Someone more talented, and with a larger audience than me (though I may still try) should do an article on all of these. These are incredible. #18, Stay Glad, #19, Keep Hoping Machine Running, . But for now, I want to take a look at #33, Wake Up And Fight
Woody Guthrie, for those who may not know, was a singer and songwriter in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Famous for his folk songs that challenged the government, the establishment, and the general way we think, Guthrie influenced a generation of singers and songwriters, most notably Bob Dylan and Guthrie’s son, Arlo.
Guthrie’s wake up and fight, presumably, was directed at the establishment that he so often railed against, and the idea that someone needed to do something. For whatever anyone believes about him or assumes about his associations, kudos to Guthrie for deciding that the someone who needed to do something would be him.
What Does It Mean To Fight?
I worked with a high school basketball coach a few years ago who was and remains incredibly successful, by just about whatever metric you would like to use. If winning is important to you, this guy currently has 8 State Championships. If building character is your measuring stick, he is top notch in that area as well. His players are well prepared for life after high school and regularly return to practices and games to be around the program and check in with Coach.
This guy is one of the best in the business and has been that way for the last decade. What makes him so great is that they have a culture within the program that everyone understands. It’s bigger than a player, a coach, or a particular season. It has been built over many, many years, and everyone understands that everyone is important to the culture, but that no one is more important than the culture.
It just so happened that the year before I worked for this guy, the culture had taken a hit. Admittedly, he had let some things slide, bit by bit, and those things came back to bite him and the program in a painful way. They still won games, but they didn’t do it the way they had done in the past, nor in a way that meshed with what he had fought for.
That was one of the biggest lessons I learned. He told me over and over again, and more importantly, showed me over and over again, that you had to fight for your culture. You had to show up every day, tired or not, over it or not, and say the same things that you said yesterday. You had to be willing to correct the same behaviors over and over again. You had to be willing to be stronger in your convictions than a hard-headed high school kid, or a team full of hard-headed high school kids. You had to fight every day for what you believed in.
This meant that there were no little things that could be let go. There were no, “It’s just a ___, no big deal" like there are in many programs. There were things that he addressed that I didn’t always understand why he needed to take the time to address, or why he approached them with such vigor. There were players, no doubt, he had the same questions, though neither of us dared to ask them out loud.
Not because he was unapproachable or didn’t care about his kids or treated anyone with disrespect.
It was quite the opposite. It was because the way he fought for his program communicated very clearly that he had thought about what was important, where he was going to make his stand, and how the program should be run. It was not hard to believe him when he communicated that he knew what was best for the program and the culture that supported it.
Fighting means that we make a choice, stake a claim, draw a line in the sand, choose a side, and decide something is important enough to us that we won't let circumstance, other people, or even ourselves get in the way.
What Will We Fight For?
I hope you and I have some things worth fighting for. Our lives, I think, will be empty if we do not. The question right now is not whether or not you are fighting, just wondering if you have something worth fighting for.
Your family? Your values? Your children? Your goals? Your creative pursuits?
We get to choose. But we also must choose. What a shame to never have drawn a line in the sand, to never have staked a claim, to never have said this is enough, or this is not enough. We must choose to fight for something.
What will you fight for?
When Should We Fight?
This part I love. When should we fight? Today. Right now. Right when you wake up.
I used to joke around with a former boss of mine when he’d ask, “Are you ready?” I’d say, “I wake up ready.”
Maybe I’ll start saying, “I wake up ready to fight.”
On second thought, that sounds a little too aggressive to say out loud and requires more explanation in the moment than my first quip. But I am going to start saying it to myself. Wake up and fight.
Who Should We Fight?
Here is what makes the statement above work. More often than not, our fight is not against some external force. In Woody Guthrie’s case, he was fighting against ideas and beliefs that he felt were harmful to the country and the people within. Certainly, there are times when we may need to take a stand against an outside force.
There may even be a season in our lives where we must take an extended stand against a force that’s bigger than we are. We’ve seen a lot of people do that over the last few years, as they speak out and take action for and against things that they feel strongly about and would like to see changed.
We might have to fight against our bosses, our friends, or even our kids. Of course, we understand that "fight" in this instance, doesn't mean fisticuffs, arguing, breaking relationships or being over aggressive. It's about taking a stand on what we know is right, what we believe in, who we are determined to become, or who we are helping our children become.
For many of us the opponent is much closer than the outside world. When we wake up and fight, the battle begins anew, with ourselves, each day.
We have to fight against the gremlins telling us that we don’t need to get up early today, or that we don’t need to write that article today, or that we don’t need to make the extra sales calls today. We have to fight against the belief that we need to work all day without a break for ourselves, or our family, or our children.
We have to fight against the noise that tells us that maybe it’s okay to bend our integrity just a little bit this time, so long as we don’t break it. We wake up and fight against our fears, our doubts, and our nature.
Wake Up and Fight
Whether or not you are fighting against yourself, the man, or the members in your organization that aren’t as passionate about your business/team as you are, we must wake up each day and take on the challenge.
We need people, projects, and efforts that are worth waking up and fighting for. And because of the obstacles that exist, many of them within and many of them without, it’s helpful to approach it with this mindset. It’s not going to come easy. Nobody’s going to hand it to us. We have to wake up and fight for what we want, believe in and care about.
Or, we have to be willing to take what life gives us, not complain (or complain just for complaining’s sake), and live under the belief that things can’t be changed, so what’s the point.
Either way, we get to choose.
I’m with Woody. I choose to wake up and fight.
I’m pulling for you, Bryan