BEFORE AND AFTER VIEW OF WETASKIWINS MAIN STREET
Imagine mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and maybe a few aunts and uncles watching baby take their first steps. Wobble, wobble…boom on the bum then perhaps tears. Baby’s first steps.
Now imagine the onlookers responses. What do they do? They encourage, “c’mon you can do it” with out stretched arms. Or holding their breath in anticipation; hands at the ready to catch baby if they falter or fall. And when they do, onlookers don’t shake fingers, tsk, tsk. Certainly not spank. They don’t go to the neighbours or other family members and tear apart the effort. They usually recall the attempt and report the achievement, often saying – “won’t be long now till they’re walking”. Baby responds to the encouragement, tries again and sticks with it. Memories are made!
We all know about how crucial encouragment is, a world view of abundance or call it just being “postive”. Athletes do it! Winners of all kinds do it – from business people who stay in the ring with perseverence to local heroes. We admire those who overcome adversity most; Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Rick Hanson, Terry Fox, and many thousands more bring inspiration as their stories travel from the lips of one to another. The list of achievers is enormous and includes many a business owner; Heinz, Kellog, Seagrams and of communities that achieved turnaround. All pressed forward; drawn to the future by the magnet of optimism fuelled by believers making more believers.
A book – Geeks and Geezers is devoted to the study of success comparing the young entrepreneurs of technology with the accomplished leaders and highly successful businesses including the likes of Jack Welch of General Electric fame. In every success story, business or otherwise the common theme is irrefutable; optimism builds teams, builds communities and is the fuel that pulls them through tough times.
The behavioural research is clear about leadership and the careful balance that must be struck between reality and optimism. In two words the Geezers group attribute their success to ‘adaptive capacity’. In From Good To Great, Peter Block follows the success of many businesses, their leaders and the communities they foster. Common to all; finding the glass half full perspective, and focusing on it, while simultaneously looking at mistakes and being prepared to make change quickly when red flags appear. Change and error is viewed as vital to growth. “The road to success is paved with failure”.
The aforementioned authors, the Harvard School of business and other researchers agree; to focus exclusively on the half empty or scarcity world view grows ‘stinking thinking’, clouds vision, is a morale killer and worse stops all sense of belonging and desire to work more, contribute and stay engaged.
‘Slum mentalities’ have been studied in depth. When exposed to life outside of the slums, even if only for a short time, a new vision is sparked and the seed of hope is planted. It’s then dependent upon the individual’s choice to stay in the slum or make choices to eventually move out.
All research agrees slum mentalities and stinking thinking coincides with depression, hopelessness, helplessness and stagnation follows. Worse – people check out, businesses close, and energy boils off. There is movement out of the community whether the community is where people live, have a business or is the community they share with co-workers. They leave in search of a place where they belong. Conversely, the synergy of optimism grows communities.
Give it a test. Bring to mind a personality you call a “winner” and then assess whether what you know of them was about skill (learned with practice) or attitude. Testing reveals from thousands of groups that the ratio is consistently 4:1 – attitude over skill.
I came to Wetaskiwin in support of family, delighted to be back in my native Canada after about 30 years all over North America working with small businesses. For a time I lived in Houston, Texas; late seventies, early eighties. Explore via the net ‘Old Town Spring’ or their vistors bureau (www.shopspringtexas.com/shops) and you’ll see the outcome of businesses and community that pulled together and saw the future together. Now it’s a number one Texas and worldwide attraction. Communities grew around it (broadening the tax base) and at the centre hundreds of small businesses with festivals and celebrations year round. I wrote and asked how it was done. The reply “ It was the landowners in the area that started the renovation of the area. There was no marketing person or committee that organized it. The landowners all bought into the idea [that together they could change and grow] and started having festivals and events that brought notice to the area then more shops opened and slowly the area grew and became better known. We did not have the downtown buildings or a city . Spring is not a town so it had no infrastructure to build on—only people who owned land, [land] that they wanted to be more profitable.”
Why not Wetaskiwin? We have historic buildings. We have a number of unique attractions. We have a facelift underway.
Research shows that a healthy and vibrant downtown boosts the economic health and quality of life in a community. Specifically, it creates jobs, incubates small businesses, reduces sprawl, protects property values, and increases the community’s options for goods and services. A healthy downtown is a symbol of community pride and history.
Downtown revitalization is not simply retail development. It is community development, which fosters economic growth and improves the quality of life for residents. Revitalization helps to: improve the image of the downtown; make use of existing buildings; offer residents a more concrete sense of place; provide residents with more retail options and services; provide more employment opportunities, whether in retail, service, government, health care, or other sectors; expands the local tax base; prevent blight and abandonment; increase safety in the community; and keeps money circulating within the community.
Could we, as a community, actually do something more than stand back, point fingers of blame, focus on the early wobbles and detach?
Even though it seems ridiculous, not possible, against human nature; what if community speak, media speak, neighbour to neighbour we made the choice to find the good and acted on it with just a small concious choice.
Some are really feeling the brunt of the revitalization of downtown Wetaskiwin. Baby steps begin with support and encouragement. The community can begin building towards a vibrant community starting right now by making the choice; to keep it local, put up with the dust and traffic pattern inconveniences. Citizens can make even the smallest of purchases instead of getting that little something elsewhere so that as we support so shall we grow and in the end everyone wins.
“Break down before break through”, the saying goes. The award goes to “those who stay in the ring”. Or how about these?
• “If you are going through hell, keep going.” - Winston Churchill
• “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth
• “It always seems impossible until it's done.” – Nelson Mandela
• “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” - Vince Lombardi Jr.
• “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius
• “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
Not much of an article some will say! Hurumph is expected. Pollyanna they’ll cry. Silliness, unrealistic. For them, here’s a list of motivation killers:
3. Lack of Clarity (misinformed, not fully informed, choosing to be uninvolved)
4. Uninspired Pursuits – finger pointing
5. No Motivational Program or Process just complaining
Any farmer or gardener will tell you, the success of the crop depends upon good planning, creating the proper environmental conditions and preparing the ground. It’s no use cultivating the ground if the environmental conditions are not met … the seeds won’t germinate. Growing weeds chokes out seedlings. Preoccupying the farmer or gardner with noxious weeds rather than cultivating the environment. It’s that simple. While in the field or garden what’s needed is the proper temperature, moisture and soil conditions. The revitalization process includes:
1. Unity – a point around which the whole community can rally.
2. Empowerment – Because the basis for success is a simple phenomenon; citizen with a willingness to share.
3. Self-reliance – the shared belief that together we can create something great.
We have a choice to make as citizen, community and in our case as a form of media. Integral to our ambition to grow our community and do our part in empowering the community please do write to us or email firstname.lastname@example.org as a Wetaskiwin resident or from the surrounding communties because all stand to benefit in the revitalization of one of Alberta’s oldest cities. Your comments may be published only with your permission or at the very least forwarded to the people who need to hear from the community.
We look forward to bringing to our community unbiased facts, triumphs, and yes report correctly of wobbles and falls.