Earn your platform. I knew that before I could coach basketball, I better be able to PLAY basketball. If I could play, I’d have a platform. A platform from which to speak. A platform on which I could stand and be noticed. A platform that would earn me attention – and my players’ respect. I had mixed success with that. I coach basketball, but I never became a basketball coach… Roz Savage is the only woman to ever row solo across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. (How do people even conceive these mind-boggling aspirations?) Why – never mind how – does she do it? Maybe it’s the challenge. Maybe it’s the thrill. Maybe it’s because of what it teaches her. “There’s nothing like 20 foot waves to remind us where human beings stand in the scheme of things,” she said.
But it also can be for the platform. If you do something special, people pay attention. Then, when you talk, you won’t be a tree falling in the woods, making a thunderous sound, but heard by no one, inviting the ludicrous debate “If a tree falls in the woods – but no one is there to hear it – does it really make a sound?” Of course it does! But don’t be that tree. No matter how good your ideas, if no one hears you, agrees with you, connects with you, joins you or follows you, what good is it? We need a platform. Roz Savage has hers. Now, when she speaks about her causes – 350.org, the Climate Change Project, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, the Blue Frontier Campaign, and ecological conservation, there are others in the woods to hear her. They want to hear about her adventures on the high seas, but they are also more likely to listen to her and care about what she cares about.
It may not make practical sense. How does rowing across the ocean make someone credible enough to expound upon the dangers about climate change? It may not even be fair. Why should I have to do something outlandish to earn my audience’s attention? Shouldn’t my ideas be able to stand on their own merits?
They should. And it’s even possible that they can. It’s just that it will be a lot easier to influence others and impact the planet if you have a platform from which to speak. Right or wrong, fair or not, that’s just the way it is.
So, what platform are you working from, on or toward? It doesn’t have to be something fantastical. At least I hope not. I know I’m never going to do anything close to as impressive and cool as rowing across the ocean alone. Still, it should be something solid. Something that gets you respect. Respect from others and, just as importantly, respect from yourself.