by Rob White
Over the last few week, there has been a fair amount of dialogue about conservation lands, urban boundaries, and technology business parks. Though the Vanguard community has spent many electrons discussing these topics, I was intrigued by a comment made by one poster that we should think “audaciously.”
Though the poster was relatively explicit in what they had in mind from that word, I pondered what that means to me. And how does that apply to my work, my life and my personal goals. Do I want to be audacious? And if so, what does that mean?
A few days ago I met with an entrepreneur who wants to work with UCD undergraduate students to develop their ideas into businesses and help them find a mentoring network to create a better environment for success. As we were talking, he was describing how his father and mother had immigrated to the US back in the 1960s with only $7 but a drive to be in America, where all “dreams come true.” They set about working labor intensive jobs for several years while looking for more promising work.
His father was a degreed particle physicist, back when few people knew what particles really even were in the context of physics. But finding work in America took some time. Eventually, he was employed in the silicon wafer industry and had several innovations that led to better wafer densities and memory storage. As I was told, it also led to financial stability for this entrepreneur’s father and mother and the father then branched out into housing development and other interests.
What was really intriguing about the story was that towards the end of the father’s life, this entrepreneur asked his dad why he had been so successful… what had been the secret to make him accomplish so much? As it turns out, the father said simply, “I didn’t know I couldn’t.” in other words, he had audacious thinking.
This weekend, my wife decided to take up long distance running again. Now, you may ask, ‘who just takes up long distance running?’ My wife. She had been regularly doing half marathons for about 18 months up until March 17th of this year when she got a pinched sciatic nerve and was unable to run due to the pain. It healed and stopped really giving her problems this summer, but she wasn’t yet ready to go back to running until just a few days ago.
What helped her make up her mind to start running again was a conversation we had that ended with the thought from me that she could “just start again and see what happens.” So she went out and ran 7 miles the next day. And 7 ½ miles the next day. And her comment to me was something akin to “just do it”… she said, “I guess I can just run if I like.” This is pretty audacious thinking, but it led to the result she was hoping for, which is to start her running routine again.
My thought on how this applies to Davis is that there sometimes seem to be many roadblocks in our way and many obstacles that can seem unsurmountable. What is stopping us from being the leader in energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation? Nothing. These don’t typically carry very significant costs for implementation (and are often free since much of the implementation is mindset), but we are not the recognized world leader for this area of sustainability. We could be. But that would be audacious thinking.
What about transportation mode share shifting a few more % points towards bikes and walking? Sure, we could use more bicycle infrastructure and sometimes walking is inconvenient due to weather, but shouldn’t we as the community of Davis be able to ‘think audacious’ and eek out a few more mode shifts? I mostly walk from city hall to much of the downtown and campus and rarely drive my car unless really necessary. But I constantly observe cars going just a few blocks from the neighborhood surrounding downtown and often wonder if that trip could be avoided.
But let’s really think audacious… what if we had a:
•· Robust economy that was diverse and sustainable,
•· Infrastructure that was well-maintained and routinely replaced when beyond it useful life,
•· Community that felt engaged and informed, and
•· City that we spoke only positively about, without apology or caveat.
What might that town look like? How would it achieve these and any other goals the community might consider invaluable? Where would be find the leadership and engagement to get these efforts completed?
I would really love for each of us to adopt an ‘audacious thinking’ mentality when assessing how we might each meet our individual, neighborhood, and city-wide goals. How do you individually help your neighbors and yourself make the community the place where people see ‘audacious thinking’ all around.