Bigger impact on the outside or the inside?

Why I’m thinking about running for office. And why that blows my mind.

Cameron Crow
Feb 11 · 5 min read


It’s something I’ve been obsessed with most of my life. It’s been pretty hard to make sense of it, honestly. I just kept feeling an overwhelming urge to do something significant.

It’s probably naïveté. Or idealism. Or just good ol’ millennial illusions of grandeur. Whatever it is, it’s always been with me, and it still is.

I think it’s what’s driven me to analytics.

An urge to help people organize information in a messy, stressful situation, and understand it better. And then do something about it.

I’ve enjoyed doing this for work, and I’ve enjoyed doing it personally. The confidence that comes from thorough analysis is one that I’ve made a mainstay of in my life. My family and friends have a name for it: “Cameron speed.”

And I’ve often turned that urge to analyze things on myself.

I’m into anything that helps me know myself better.

I love personality tests, getting honest feedback, and self-exploration. I’m usually thrilled when I find out about a new tool to learn about myself.

And one such tool was recommended to me by a friend about a year ago and it’s called “Journey to Personal Purpose.” To be honest, I was a little skeptical of this one at first — seemed a little grandiose.

But by the time I was done, I felt incredible clarity. I had developed something like a personal mission statement, that felt so true for me —

Pursuing continuous growth with bold actions from free thinking and objective research.

Wow. It felt good. And it still does.

Every time I come back to that, I think “So right.”

I think this explains a lot about why I hold some really unconventional views and opinions. I also get really excited by transparency and people speaking their mind fearlessly. This all led to me starting Make Idaho Better.

The idea behind that was basically to super-charge the things I’m passionate about and grow them beyond my small, personal sphere of influence, and make them bigger, bolder, more visible, and more impactful.

I wanted to inspire people to be bold.

And this has been the most rewarding work of my life. I didn’t understand what it meant to “follow your passion” before. And, honestly, I regularly sneered at it. It often felt kind of fake — people wanted to believe they were passionate about things. It seemed pretty manufactured. But,..

With Make Idaho Better, I learned what following your passion means.

It’s real. I’ve never been more energized or productive. It’s incredible.

As I grow Make Idaho Better, my guiding principle is to make a bigger impact. To inspire people to be bold. To be real. And to talk about the real shit. The shit that matters. And then make things better.

From the outset, I believed I could be more effective from the “outside.”

By that I mean outside government, or even established organizations. I could act like a nimble maverick. A rabble rouser.

Someone with no interests besides transparency. Someone who could follow “truth” without worrying about stepping on toes or preoccupying oneself with things like political capital.

I tried working in a bureaucracy once (NSA), and I have never been so depressed (then or since). It’s not a good fit for me. At all.

And to me, being an elected official was an extension of that. Still government, still hierarchical, still too many limitations and boundaries.

But last week I went on a tour with my current Boise Young Professionals mentor, Representative Melissa Wintrow, through the Idaho Capitol, and…

Things felt different than I expected.

Hearing Melissa and others talk about their day-to-day and what it’s like to be a legislator, it sounded pretty different than I expected, and that surprised me. (I was a Political Science major, after all.)

I came away from that experience realizing that in a lot of ways legislators act like entrepreneurs. They don’t have a “boss” besides their constituents, and that’s like an entrepreneur’s customers.

They have independence and autonomy. They’re expected to do what they think makes sense, not what their manager’s manager’s manager says needs to happen.

I realized that being a legislator might not be as incompatible with my personality as I thought.

I could still be bold and different. In fact, people might actually want to elect me for that (but, maybe I’m delusional…🤪).

That was a pleasant surprise. But even then, I didn’t feel myself wanting to run for office. I just thought “Huh, interesting.” But my mind kept chewing on this involuntarily.

It occurred to me that my personal purpose and the impact I can have from Make Idaho Better is limited by the amount of exposure, awareness, or visibility that it has.

I’ve made strides with this, but it’s probably overly optimistic to say that 1% of Idahoans know about Make Idaho Better. But,..

I want more like 30% of Idahoans to know about Make Idaho Better and what it stands for.

(Why not 100%? Because I’m trying to be realistic, and a lot of people are just not tuned into this sort of thing…)

I think that’s doable on my current path, but maybe it takes 10 or 20 years. Honestly, I’m okay with that if it’s the best I can manage. But,..

What if there was a faster way?

What if running for office, or getting elected, or making a name for myself in the statehouse would make it possible for 30% of Idahoans to know about (and maybe be inspired by) the values of Make Idaho Better in, say, 5 years?

That sounds better!

That could be a way to have more impact faster, and as you now know, that’s what gets me fired up. So,

I’m thinking through what this means.

Could I run for a House seat in 2020? Could I do it in an “authentically me” way? If not, I’m not interested AT ALL.

I’d want to be casual, not wear ties, speak normally, curse when I feel like it, talk about how weed should be legal, explain how I think psychedelics are one of the most life-changingly positive things I’ve experienced. Say what I think, and act on it.

I’m not sure I’m “electable.”

But I think I could be “successful” if my goal was to get people interested in transparency, honesty, and inspire them to make positive contributions, for real, in their lives and communities.

I’m thinking a lot about it, and I’m haven’t drawn a conclusion yet.

Before, I thought I could do more on the outside. But now, I think it may be the other way around.

(Update — Friends have given me feedback that they think I could be a great elected official, but that I should be more careful about how I explain my motivation — the reason isn’t to help my for profit business, it’s to spread the values and mission that it represents. Great feedback, and they’re right. What I want is for our communities to be connected to our government, and I think some of the best ways to do that are through data and transparency. I want that to become the norm, and Make Idaho Better is just how I’m trying to popularize that.)

Cam Crow

Considering ideas and thinking out loud

Cameron Crow

Written by

Cam Crow

Cam Crow

Considering ideas and thinking out loud

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