Stepping out of the Dugout and into the Game
This is the story of a town that loves baseball but often loves to hate on itself. This town may be a little down on its luck but from the way its citizen speak of it, you’d sometimes think it’s a lost cause. “There’s too much crime", or, "We’ve lost so many lost jobs", or "We’re no Denver or San Francisco”.
I hear people regularly proclaim this is a great place to raise their kids but admonish it on other aspects. How can we want to raise our kids in a place we talk down on? Our love for the city seems one based on cherry picking rather than a broader love and respect. We love forest park, the cardinals and the city museum. But you can keep all of your problems.
I was recently part of a conversation where it was pointed out we are all so quick to play armchair quarterback for our city. We shake our heads at new reports that come up and try to pin problems on the “other”. We loathe the problems and wish they’d just fix themselves. But what I keep coming back to is so much of our “action” is about assigning blame and pushing off responsibility. We’re either too comfortable, too busy or just believe its someone else’s job, rather than looking at our community our responsibility. I looked up the definition of community in the dictionary and found this: “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.”
My question is, “What do we want our 'common characteristic' to be?” Feeling sorry for ourselves? Assigning blame? Running away from the problem? Will our children and their children speak with admiration about people who hid or placed blame? Or will they look at us and ask the same way we are asking today, “How could you let this happen?” Fighting for what we believe in is the hard thing to do but the right thing to do.
Anything stated above is not unique to St. Louis. I’m pretty sure no matter where people live they complain about things here and there: traffic sucks, the good restaurants have been replaced by chains, the cool bars are all too popular now, etc. But somewhere among that loathing has to be some pride. The common characteristics, values and ownership where we stand up and say, “I'm from the Lou and I'm proud (h/t Nelly)! Its true, our city has made some serious mistakes in the past, and hell, we probably made some this week, but I care enough to have my eye on making it better because the important things we do in this life aren’t easy anyway.” This is a story about admitting our problems but also having the courage to believe in our ability to address them. And tweeting about it or writing about it (I'm looking in the mirror on this one) are only the beginning of our involvement.
As I’ve moved more into the shoes of a part-time writer over the past couple years, one thing I’ve learned to lean on a bit are writing prompts designed to help me start writing when I don't know what to write about (see the invention of writer's block). One of the prompts I’ve found most helpful is, “write about something that makes you angry”. I think all of us would agree we always have some aggression or frustration to let out so words always flow when I use this. Are you wondering how to become part of the solution in St. Louis? I think the previous statement could be a great place for all of us to begin. Here’s how: Ask yourself, “What makes me angry/frustrated about our city?” [Write your answer]. Then challenge yourself to get more detailed, “Why does that make me angry?” [Write a more detailed answer]. Then challenge yourself again and again. Get to the root of what is bothering you. What is one little thing you could do to get in the game? Don’t worry about solving it all. Just get started. And that’s one way you might move from the sidelines to the front line. When you think about the legacy you want to leave behind, do you want it to be one of complaining and resignation or action and engagement?
While I have been relatively engaged in my community throughout my adult life, I still feel a pull to become more engaged. That’s why I’m challenging myself to get granular too. One thing I've found myself amazed by is how fast the technological and work landscape is changing. As my friend Matt Homann said to me, "business has never changed this fast and it will never be this slow again." Never has our ongoing education to keep pace with change been more important. A curiosity and drive to learn more are things I would place at a paramount now to avoid falling behind. We will not stay a community and country towards the top of the pyramid if we do not dare to learn and try new things. The same skills and knowledge will become more of a commodity and move one step closer to automation and outsourcing. New skills, new perspectives and new relationships will make us stronger. I have my eye on a few ways I might work to instill this in others.
We are a baseball town. The thing is, all of the game's action takes place on the field. Barking complaints or compliments from the dugout (see social media platforms) is the easy thing to do. And when we do, we must acknowledge, we are playing the role of the critic rather than the person in the arena.
We all are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for. Part of that reason is with power, comes the ability to enact change. And when we strive to make change, we must acknowledge that we might fail. That others who continue to linger in the dugout, heckling, will call us a fraud or what we're doing stupid. This is when fortitude matters and the ability to stop listening to the masses is important. Its what will keep up in the game rather than retreating to the sidelines.
We owe it to ourselves to step up to the plate and try and risk going down swinging rather than continuing to ride the bench.
Go Forth Boldly