was a sight to behold.

Tim is running an amazing campaign. Unfortunately, national Dems are not putting money into Ohio. (I know, I know.)

So you can help Tim by donating or volunteering with him directly (https://act.timforoh.com/signup/volunteer/) – and/or you can help turn out Ohio voters in other ways.

Send postcards to voters for the Ohio Supreme Court: The balance of the Ohio Supreme Court will be determined in this election. The Ohio GOP has violated the Ohio constitution 7 times in its redistricting maps. In fact, Ohio is voting using unconstitutional maps that the Ohio GOP refused to modify based on the OH Supreme Court’s ruling because they wanted to “wait” until the results of THIS election.

There are three democrats running for the Ohio Supreme Court. They are each incredibly well-qualified and would be impartial arbiters of the law. They are running against judges who have already stated they do not believe abortion is a protected right; two of the judges attended Trump’s infamous rally in Youngstown, Ohio.

Postcards to Voters still has some addresses left for the OH Supreme Court.

Already an approved writer? Here are three easy ways to request your addresses:

1. Text HELLO to (484) 275-2229 or

2. Message HELLO to Abby the Address Bot on our Slack channel here: https://bit.ly/SlackAbby or

3. Send an email to: Request@AbbyAddresses.org

Not yet approved and ready to join #PostcardsToVoters?

1. Text JOIN to (484) 275-2229 or

2. Send an email to: Join@TonyTheDemocrat.org

Vote Forward has addresses for Ohio’s 1, 9 and 13 Congressional races – all places where very strong Democratic nominees are running in very close races. So you will be boosting turnout for Tim Ryan’s Senate campaign, as well as the congressional races in those districts.

Go here for addresses for the 1, 9 and 13th Districts: https://votefwd.org/district/OH_2022_B_CD_01 (1st)

https://votefwd.org/district/OH_2022_B_CD_09 (9th)


PA Volunteer SuperDem Recruitment Phonebanks (fun, easy)

In Jessica’s action list yesterday, she noted that VoPro Pros really need help with their PA volunteer recruitment phonebanks. You’ll be calling SuperDems who have volunteered in previous elections and asking if they can do so again. Very friendly calls.

There are options for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday


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.

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!

P.P.S.: 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.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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