NEWBY: Be guilty of thinking too big in 2022



No community, chamber, or business leader wants to be labeled as one that thinks too small.  William Ward once said, “The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails”.  As a leader, which category do you find yourself falling in?

I recall a conversation with a good friend.  He was lamenting the lack of both vision and creative thinking engulfing his small community. Listening to him, my mind kept replaying the dozens of similar conversations I have heard countless times.

Unfortunately, this conversation is common in many communities across our great country.  It begs the question of which is more important, vision or creative thinking?  I would respond this way. Without vision or thinking big, there isn’t much need for the creative. It takes no creative thinking to continue doing the same things in the same way, that is better described as mindless meandering.  

We are largely programmed to take the path of least resistance.  We do this even when we suspect the path may not end well. In the stock market, business, and media world, this is referred to as a “herd” mentality. The herd is rarely correct having a poor track record in financial and business environments. We can add community transformation or revitalization to the category of herd mentality with bad endings, as well.

Why add community transformation and revitalization to the mix? Very simple, the current systems are stacked against small communities in today’s world. Most government entities by nature and design are built to move slowly. That is a great strength during normal times.  After all, it keeps communities from making hasty decisions. On the other hand, when unsettling economic times rear their ugly heads, the ability to move rapidly may be the only difference between resounding successes or dismal failures. 

The national economic system is also stacked against smaller communities and redevelopment. The entire economic system in our country is geared to slowly drain resources from smaller communities and redistribute those resources to larger cities and companies. While some of it is certainly by design, much of it is unintended consequences.  When we spend money at any non-local entity, those dollars are sent to wherever that corporate headquarters might be and therefore exit your community forever. This isn’t always bad.  Many services and products can only be acquired this way.  However, when the dollars leaving the community through chains, out-of-town owned businesses, and online exceed those staying in the community, the long-term outlook for your community isn’t very bright.  

You might ask, how does vision play into all of this?  As noted above, thinking small coupled with lack of vision will be the final nail in any community coffin. To battle the impact of the government, economic realities and any other roadblocks, your community needs a healthy dose of vision. Thinking small and vision are an oxymoron.  Many traditional leaders and influencers tend to focus on the issues that do nothing to solve the real problem facing communities, which is the need for rapid change led by vision. Rapid change is the only way out for communities stuck in a rut to effectively overcome small and hesitant minds, complacency, and tradition.  Their traditional foundations run fast and deep.  Rapid change will rock the foundation overwhelming the old ways quickly and showing a new path forward.  

Let’s be clear, rapid change is rarely clean and perfect at first.  Some things will go wrong. Don’t allow small and mediocre minds to make mountains out of molehills.  Point out items that go different than the plan, correct them quickly, keeping your eye on the vision and the end game. Don’t get sucked in by small minds that dwell on what amounts to small things in the grand picture.  That mentality has destroyed and will continue to destroy many communities. Remember and understand that perfect will always be the enemy of great! 

Always remember the progression of nearly every transformational task. First you work hard to become good. Then you refine and make good, great. After that, you continually strive for perfection. Don’t get obsessed with perfection, as we just stated, perfect is the enemy of great and is rarely achieved.  Be willing to settle for greatness any day.

John A. Newby, of Pineville, MO. is the author of “Building Main Street, not Wall Street” a weekly column appearing in communities around the country. He is CEO of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy and combining synergies with their local media to become more vibrant and competitive. His email is: