Solution is to begin with end in mind

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2009

For centuries adults have kneeled down to small children, looked them straight in the eye and asked a simple, yet staggering complicated question:

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?”

It seemed simple back in the days when getting a Popsicle or a piece of gum was reason to celebrate.

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But what about now?

Are you all that you wanted or dreamed to be?

Is our community?

If you aren’t headed in the right direction, each step takes you further and further from your goal.

The solution is simple: Begin with the end in mind.

Or, to say it another way, imagine where you want to be first, before turning the ignition and shifting your life car into gear and punching the accelerator.

That concept is so important, famed self-help guru and author Stephen Covey included it as one of the “habits” in his bestselling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

People who truly “get this” at their core level are the visionaries who make things move in our community.

Whether or not you agree with those people, there’s no arguing the impact they have had on our community.

Probably the most prolific visionary in recent years is former mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown.

Brown’s two terms as mayor were filled with more awards and positive moves than most folks can remember.

Driving around Natchez’s streets today, evidence of Brown’s legacy is all around.

Even today, some of the biggest projects going on in the city are ones he’s brought in his new role as head of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

But no matter how effective his pushing is, one man cannot move a community alone.

But the question that we all faced as 5-year-olds still remains today.

What do we want to be when we grow up?

If our community is perfectly happy with the status quo, so be it.

However, if collectively we believe that things could get better, now is the time to chart the course ahead.

First, we need to do a better job of marketing ourselves. Like successful businesses, our community’s leaders should be extremely mindful of what they say publicly and how their actions and words reflect on the community at large. Public bickering and childish behavior needs to end.

Second, one of the best things our community could do is agree on a simple mission statement against which any and all actions could be judged. If it fits the mission, the project gets the green light and the full support of the group. If it doesn’t fit the mission, the project is nixed.

The mission could be simple:

Our community’s mission is to preserve our history while constantly improving the quality of life for our residents and business partners.

Once the mission is agreed upon, it is the measuring stick for everything else.

Natchez and Adams County are facing a small destination decision in the coming months as the community decides a plan for the future of the county’s economic development efforts, but there’s much, much more to decide, too.

But it all starts with: What do we want to be when we grow up?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or