The 10-DC-Commandments

I’ve also shared this advise during a welcoming ceremony of one of our newcomer Atlas Corps Classes in DC, but I’d like to become repetitive in this case: be shameless. Ask for tips, clothes, free events, contacts, local hints, help, information, ask, ask, ask! Following this mindset, I was asking one of the most Senior people at my Host Organization if he could give me some good advise as I was trying to get around Washington DC in the best way possible, in order to serve me well not just for the time being, but also for the years ahead. What I received as a gift was his beautiful personal list of “10 Hard-Earned Lessons”, which I will call “The 10-DC-Commandments” and I will share here with you:

1. It’s more important to be respected than loved.

It’s more important to be respected in Washington than loved.

2.The perfect issue.

The perfect issue is one that is good on its merits and good politically.

3. Key to succeeding.

In this most political of towns, you need to steep your- self in understanding politics and the crafting of public policy. If you don’t choose to do so, it is wise to connect with someone  who  focuses  in  on  this  critically  important aspect of Washington.

4. Savor small victories.

Savor small victories. There are very few Nelson Mandela’s and Martin Luther King’s out there who can change an entire political culture.

5. Don’t underestimate the people you meet early on.

New York Mayor Jimmy Walker said, when he got out of prison, “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up because you will meet them all again on the way down.”  I assume Mayor Walker was being a bit flippant, but being ruthless is, as a rule, a poor strategy and will reflect poorly on your character.

6. The dangers of self-indulgence.

“On a really clean tablecloth, the slightest speck of dirt annoys  the  eye.   At  high altitudes,  a  moment’s  self- indulgence may mean death.”—Dagg Hammarskjold,  Secretary-General of the United Nations. I have kept this  quote  next  to  my  home  computer  for  the  last  30 years.

7. Community is an essential concept.

Finding sub-cultures and meaningful communities will help you to be a successful person in Washington, D.C.

8. Seek out and choose your mentors.

Studies show that those who had mentors in college, or early in their career, had the best chance of succeeding in their careers.

9. Develop your own personal board of directors.

Develop  your  own  personal  board  of  directors. Who are the people who can give you feedback and guide you when you want and need it?

10. Try not to kiss any frogs.

I obviously mean this in the professional career sense. There will be people with money and with power who will be very seductive and they will come to you want- ing  your youthful energy, brilliance and talent. Choose carefully. Work hard to keep your integrity.

Anthony Garrett is Senior Advisor on Policy and Strategic Development at Internews and also the principal of “Anthony Garrett & Associates”, a Washington, DC based public policy advocacy firm.