Building Strong Communities

—by Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director, Keep Iowa Beautiful

"The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit."

Mark Twain

Many of us have had the experience of taking on a mission to accomplish a project or program important to us. In trying to be successful in reaching that goal, it often eludes us. Just as we thought we were close to reaching the goal something happens and success escapes us. Frustration tends to set in and we get discouraged. Pretty soon we are ready to give up. Then, with some of us, we get a renewed energy to learn from our mistakes and try again. Failure is often the best test of a person. How we deal with failure is a measure of our perseverance. If we learn from the failure and start again with a new strategy – that is perseverance!!!

The renewed effort or energy may come to us an hour, day, week or even a month later and in some cases even longer. We dig in, review the reasons for failing, adjust the approach and give it another try. Perseverance takes over and we move ahead.

Perseverance is simply that concept of sticking with an idea or concept and not giving up. The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as: " -continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness."

Those involved in community growth, enhancement and / or economic development can recognize the word "frustration". For many, individual efforts often result in failure or "close but no cigar" situation. On the other hand, they also recognize the importance of "perseverance" and sticking with the project until they finally succeed. Then "the sweet smell of success" permeates the air. The personal feeling of success is overwhelming.

Sometimes we need role models that can give us the inspiration. For stories of exceptional perseverance read about George Steinbrenner, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Milton Hershey or Walt Disney just to name a few. These individuals exceeded when all the odds were against them. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." Stories of how other people persevere in the face of obstacles serves as an inspiration. Many people with success stories achieved their goals only after experiencing a series of difficulties and setbacks.

Today the demands for our time often don’t give us a lot of time for extended "perseverance" on projects. We tend to be "quicker" with our decision process and demands. There seems to be less tolerance for failure as a learning and character building experience. We tend to be moving toward a society of instant gratification. Long term commitments of time are becoming increasingly rare.

This trend is unfortunate as increasing pressures and demands of society clearly require that some projects and programs require extended commitments of time. As Mark Twain stated – a "….brave, determined spirit." is required in our Iowa communities. The communities of Pocahontas and Fremont Counties are experiencing the value of perseverance. Communities are developing leadership skills and enhancement success through the Keep Iowa Beautiful "Hometown Pride" program. It is a unique and long term effort that is successful in building stronger communities.

Another great American provided a key rule for success: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Harry Truman – 33rd U.S. President.

Stick with it!!!