A few years ago, if someone, sorry, when someone made a disparaging remark about Akron, Ohio, my hometown, I could say, “Oh yeah, well, this is the hometown of LeBron James! The Black Keys! Take that!” It was nice to be able to say something nice about my hometown. When I was a kid, I had a shirt that said “Rubber Capital of the World.” That’s not true anymore. The PBA Championships were at a bowling alley ten minutes from my house. Even the bowlers left us. It was easy to joke about Akron, but it was really enjoyable to have a comeback. Now, a few years have passed, and I don’t really have a good response for when someone jokes about my hometown. You see, all of the people that had the potential to lift this town up have left.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Hey, where are you going?
I think what’s happening in Akron and in Northeast Ohio in general is symptomatic of a serious problem in our society. When things get tough or frustrating or depressing or painful, people immediately look for brighter pastures rather than trying to figure out what went wrong or how to fix it. One of the members of the Black Keys apparently left, in part, because the nearest Whole Foods is a 45-minute drive from Akron. Well, why not try to bring Whole Foods TO Akron? Boost the local economy. Help people live better. But that kind of thinking seems to be on the endangered species list.
With the economy the way it has been, I wonder how many people apply this kind of thinking to their job search or their company’s well-being. How many people are settling for jobs because waiting for the right one is just too painful? How many people are languishing in depression because their company or their job isn’t going the way they want?
I’m not saying that if you try really hard, everything will turn out okay in the end. Sometimes you will get defeated, and that stinks. That’s also life. But why just lay down and die?
You don’t see case studies about successful companies who just keep getting more successful, or at least not very often. You see case studies about companies that turn it around. Companies that start from ground zero and reach the stars. There’s a challenge there. Something to really chew on. When you’re starting low, any improvement is exciting and wonderful. Hard times are where innovations come from. Hard times are where great ideas come from.
“This is our time. This is our time down here.”
Remember the 80s movie The Goonies? A bunch of silly kids face the impossible mission of saving their homes. They go on a treasure hunt and despite numerous obstacles, they end up winning the day. For all of us non-millionaire types, this is our time. It’s a time to find success and then pay it forward. It’s a time to take a little ball of clay and make a designer bowl. It’s time to take a struggling hometown and try to lift it up.
If I were ever to get famous…if I were ever to find the fame and fortune of a LeBron James or The Black Keys, I would not move an inch from my hometown. I would say, “Hey, I’m from Akron, and now that I have this success, what can we do to liven this place up?”
What would you do?