This article is not one of my usual sources (I hate to sound like a snot, but pink type and multiple exclamation points are usually a cue to fast forward for me), but it was sent to me by someone who thought it resonated with the angle I have been taking over the past few months on the need for bravery in rebooting planning and economic development. While I doubt a whole lot of us are aspiring to be the next Lady Gaga (and I can’t say I’ve pursued a career as a psychic with a lot of vigor), there’s a kernel of truth in here that I think is worth pulling out.
We are conditioned as community professionals to be part of a team, to stick with the instructions handed down by Them, to avoid rocking the boat if we can help it. For those of you who work with local governments, elected officials, nonprofit boards of directors, etc., you’ve probably gotten that message for years in no uncertain terms. It’s no wonder so many of us give up on that first impulse we had, to go into this work because it seemed like doing something that matters. After a few years of perpetuating a status quo that you know is limping, it’s no wonder so many start counting the days to retirement.
The author of this post goes a little deeper, and summarizes the most primal, fundamental fear that keeps people from doing what in their guts they know they should do:
The fear that if you actually stand in all your glory and say “Maybe I AM good enough! In fact, maybe I’m completely awesome…that all of a sudden the people in the shadows start looking at you differently and whispering “Who does she think she is?!”
As grown-up professionals, we don’t like that “who does she think she is?” prospect any better than anyone else. And add to that the fear that stepping out like that could conceivably impact your career and your personal economic sustainability, and it’s no wonder that we shrink from the spotlight.
But we need planners and economic developers and passionate community people to step into the spotlight in the world of local government and planning and economic development as much or more than any other field. Where else do you touch so much of what makes communities worthwhile? What other fields have such an impact on the places that form everyday life? We so easily underestimate how much we know and how important our contributions are for the long term viability of the places that we care about.
It might not look the same for us as for the astrologer or Lady Gaga or whatever, but we need to claim that same spotlight. We need to stop being beaten down by fear and step out there in the service of the good work that we know better than anyone else needs to be done.
We can do this. We gotta do this. Let’s get at it.