Vision Transforms

All progress takes place outside the comfort zone."  - Michael John Bobak

How important is community pride or community self-esteem to the overall vibrancy of a community?  It may turn out that while most of the attention and focus is on the financial resources that can assist in creating a more vibrant community, without elevating the sense of community pride and self-esteem and self-worth, the massive transfusion of dollars may be for naught.  In fact, there is ample evidence that would indicate that growing your community pride and self-esteem are directly related to the local growth of the GDP or revenue outlook as well. 

When it comes to a community, the old adage that “perception is reality” may actually have a firm basis in truth.  What residents feel towards their community has a direct correlation to their overall involvement, their volunteering likelihood and their civic contributions.  A great example of this is on the voting front. While voting is becoming less of a civic undertaking all across the country, those communities that have a low self-esteem and see a bleak future are also at the bottom of the voting percentages as a community, they have just lost interest in their own community.

When one thinks of this, I don’t believe this comes as much of a surprise; it actually makes total sense. But that then leads to the natural follow-up question or conversation: How do we bring back that pride and esteem that is so vital to a community’s well being? How do we turn around the negative mindsets that are so pervasive within the boundaries of the community?

How do communities overcome their self-perception issues? How do communities bridge the often times Grand Canyon size gulfs of self-esteem? How do communities lift themselves up from past mistakes, false starts and the constant beat of the naysayer’s drumbeat? The answer to each of those questions lies in one word - Vision!

Vision has the ability to transcend the widest of gulfs, heal the sickest of communities, and spark the renaissance of ideas and innovation. Vision can take a community that dares to dream big from the depths of the valley to the mountaintop of dreams. Vision dares you to dream big, reach high, and raise the bar.

While any community can have lofty visions, the reality of the matter is that few do. Most communities and leaders are stuck in the traditional mindsets and failed strategies and policies that have in fact created the problems they are dealing with today. Not that those ideas didn’t have their time and place; but like 8-track tapes, black and white TV’s and shelves of comprehensive studies lining city hall, failure to adapt to change has left them mired in the antiquated sameness of Neverland.

While most will say they have the Vision and the willingness to go where that leads, studies and practical observation show otherwise.  While the numbers vary, most studies will indicate less than 10% will eagerly adapt to significant changes in vision. Approximately 1-3% of that 5-10% might be considered true visionaries, willing to take the risk and lead the charge towards a future full of vision and hope. The other 90% are followers waiting to be swayed, but only after great effort. Let that sink in; in a community of 20,000, that is 1000-2000 willing to promote change. That is about 10-20 with the DNA to truly lead and enact change.

The odds of success may seem to be stacked against those with visionary dreams. They can take comfort in knowing that every successful community transformation, nearly every successful business and in fact, the United States of America came about due to those persistent 1% of visionary leaders.

You see, setbacks don’t stop visionaries; they further motivate them. Public opinion doesn’t deter visionaries; following the herd mentality has never had much appeal to them in the first place. Perfection is not a priority in a visionary’s mind, as they understand it is rarely achieved, and that “perfect is the enemy of great.” So the real task for communities is to find the true, trusted and financially prudent visionaries, follow their lead and hold on for the ride. Those are the communities that have a hopeful tomorrow.

John A. Newby is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: