Small town is in my blood.
At least that’s what I carry forward from having grown up in Bisbee, a hidden gem of a city with a population of 4,923 living souls tucked away in the southeastern corner of Arizona.
While ambition has fueled a personal odyssey in search of knowledge and awareness, it is the experience of being raised in a small town that best represents who I am as a person.
It bestowed a sense of fellowship capable of generating incredible levels of enthusiasm, nurturing a sense of invincibility and optimism that makes you believe you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
Recently, I’ve begun to realize how much my past could influence my future, bringing me full circle to appreciate the undeniable power and influence of community.
A Kaleidoscope of Kindness
Bisbee is a charming little township, nestled within southern Arizona’s rugged terrain, seemingly invisible to visitors until they pass through Mule Mountain Tunnel.
Traversing this time continuum through earth and stone offers more than a link between the real world and days of future past. It offers a glimpse into what can be accomplished when uniquely collective passions unite in a simplified pursuit of art, creativity and culture.
The resulting experience is one of genuine kindness and concern among citizens, not for the sole benefit of the town, but for the health and welfare of each other.
Which is odd, considering the town’s rough and tumble beginnings as a copper mining camp, inspiring infamous adages such as “The sun shines in Bisbee 300 days a year, but there’s moonshine every night.”
But it’s where I grew up dreaming of one day becoming Mayor; leading a resurgence of the town’s deep-seeded culture, while capitalizing on innovative ideas and practices that would promote steady and purposeful growth.
Made me feel like I could accomplish anything I set my 18-year-old mind to.
Magic On Montrose
Fast forward to the current millennium . . .
Recent events have rekindled belief that the power of community can: feed an unbridled enthusiasm in pursuit of multiple interests and passions; inspire creative thought; and simplify a perspective of how life could, and most likely should, be lived.
The muse at the center of this seismic subconscious shift is the Historic District of our current small town, Clermont, Florida, a mostly residential destination located about 22 miles northwest of Orlando.
We fell in love with the charm and allure of Montrose Street while searching for homes in the surrounding area on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon . . . the street was filled with the sights, sounds, and aromas of vendors and patrons participating in the weekly Farmers Market. It was enchanting.
It was also our family’s consensus that the experience felt as if we had stumbled into an episode of Gilmore Girls, and that somehow the fictional community of Stars Hollow had moved to Florida upon the show’s retirement.
Once we found a home and my relocation was finalized, I dove headfirst into the frenzy of professional commitments, performance development, and an hour-long commute back and forth from work each day.
The magic of Montrose Street drifted into memory, another distant reminder of what connected us to the community we now called “home.”
That is, until the earth stood still, and then slowly began to churn its way back to reality.
Sunday’s forecast called for cool temperatures and sunny skies, so we decided to dust off a memory and re-visit the Farmers Market for the first time in years.
Our initial arrival told us something was different. The area surrounding Montrose Street was peppered with improvements and recently completed retail projects. The results were impressive.
Nearing the center attraction, we could sense an energetic vibe, a renewed enthusiasm among both vendors and patrons of the Farmers Market. People were feeding off the positive energy, smiling, engaging, and supporting each other within a shared experience.
It made you feel like you wanted to connect, to become part of the experience. So, we did.
Within days, we were approved as a new vendor offering a delightful assortment of pastries and scones. As we looked over the final menu and pricing, Anna turned to me and asked, “Did you ever think . . .?”
She didn’t have to finish the question. We both just shook our heads and smiled, wondering what twists and turns fate had in store for us, and agreeing to just enjoy the moment at hand.
Bringing Me Home
Preparing for that first Market was an incredibly peaceful and satisfying experience. I was filled with energy, pouring myself into every pastry and scone, as night turned slowly into dawn, and dawn into day.
We were warmly welcomed by the event organizers and surrounding vendors, alike . . . just as you imagine it will be.
Standing in the brilliant sunlight of a November afternoon, I began to sense a feeling beyond place. I was home again, present within a community of collective passions.
The connection was something deeper than a pedestrian like-mindedness . . . “like-spiritedness” would seem more appropriate to the moment.
Watching the diorama play out before me . . . families taking photos in front of the holiday tree, patrons interacting with vendors, people engaging in a warm display of comradery . . . I began gathering insights to carry forward:
Create Your Own Community
A sense of community isn’t unique to small towns. Almost every organization provides a comparable setting through structured departments, divisions, units, teams, regiments, offices, etc.
Recognize the potential in gathering individuals within a smaller reach and scope . . . a unique market, identity, or environment. Strive to promote alignment of existing shared values and interests with the larger and more holistic objectives of your organization.
The resultant enthusiasm for a collective accomplishment empowers performance, generates incredible levels of energy, inspires innovative thought, and strengthens an emotional connection among individuals within the group.
Loyalty then reflects a sense of ownership for personal contributions, along with a belief in the power to accomplish anything your team sets its communal mind to.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
It’s not uncommon for everyone within a community to know everyone else’s business.
This extra degree of vulnerability and transparency is foundational to the loyalty that exists among its inhabitants . . . or team members, players, associates, active-duty personnel. You get the picture.
Trust is communicated through common gestures, such as a smile or handshake. Taking a moment to chat about a shared interest or listen to a neighbor’s concerns is woven into the fabric of everyday life.
Group events become personalized experiences, with everyone free to share and exchange ideas and compliments.
But it all begins with placing an “Open for Business” sign on your emotions and self-esteem, and a willingness to share who you are.
The Power of Enthusiasm
Once you have established your community, encouraged everyone to be open and transparent, and checked your fears of engagement at the door, you are ready to feel the power.
The inter-connectivity of a group is a tangible resource in building enthusiasm for any project or endeavor.
Popular theories on resiliency highlight the negative effects of fear and anxiety among groups. Leaders are encouraged to promote a climate of calmness and clarity to unleash the performance of their teams.
Why wait for that downer of a scenario? Take charge and amp up that enthusiasm if you really want to see results.
I’m living proof. My personal productivity has skyrocketed since we decided to participate in the Farmers Market.
Three passions . . . writing, speaking, and pastry . . . have become interchangeable, each one adding, not detracting, from my ability to execute with high level results.
Which is, after all, the ultimate objective and value of an enthusiastic community.
Find Something You Love
Find something you love and do it. Do it well. It can be that simple.
Through the many twists and turns of my career, the ability to gather individuals and establish a sense of community has been recognized consistently as one of my strengths.
Now, a huge chunk of my success as a leader makes more sense. I admit it’s taken a while, so let’s not be hurtful.
But I have come full circle to consciously appreciate the value in being from a small town. It’s been there all along . . . I just needed to open my eyes and embrace it.
It can be yours, too. Simply open yourself up, find a baseline connection among your group, and build enthusiasm from that point forward.
You’ll see me somewhere along the way . . . small town is in my blood.
This is Tall Tim, and I am At Your Service!