Within the next 36 hours, the next President of the United States will be determined via an election.
This is a very unusual election (understatement).
We have the two least-liked presidential candidates in the history of modern U.S. Presidential elections.
One argues for a return to the past. The other for a different kind of future.
One argues based on emotion and fear. The other on logic and reason.
One argues for a narrowing of what it means to be an American. The other for a broadening of that definition.
Regardless of the outcome, this will be a historic election in more ways than one.
Many potential voters do not like either candidate. Some are conflicted.
Some are considering a “protest vote” (to vote for someone you know can not possibly win).
Others are considering voting “against” the candidate they do not want to win. (This is the “vote for the least worst candidate” approach.)
Finally, many people are so fed up with the whole process they aren’t planning to vote at all.
I think all approaches have validity… except the last one.
I call the last approach the “non-decision” decision.
Whether it’s a presidential election, sitting in a conference room while your company makes a catastrophic mistake, or not speaking up when a major decision is on the line, the “non-decision” approach has several downsides.
First, your vote (or your voice in non-election matters) does matter.
In the U.S. Presidential election, the winner will likely get votes from 2%-3% more of the U.S. population than the loser.
In most Presidential elections, at best 60% of eligible Americans will vote. This means 40% of the population will not vote.
The results will look something like this:
31% – winner
29% – loser
40% – didn’t vote
100% = total U.S. population eligible to vote
(To simplify the lesson, I’m ignoring third party candidates for this teaching example.)
There will be more people who didn’t vote than people who voted for the eventual winner of the election.
This happens a lot in many aspects of life. Here’s why.
Anytime you take a stand, make your voice heard, or argue strongly for a position, you risk…
…your voice being ignored.
…making a choice that later turns out to be incorrect.
These are indeed possible outcomes, but there’s a good reason to vote (or express your point of view, anyway).
First, if you never speak up, you guarantee your voice will NEVER be heard.
If you do speak up (in this case vote), you might still be ignored… but you’ve at least done your part to make it possible for others to hear you. (Whether they listen or not is up to them.)
Second, not all decisions turn out to be good ones. Many people avoid deciding out of fear of being wrong.
This is why leaders exist.
It’s easy to make a decision between a good and a bad option. It’s far more difficult to make a choice between two poor options (if you happen to dislike both presidential candidates).
The essence of leadership is making difficult choices, under suboptimal conditions, with imperfect information.
You get better at leading when you make concrete decisions and discover the consequences of your choices.
You either get a good outcome, or you learn something. Both outcomes are useful (though for entirely different reasons).
If you’re an American that’s eligible to vote but considering not voting, I urge you to reconsider.
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about the choices others made.
It’s an entirely different experience to make a choice and be a part of the process.
We don’t need leaders to make the easy choices. We need them to make the hard ones. Vote if for no other reason than to practice making hard decisions.
And if you hate the idea of making difficult decisions regularly, then choose the candidate you feel best qualified (or least unqualified, depending on your point of view) to make difficult decisions on your behalf for the next four years.