Successful entrepreneurs have always known that they must not be afraid to fail at some endeavor. One of the most famous of all, Thomas Edison, for example, often said things like
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Having a few failures under one’s belt can actually give a person more confidence, because they have learned that, as long as they didn’t bet the farm on a long shot, a failure need not be feared like the end of the world. It’s critical not to be afraid to fail, since otherwise one may not even try to succeed. Successful entrepreneurs usually fail at least a few times in their careers. But overly cautious entrepreneurs who don’t take risks almost never succeed. As a modern entrepreneur, Esther Dyson, noted,
Everybody should have a real failure, ideally when they are pretty young, that gives them a sense of confidence.
Perhaps she even learned this not from personal experience, but from her father, the eminent physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson,
You can’t possibly get a good technology going without an enormous number of failures. It’s a universal rule. If you look at bicycles, there were thousands of weird models built and tried before they found the one that really worked. You could never design a bicycle theoretically. Even now, after we’ve been building them for 100 years, it’s very difficult to understand just why a bicycle works – it’s even difficult to formulate it as a mathematical problem. But just by trial and error, we found out how to do it, and the error was essential.
So contemporary naturists must be enjoying quite a lot of confidence right now, no? Snark aside, Larry Darter is understandably disappointed that his We the People petition received only about 3000 signatures in a month, only 3% of what was required to receive an official response. Even though there are something like 20 times that number of members in AANR and TNS combined, to say nothing of several millions of others in the U. S. (no one knows even the approximate number) who enjoy social nudity.
But, publicly at least, Larry is taking a positive attitude:
At this point, with the petition having attracted just over 3.03-percent of the signatures needed, it is easy to feel it was wasted effort. I hope that not a single one of the awesome people who have signed the petition feel that it was a failure.
It would have been great had the petition received the 100,000 signatures since of course it will never be known now what might have been accomplished. But it is important to know that gauging the usefulness of this effort only by how far short the petition fell from getting the requisite number of signatures is far too narrow a view. The petition attempt did accomplish some valuable things.
Among those things is having to face the fact that there are some very serious problems in the world of “organized” naturism, at least in the U. S. At the top of the list, Larry notes
There is a substantial amount of division and discord within the naturist and nudist community. …
The effort also identified some self-appointed “leaders” within the community who have been found lacking when it comes to what leadership is all about. Many have been quick to criticize the petition effort yet are curiously silent on any strategies themselves for advancing our culture. I think the time for talking is over and it is time for action. I think it is time to start ignoring self-appointed leaders who are great at criticizing the efforts of others but don’t seem capable of offering any viable alternatives. I don’t know about you, but I won’t waste another second of my time listening to those kind of folks.
Larry’s not losing any time mourning the petition effort. He’s moving on, writing about some of the changes in the social environment that may be positive for social nudity (as well as challenges present in the environment), and starting to offer ideas for promoting naturism and social nudity.
In another post, he discusses how to exploit favorable opportunities in the present social environment. Heading the list, not so surprisingly, is the Internet:
In many respects the naturist and nudist community is doing many good things with the advantages the Internet provides with regard to communicating the cultural narrative of nudism. There are more talented writers creating and publishing timely, accurate and credible information about the culture on websites and blogs than ever before.
But there are many problems in how the Internet is being used, as I noted in Question 8 of Questions for naturists and nudists to think about. One of the main problems is how discussion of naturist issues is badly fragmented among a proliferation of blogs, discussion boards, Facebook groups and pages, Twitter feeds, and naturist-only social networking sites. This probably has a lot to do with the “division and discord within the naturist and nudist community” that Larry noted. People who enjoy social nudity and follow online discussions are able to get to know only a small portion of the overall community, and as a result misunderstandings proliferate between people who simply don’t know enough about where others they communicate with are coming from.
But that’s only one of the problems naturists have in taking advantage of the Internet. As Larry notes, the national organizations (AANR and TNS) are part of the problem, not part of the solution:
The national organizations really need to do a better job of leveraging the advantages of the Internet. Just as websites have become critically important to the success of businesses the same is true for organizations like those in the naturist and nudist community. The national organizations cannot afford to neglect their websites. Websites provide a first impression opportunity that has to be utilized to contribute to the growth of the organization.
A professional, well-designed website will convey to those exploring what nudism has to offer as well as to key constituents that the organization is worthy of their getting to know it better. A neglected website that is allowed to take on a dated look and that doesn’t offer fast and intuitive navigation works against the organization.
AANR’s website isn’t currently too bad, though it was often neglected at times during the past 10 years. They even have a newsy blog, although you’d miss perhaps 98% of interesting naturist/nudist news if that were your only source.
The TNS site, on the other hand, is a different matter. It isn’t exactly a disgrace, but it does look a bit dated, and its content is rather limited. TNS is hardly making effective use of this or most other Internet resources. And what about NAC, the self-described “Naturist Action Committee”, which was spawned from TNS and is still loosely coupled to it? Their website is a sad, forlorn thing, unless you like the retro 1995-ish style. The front page there proudly lists “Popular Topics”, consisting of three articles from 2001, 2002, and 2006. NAC may be doing some good work behind the scenes, fending off anti-nudity legislation in a variety of state legislatures. But their communication with the naturist public consists of infrequently-issued (a few times a year) “Action Alerts“. Oh, and unlike AANR, NAC did not even recommend signing Larry’s petition, though they did say it was OK if people wanted to sign it anyhow. One has to wonder about their concept of “action”. (TNS had nothing at all official to say about the petition, as far as I know.)
TNS hasn’t always been so far behind the times. Their flagship publication, N magazine, is still a fairly polished effort, though it’s available only in print format. The website does offer one “Article of the Month”, but the latest article is from 2011. Perhaps the office hasn’t received newer calendars yet? At one time, TNS actually did pay more attention to the online naturist world. They used to have a regular column in each issue of N that covered recent developments in online naturism. Of course, they dropped the column in 2004. We all know that noting interesting has happened with online naturism since then, right?
But enough of this negativism for now. Few organizations can function very well without a broad base of support. Naturists and nudists must be active themselves, and contribute both personal effort and financial support to their organizations. It wouldn’t be unfair, in my opinion, to note that there’s a lot of apathy today among grassroots naturists and nudists. That is both a cause and effect of organizations that are not functioning close to optimally. (And it explains a lot of why Larry’s petition got only 3000 signatures.)
I have a lot more to say about ideas for promoting naturism and social nudity – mostly positive suggestions. But even before that, it’s important to go into more detail about the nature of the current problems faced by naturism and social nudity. That will be coming very soon.