Written by Al Smith
As a kid, I remember my father playing mind games with me with such phrases as “when does a rock turn into a boulder,” or “when does a stream turn into a river?” I saw on the comic page of The Bee recently the question “when does a muffin turn into a cupcake?” (Fact check: all cupcakes are muffins, but not all muffins are cupcakes.)
On a serious note, “when does progress turn into momentum?”
In my 30 years living in Fresno I don’t think I have ever seen so many positive things mentioned about our city as we have see recently in the press.
Example: Unemployment is close to 8 percent; highly sought-after national companies like Ulta and Amazon bringing new jobs; high speed rail (HSR) is continually pumping millions of dollars into our community; a 1,500-job HSR maintenance facility appears ours to lose; optimistically transforming downtown and the Fulton Mall as it returns to being a street.
And headlines about our citizens: Bulldogs new football coach, Jeff Tedford, reigniting the fanaticism of Fresno State’s Red Wave; Peter Guekguezian amassing $46,000 in winnings on “Jeopardy” — the nation’s highly rated television quiz shows; Broadway’s (and Roger Rocka protégé) Audra McDonald becomes the winningest Tony awardee, Ananya Vinay winning the nation’s Spelling Bee Championship
And more from Fresno State: Former Bulldog standout Aaron Judge leading the Yankees and Major League Baseball in home runs (the Yankees even designated a special section of their stadium named just for him); NFL’s newest superstar Raider quarterback Derek Carr becoming the highest paid player in the league (for the moment); All Star forward Paul George as one of the best shooters in the NBA moving from Indiana to rebuild the Thunder from Oklahoma.
A multitude of positive influences like this can become contagions. It is what many leaders calls momentum — as in “when does achievement turn into momentum?”
Most of us recognize momentum when we see it: the Patriot’s come from behind win at this year’s Super Bowl; the Warrior’s domination in the NBA finals; Trump’s unexpected win for the presidency; Amazon’s continued diversification into all things retail.
It has been said that momentum is an entity’s best friend — the ultimate exaggerator. One expert said, “Establish momentum and 80 percent of problems disappear.”
So as we relish in our newfound attention, how do Fresno’s leaders capitalize on this unexpected gift? How do we avoid that too often attitude of “we are not worthy?” The attitude from many of the old-line establishment that: “I got mine, so stay out of my sand box.” The perceptions from many in this state that Fresno is not cool enough for its residents to be true Californians.
Our city’s leaders, under the direction of new Mayor Lee Brand, have been handed a unique opportunity.
But his vision can only go so far. It is our attitude that will determine our future.
Winningest coach John Wooden alluded to such when he referenced that momentum comes from admitting we are not satisfied where we are today; recognizing that optimism is a choice; describing daily our environment in a positive manner, surrounding ourselves with forward thinking people and constantly reaffirming our unique Fresno values. Maintaining positive momentum requires it to be fueled continuously.
Many years ago I think the Fresno Chamber optimistically pegged Fresno as “California’s Last Frontier.”
Maybe 30 years later — with our renewed leadership and a newfound and inspired perspective — that day may have finally arrived. But that success will be dependent on us.
Al Smith, former president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, serves as a leadership coach for local companies as part of the John C. Maxwell leadership-training program. For more information, contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.