The Three Great Virtues of Social Change Advocates

Photo by Flickr user nstop.
Larry Wall, a well-known computer programmer, famously said that the three great virtues of a programmer are laziness, impatience, and hubris. Perhaps these qualities apply to great nonprofit folks as well.

Laziness is the virtue, according to Wall, that leads folks to figure out how to be more effective and efficient, to “go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure.” Laziness, properly applied, means you do more with less effort, which is useful for those folks who aim to balance their nonprofit lives with, say, anything else at all.

Impatience is the virtue that leads people to anticipate future needs and opportunities instead of simply reacting to their current situation, and the quality that can lead folks to leap and ship instead of waiting for the perfect moment when everything is ready to go.

And hubris is the sort of pride that drives you to want to earn the respect of your colleagues by doing great work. Hubris is the virtue that enables the best advocates to believe they are capable of making great things happen, and that helps them be willing to take the risks that great things depend on.

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