The Goldilocks Rule for Idealists

Throughout my life, I’ve consistently shown a tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

This was certainly evident in college, when I regularly chose broad topics for short papers (and when I discovered the Robert Browning line “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a Heaven for?”). And it seems fairly obvious in my current life, as I work to build CASE into an active force for promoting the Sudbury model‘s visibility and viability, even as I supplement this project with part-time work at Alpine Valley School and enough freelance writing/editing work to support myself.

Interestingly, my Sudbury and freelancing pursuits are simultaneously insisting that I must refine my focus before I can move forward. This is both frustrating and exciting, as I hone in on a scope for these projects that will maximize their feasibility and impact. I’ve started thinking of this as “The Goldilocks Rule for Idealists”—not too narrow an approach, nor too broad, but just right. Common sense, yes; but in my experience, being both idealistic and pragmatic is no mean feat.

On the Sudbury side, this dilemma plays out on a few different levels. First, there’s the fact that I’m currently dividing my time between Alpine Valley and CASE—which I want to continue, both because it’s fantastic fun to be part of a Sudbury community and because it informs and supports my work for CASE. Similarly, the sheer range of potential projects CASE might undertake makes prioritizing and strategizing rather daunting. (Fortunately, a Google group I recently created is already helping on that score, by giving me a variety of perspectives and feedback.)

I also wonder whether in order to reach a larger audience, to achieve a critical mass of followers and attention, I might need to expand my appeal. That is, focusing solely on Sudbury schools and those who wholeheartedly buy into its philosophy could significantly hamstring my efforts. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not the least bit interested in reducing or redirecting my Sudbury advocacy. What I’m wondering is whether, and to what extent, I ought to reach out to a broader audience.

For example, a friend of mine is involved in a project called The Tipping Point, aimed at supporting people in conventional schooling who want to find an alternative but aren’t sure how to go about doing so. Also, given the considerable overlap between the philosophies of Sudbury and unschooling, should I reach out more to the latter population, so that they know Sudbury schooling exists? In other words, there seems to be justification for adding to my tactics a component that appeals to the people who (a) dislike the educational status quo and (b) are actively seeking alternatives (whether or not those include the one I favor). Of course, whether I have time for this is another question.

With respect to my freelancing, naturally I have ideas on what sort of scope might make sense. In brainstorming business names, I’ve come up with Write Livelihood: Wordsmithing for Worthy Causes…and YOU. It’s also occurred to me that there are likely others in my situation: people with talents they want to apply to various life- and world-saving pursuits, and that I might find a viable business model in coordinating between them and the organizations they would support. Here I’m thinking of names like Freelancers 4 Good or The Progressive Freelancer.

So, then, my question to you is this: how do I, given finite time and other resources, balance the idealistic and the pragmatic? For now, I’m going with the arbitrary division described in my recent post Counting the Hours: 30 Sudbury hours each week, along with 15 hours of freelancing. I’m not sure how well this formula will work, but it seems decent enough for now. As always, I’m extremely eager to hear your feedback, comments, and suggestions.

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