Recently, I had the great pleasure of visiting my hometown of Hennessey, Oklahoma, and my high school alma mater – where I shared a few thoughts with the 2017 graduating class. It was fantastic to be there.
I lived there for 18 years – spent 12 of those in the school system and I graduated with about 70 people back in 1983.
Here are my 4 small town-takeaways for success:
First: There is no one else to do the work when you live in a place like Hennessey, Oklahoma – population 2,100 people. There were so few of us, that to get anything done (like winning a championship football game, putting on some type of program, or holding vacation bible school) you had to be willing to do the work because there just weren’t a lot of people around.
The call would come, “Hey, we need someone to coach a team.” A quick response, “Yeah, I got that.” “Hey, can someone run this committee?” Again, “Yeah, can help.” The thing you learn from living in a small town is that you have to get involved or nothing gets done.
Folks from small-town America take the tasks at hand and engage right away.
Second: When you grow up in a small town, it’s really hard to “fake” it. I lived there for 18 years and everyone knew my mom and dad, what they did, where we went to church, and where we bought our groceries. Everyone knew everything about you. And, as a result, it was very difficult to fake things in life – so, in a way, you grew up as your authentic self – no pretense, no faking.
As a result, I grew up with a real sense of the true self. That also instilled a certain amount of self confidence that would serve me well.
I had no idea a more humble beginning would actually provide more confidence moving forward.
Third: There’s always a game day. My friends and I were always in game mode. We knew it would take extra reps and laps, extra practices during the day, and leadership from our coaches and teachers was necessary. And, everyone would turnout and focus on game day. In effect, this was great training ground for the world of big presentations, sales meetings or other deadlines. You knew that preparation was key. The practice and extra repetition prepared us for disruptions like injuries on the field, officiating calls that didn’t go your way, adjustments by the opponent, etc.
How to respond to game day was ingrained in all of us. This experience taught me to meet every single day with that same focus and energy, because game day was coming eventually. The more often you are ever present – like game day – the more success ahead for you.
Fourth: We were all connected in a small community. When tragedy occurred, we always came together. All different types of people (religion, socio-economic status) banded together to respond to a problem, opportunity or tragedy in our town. I learned quickly that the quality of character had very little to do with position or financial status. Our proximity to each other bound us together, whether we liked it or not. Our current society and systems can make our network very homogenous, so we are never consistently present with those different than us. On any given day, workplace, school or social scene is comprised of those that look, talk and practice much like me. So, the introduction of a different perspective is lacking. If this is your life, I encourage you to venture outside your bubble for different experiences.
Upon reflection, you can learn a great deal in a small town. It wasn’t better, but it was different. And, it provided the opportunity for truly unique experiences.
Photo credit: http://www.hennesseyok.org