Lessons Learned

“The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”

– Malcolm Gladwell, describing the “10,000 hour rule.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote these words in his 2008 book, Outliers: The Story Of Success. That particular passage emphasized how important practice is to the success of any professional and concluded that “masters” need at least 10,000 hours of practice. That hypothesis has been controversial since its publication. Don’t we need something more than repetition? What about talent, or good old-fashioned luck? Don’t those things play a part in success?

In 2014, Brooke Macnamara, author of a Princeton University meta-analysis of 88 studies on the psychological concept of deliberate practice, said, “There is no doubt that deliberate practice is important, from both a statistical and a theoretical perspective. It is just less important than has been argued … For scientists, the important question now is, what else matters?”

It has been six years (and 52,560 hours) since I struck out on my own. After more than 11,600 hours put in, I agree with Macnamara: practice is important, but there are other things that matter too. Principle, for example. When it comes to growing a political action committee (PAC), I’ve learned that there are four principles that often guide success. They are:

That fourth principle also means that we always need to give credit where credit is due. I’m fortunate to be doing what I’m doing, with clients that I respect and in an industry that I love. The last 52,560 hours have been full of practice and hard work, but I’ve appreciated every minute of them. Thank you.

So—what’s next?

I look forward to the next six years. I believe they will be bright for PACs, and PAC managers. Our industry will continue to play an integral role in the education of lawmakers, and in brand development. But, like the last six years have been, the next half-decade will be a time of extraordinary change. Perhaps not on campaign finance regulation and compliance, but certainly when it comes to technology and the impact that independent expenditures will have on how campaigns are run. Grassroots also are taking on a larger role in politics and that phenomenon will continue to have an impact. But equipped with the four principles I outline above, I hope that together, Sagac and its clients will exceed the goals we’re setting today.

Dan Ekstein is a partner at Sagac Public Affairs, a national firm that provides communications, market research, fundraising, and issue advocacy solutions to hundreds of political, nonprofit and corporate organizations. Sagac and Ekstein are industry leaders in the implementation of comprehensive strategies for political finance operations. The firm’s clients represent more than one-third of all federal qualified funds raised each election cycle by corporate and trade association PACs.

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