I've talked plenty about my interest in manifestos and even talked about my concerns with some of the most popular ones out there, like the Holstee manifesto. Seth Godin has a point of view on manifestos that breaks down exactly why finding the right one can be so difficult:
The essential choice is this: you have to describe (and live) the difficult choices. You have to figure out who you will disappoint or offend. Most of all, you have to be clear about what's important and what you won't or can't do.
In other words, saying yes to a manifesto also means saying no to something (or someone) else. According to Godin, real manifestos are manifestos with "no platitudes, merely a difficult to follow (but worth it) compass for how to move forward."
He goes on to cite the Acumen manifesto as an example:
Acumen: It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices unheard, and recognizing potential where others see despair.
It demands investing as a means, not an end, daring to go where markets have failed and aid has fallen short. It makes capital work for us, not control us.
It thrives on moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. It’s having the ambition to learn at the edge, the wisdom to admit failure, and the courage to start again.
It requires patience and kindness, resilience and grit: a hard-edged hope. It’s leadership that rejects complacency, breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption. Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.
Acumen: it’s the radical idea of creating hope in a cynical world. Changing the way the world tackles poverty and building a world based on dignity.
Starts, demands, thrives and requires. Four words that are not in the vocabulary of most organizations.
Starts, as in, "here's where we are, where few others are." Most politicians and corporate entities can't imagine standing with the poor. Apart from them, sure. But with them?
Demands? Demands mean making hard choices about who your competition will be and what standards you're willing to set and be held to.
Thrives, because your organization is only worth doing if it gets to the point where it will thrive, where you will be making a difference, not merely struggling or posturing.
And requires, because none of this comes easy.
I can't say that I have my own manifesto nailed down. And it's definitely something to consider working on. The best case scenario? Putting in the time and energy to develop one that I believe in and am willing to live out. The worst case scenario? Developing a manifesto so general it dilutes the value.