3. Plan ahead—it wasn’t raining when he built the boat.
I recently visited Detroit and found and optimistic and proud community. Is it because there has been so much bad that now there can only be good? The people of the city are open to experimenting with new concepts and are humble about implementing ideas. Does a city, or a neighborhood, or a service population, have to fail to allow such a reaction as Detroit’s? It follows the adage that you have to hit bottom in order to go up. Well I disagree. Let’s plan ahead. When something is starting to show signs of distress, let’s not wait for it to be completely broken before we fix it. When a boat has a small leak the crew repairs it rather than waits for a hole to develop. I prefer not to wait for someone to rescue me.
We don’t have to wait for the storm to commit to taking risks. When we question the status quo we may find that everything is okay. But we may also find signs of trouble. Those signs may indicate the trouble is in the future, but it is there none-the-less. Sometimes we are afraid to mention the leak in case we offend someone. But I would rather offend someone who might not see the leak, or might not agree there is a leak at all, than to let the boat drift to the bottom of the sea.
I think we can apply this lesson to the concept of not resting on our laurels. Success is always developing. It is not good enough to sit back and bask in success. When something works, learn why and how it can improve. Or can it be adapted to help something else that is struggling? Take what you know and plan for the future. Successful examples exist because a minor success led to a major success. Let’s go back to the Midwest for an example. The Jane Addams Hull House was inspired by one woman’s ideas for transforming social services. Her individual efforts inspired social work and human services in the United States as we know it. A minor success in serving a Chicago neighborhood became a major success by shaping the human service industry. Now there are a lot of complicated factors that impacted the closing of Hull House. But one of them included not looking deeply enough at how to keep improving and adapting for the future. A lack of foresight, a lack of planning for the unseen storm, led to a major success becoming a major heartbreak.
It is common knowledge that long-term, effective change takes time, and planning for an unforeseen storm can seem challenging. Part of the time required is learning about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to implement the change. This means that in addition to looking at the status quo we also need to be constantly educating ourselves
Why not continually ask “what’s next”?
For instance, lesson #4…