How to Write a Manifesto – Why Everyone Should Have One

Note: This is a guest post from Michael Martel of Achieve the Green Beret Way
A manifesto, by definition is a public declaration of a person’s principles and intentions. Throughout history a lot of manifestos have been political in nature. Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto sticks in many people’s mind as an example of a manifesto. Other famous ones have been on the subjects of art or technology. However, it doesn’t have to be on a certain topic. A manifesto lays out what is important to someone and publically draws a line in the sand as to what they believe in and what they will do and not do.
Manifestos have gotten bad press lately. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber had his own manifesto. Manifesto can be for good or evil. The Declaration of Independence is essentially a manifesto. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright had one. So does present day marketer Seth Godin. Organizations have manifestos; Apple has one.

Personal Manifestos

It is a great thing for people to have their own manifestos. Much of the modern world is lived in shades of gray. There isn’t a right or a wrong in modern society. Family norms have been established by reality TV. Ethical standards are eroded by the activities of political leaders. People can have standards for themselves. These standards create the foundation stones of our lives. A manifesto establishes this foundation and declares it to everyone, “This is who I am and what I stand for.”

You Don’t Have to Get It Perfect, Just Get Started

You might feel a little daunted at the task of writing a manifesto. You needn’t worry. All you need is something you feel strongly about. It doesn’t really matter what the topic is. It can be whatever you want to make a statement on – politics, your work, the environment, or a social issue or cause. It could even be about sports. The important thing is to be bold. Manifestos throw your intentions into the arena for others either to agree to or not. You don’t want to just make a list of things you like or don’t like. Make a declaration as to why this is something you would go to battle for.
The mechanics of writing a manifesto are simple. First, decide what you want your manifesto to be about. Your first manifesto doesn’t have to be War and Peace. Keep it short and sweet by focusing on one topic. Is it healthy living? Is it football officiating? Is it what kind of job you will take or not take? Make a list of a couple topics. Let them sit for a couple days while you let it brew around in your mind and then settle on one.
Next step for writing your first manifesto is to lay it out on paper. Pull up your favorite word processing software and get it going. Remember you don’t have to get it perfect. You just need to get it started. For your manifesto, I suggest a format of introduction, background, discussion, declaration. The before mentioned Declaration of Independence has the same format.
Your manifesto’s introduction should establish what your target is and why you are taking aim at it. You might talk in generalities why this is important to you and why it needs to be addressed. Don’t spend too much time on the introduction, the real meat comes next.
The background of your manifesto is the hook for your reader. People want to know why this is important to you. Personal stories are what draw the reader. They want to know what motivates you, thereby bringing them into the rationale. Also this is for yourself to explore why this gets your blood boiling and why you feel the attraction to it. The background isn’t just for the future readers. Even if you don’t intend to ever show this to another living soul, be honest in the background of your manifesto. If there was some element of abuse, emotionally or physically, try to write about it. This is a good place to talk about perceived slights, snubs. Every time you reread it, the background will bring you back to why this is a passion for you.

Manifestos Are Gritty

The discussion is where you make your case. Manifestos are gritty. This is not the place to dance around and try not to antagonize anyone. Simply say why you believe what you believe. Some will agree and some won’t. You will upset some people if your manifesto is bold. Don’t use a pro and con approach. Take that attitude that what you believe is the only approach and work from there. Go ahead and attack counter opinions and say why they don’t make sense. Most of all, state why this is important to you and it is important enough to make it a manifesto.
Finally, make a declaration in your manifesto. What will you do as a result of the manifesto? What will you not do as a result of it? Are you going to stop watching television? Are you going to seek out another line of work? Make a declaration that reflects what you stand for.

You Finished It, Now What?

Once you have your first manifesto finished, take a deep breath of satisfaction. You have placed yourself above the mob. You are one of the few who actually know what they stand for in life. You are not letting the winds of public opinion blow you around like a rudderless sailboat on the waves. Men are meant to be the captains of their own ships.
Take this further if you dare. Share your manifesto with family and friends. Encourage your friends to write one of their own. Write a couple more on other single topics. After a while when you have a few manifestos under your belt, write your life manifesto. Establish your values and how you will live according to them. This is the stuff legacies are made from. You deserve this.
For 20 years, Michael Martel was a Green Beret in the US Army. He now works with people to put Special Forces like effectiveness into their lives and businesses. Go to Achieve The Green Beret Way and learn about his book Get ER Done: The Green Beret Guide to Productivity.
Photo by Ben Fredericson


  1. This is so timely. I’ve been questioning my political beliefs lately, because it’s just so hard to identify with a political party when there are only two of them! I decided to summarise how I felt. This is what I came up with:
    I want a world in which all people are equal to a sensible extent – neither held back nor artificially pushed ahead of others; everybody kept safe, respected, fed, healthy and occupied, with the opportunity for self-improvement; while celebrating the differences that do exist.

  2. I really like this concept…Never thought about doing this before, but I think it’s brilliant.
    I think there’s a lot of unhappiness in the world b/c ppl don’t know themselves well enough. As an introvert, I’ve always hated when someone gave me the advice of “just be yourself.” “What if you don’t know yourself” was what I always wanted to ask them!
    Anyway, by doing a Manifesto as you suggest, you’re putting down in writing your opinions, feelings, values, etc. These are the types of things that can define your identity, not only to yourself, but to others as well.
    And when you know where you stand in life and live up to those standards, that’s great for self-esteem and confident interactions with others.
    thx…I need to get started writing!

  3. I agree that every person should have a personal manifesto. It gives direction and clarity. With these two things people are generally unstoppable.

  4. […] Optimizer explains how and why to write a personal manifesto – Come back Monday as I explore the core of my manifesto-to-be! Advertisement […]

  5. Glad you all like the post. Manifestos can be a lot of fun. I find writing a manifesto provides focus, gets ones thoughts in order. It is also a great thing to share with people to bring them on board.

  6. Great info here Michael. 100% agree. I’ve had commonplace book for some time where I’ll write in it insightful maxims, truths and quotes. Recently, I have pulled out and focused on the key values that I deeply hold. These values have created my manifesto and explain who and what I am. I think Viktor Frankl kinda put this way, while you’re asking life what’s your purpose, life is asking you the same question. Declare it! Write that manifesto and review it periodically.

    • Hi!my name is Mercy a student i read your view concerning how to write a manifesto.I will be glade if you will please tell me more about it.thank you hope to hear from you soon.

  7. Can a private blog (thoughts, feels, ideas) be thought as a manifesto?

  8. I would say that a private blog could serve as a manifesto. There are really several out there already.

  9. Thanks for the great article! I’ve had a manifesto for part of my job for a while, but need to expand it. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to stand on a desk and yell things a manifesto is an excellent reference to have in your hand.

  10. Thanks for the information, Michael. I am planning on writing my Manifesto soon and I was looking for some ideas of what it should contain. This has giving me a start.

  11. Please,i am Aspiring for the position of a Financial Secretary of an what format should my manifesto Look like.?

  12. […] How to Write a Manifesto – Why Everyone Should Have OneJan 20, 2012 … Personal Manifestos. It is a great thing for people to have their own manifestos. Much of the modern world is lived in shades of gray. […]

  13. Love this concept

  14. This is exactly what I needed. Exactly! Thank you so much for taking the time to be thoughtful in your article. I will be spending the next week or two writing my Elijah Task manifesto, another week putting some minor design to it, then launching thanks to your informative guide.

  15. Mine is written in pencil cause they won’t give me a god darn PEN in jail!

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