This stuff isn’t complicated, but enough people are out there selling complicated solutions, which has led buyers to believe it’s complicated. The sad fact of the matter is, and this pained me to realize, is that most firms are more interested in selling their own solution than solving your community’s problem.
Do you really need a professional to tell you how to get in shape? Absolutely not. We all know how to go about getting in shape- it’s a matter of eating healthier, getting more exercise, and sleeping more. This is incredibly simple, it’s just difficult to commit to because it takes hard work. It’s not so much that you need a fitness plan, just some encouragement. A personal trainer can provide good direction and help with motivation, but they can’t force you to get in shape. I could spend the next couple of weeks designing my ultimate New Year’s fitness plan, but I would only be stalling. The moment I get off of my bean bag and start sweating is the moment I begin to change my own trajectory.
Do you need a professional to learn a new language? Nope. There are books and apps and software to assist anyone with learning any language. Would a pro help? Sure, it can boost your learning. Joining a class would also provide some consistency and help move you along further, but in the end, you still have to put in the effort every single day.
Do you really need a professional to tell you how to clean your house? I hope not. Just dust, vacuum, mop and fix the broken shit. Before you know it, your house will be clean. No expertise is needed, just effort.
The problem with studies and experts and plans is that they are very poor at addressing the root cause of inaction, which is apathy. I have yet to work with a community that is suffering from a lack of studies, but every community I encounter is dealing with inaction and apathy.
Public input, plans, and studies are all good at providing direction, but if that direction does not lead to action, it’s meaningless. Meaningless while also being incredibly expensive. Whether it’s in your personal life, your business, or your community development capacity, the only way to improve is through action.
You think apathy gives a shit about your report? You think apathy is concerned that lots of people put stickers on a picture of a pretty building? The problem with apathy is that it can’t be cured by information, it only listens to action.
I can spend all day long thinking about how to clean my house, but it’s still gonna be dirty when the missus gets home. You can spend an eternity studying how to fix up your community, but it’s still gonna be rundown in ten years if you don’t take action.
The only way to truly improve is through action. Yes, a person must study to get smarter, but studying is still an action. If I paid someone to study for me, I wouldn’t really be getting any smarter.
The problem we are facing in community development, economic development and revitalization, is just simply apathy, which stems from inaction. It’s a feeling of being despondent, the feeling that nothing matters, the belief that nothing can improve. It comes from the fact that nothing has improved! And every study only helps solidify this belief.
What is it going to take for you to realize that another study won’t solve a damn thing? Want to feel better about yourself, get out and (literally) run your ass off. Want to get wealthier, earn more and spend less! Every facet you want to improve in your life only requires one ingredient and that is effort. Community revitalization is no different.
This stuff is about momentum and trajectories and they are far easier to shift than you realize. A trajectory can turn on a dime. Momentum starts almost unnoticeably and can build like a freight train.
People are so damn excited to feel something different about their town. They are desperate to shake off the decade-long malaise and feel something good. They don’t need plans, they need action, they need motivation, and they need encouragement.
See, we are not teachers, planners, or experts in community development, we are trainers and coaches. We don’t need to provide direction, we simply need to inspire action. We need to encourage and excite. The key is not to find out what to do, it’s simply making the decision to do it.
Inaction is what delivered rampant apathy to your community and no study can cure it. Put down your pens and sticky notes and pick up your brushes and brooms. Thoughts can only do so much, and it’s time for sweat. Inaction is the problem, action is the solution.