Rebel Lessons from Wendy Davis

Wendy DavisTexas state senator Wendy Davis is a rebel at work. Changing the rules by playing by the rules.

Her 13-hour non-stop filibuster on Tuesday to stop a piece of legislation being passed is an example of how rebels create change.   Regardless of your views on the issue, Senator Davis’ strategy is an example of how to take on the Bureaucratic Black Belts at work, in government, in our education and health care institutions. (Hint: if an organization is referred to as an institution, rebels are especially needed and need to be especially canny.)

Tuesday’s example in Texas showed that:

  • You have to play within the system to change the system.
  • You need supporters. You can’t go it alone. Her supporters filled the legislative gallery, supporting her throughout those 13 hours of non-stop speaking on the issue.
  • You will feel discomfort, but discomfort means you’re being true to your convictions. Aside from the intellectual challenge, Senator Davis could not go to the bathroom or take a drink of water in 13 hours. She had to stay on her feet talking about that one issue without pause.
  • The stronger the force of the opposition, in this case conservative Republicans, the more vulnerable they are. The more force and the shorter the fuse of people trying to block you, the greater your opportunity. This signals they have likely run out of strategies and are starting to feel at a loss. This is the cue that it’s likely a good time for rebels to act.  (See Mistake #2 in Top 10 Mistakes Rebels Make.)
  • The drama of the act, in this case the filibuster, is not the end. It is just one action of many more that will be needed.  Sometimes rebels get caught up in the spectacle and drama and forget that the hard work is still to come, and it’s likely to be the small, tedious things that will push change over the finish line.

I’ve always had a hunch that Texan women are especially good rebels.  They can be sweet and mean, getting their opposition comfortable and then bringing out a formidable no-nonsense will to get things done. It’s only a hunch, but Wendy Davis  sure convinced me that I may be on to something.

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