Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen's G-Sync is talking about how to create the city we want now in his New Year's Revolution. With seven suggestions for both personal and community improvement, surely at least one will be right up your alley in 2015. Are you in?
Had enough with the annual ritual of personal improvement conveniently filed under the heading of the New Year's resolution? Then maybe it's time for a better set of goals that moves the ego out and replaces it with the collective "we," ideas that take us beyond the all-too-familiar areas of weight loss and exercise and into the realm of getting healthier as whole people living in community.
Statistically, with each second that passes after midnight on Jan. 1, 2015, you are edging ever closer to joining a club where more than 62 percent of those who set such resolutions will fail. And all this happens before you're served that slice of death by chocolate on Feb.14, 2015.
Instead of a resolution, I propose a revolution. Here are seven of my favorites to consider. If we adopted them together, we could be a part of making this community a bit better in 2015.
- If you call your handheld a phone, then it is time to treat it as such.
Be honest here: how often have you complained lately about how little time you have for the things you used to enjoy doing? If you are like me, then you have no doubt found yourself sitting for many hours on a couch, face-deep in your phone, squinting to take in the rapidly advancing amount of data being driven by your fingers.
It is time to retro-convert your phone to its original state. In this new year, try starting a revolution by parking your handheld in a place in your residence and returning to it on your terms or when summoned by an actual call. What awaits you is the rediscovery of books you always wanted to read, favorite recipes that will magically fill your table (and your lunch box the next day,) and even deeper conversations with those close to you about the items that matter (instead of texting faraway friends when the ones you love are just a few steps away).
- Add a new thing to your schedule.
With the extra time banked after depositing your phone on the counter, you are free to add an event or two. (Might I suggest starting with any one of the placemaking events featured in G-Sync Events: Let's Do This!
) Head to a venue you've never explored, try a new form of entertainment, finally make plans to take that winter hike or try that new restaurant. Break out of your usual routine.
- Ditch your car.
I am not saying you should give up your car (yet), but rather, like Meatless Mondays – where we are asked to consider the health and humaneness of our eating habits by going vegetarian one day a week – commit to giving your gas-drinking vehicle a day off. Once you lock the door of your home, step off on an adventure, each week selecting another form of transportation.
Not only will you discover a new kind of groove as you traverse your city on foot, bus, bike or even a long board, but this new mode of transportation will remind you of the benefits of a life lived in close proximity to others. As more and more people get to know their neighbors, they'll make connections and build empathy for those we might otherwise think of in abstract (or, God forbid, stereotypical) terms. Sidewalks and buses humanize us and make us a part of the fabric of our community. (Headphones optional but not necessary.)
Side note: The Spoke Folks are offering "Surviving the Winter"
on Thursday, Jan. 8 -- a ride-year-round class at The Pyramid Scheme to hel you out with this one.
- Start each day with a new mantra.
Stand in the mirror and declare what you want to accomplish today. But instead of a singular-focused goal for self-improvement or self-advancement, commit to a mantra that is community-focused.
For many in our urban centers today, the city does not work. But it could change rather quickly with a few tweaks here and there. One area where we talk the talk but aren't always walking the walk is inclusion. If diversity is the goal, then we have to take it beyond lip service. And have some fun while doing it, as I witnessed in Justin Simien's recent satirical film Dear White People,
where he so beautifully illustrated humor's power when he wrote: “Dear white people: the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count."
We as a community need to move beyond tokenism and begin to really make more room for others at the table. But it is going to take a daily reminder at this point, so tape something as simple as "make room for others" to your mirror. It will be vague enough to confuse some who read it, then hopefully spark dialogue when they return to the room.
- Put the mantra into action.
If we as a region are to make the leap beyond cheerleading – a term used for those who endlessly engage in positive talk often based in a non-reality – then we will need to start listening to the diverse voices of our city.
One issue that is impacting a large amount of folks in our cities is income inequality. We need to be honest about the pay in this region if we are to be competitive – something that has not just been referenced here in G-Sync over the years but has been echoed through research and studies by authors like Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor and organizations like Creative Many (formerly known as ArtServe Michigan).
For those who might be skeptical about the chorus of outsiders who have come to our region to address this issue during a time of obvious economic boom, then consider this recent quote from the Right Place Inc. President and CEO Birgit Klohs, who delivered this quote on Dec. 16 at the 2015 Economic Outlook breakfast. As reported by MLive's Jim Harger: "West Michigan happens to be on the very low end of what we pay,” Klohs said. “If we don’t pay, people will go elsewhere. If we want to have talent, we’re going to have to pay for it.”
It is time to share the wealth by raising the pay of our workers who can, in turn, invest in the local economy -- or we will pay for it later as a community once things cool (and every hot city does cool at some point. I came from Flint; enough said there).
- Fail like a startup.
If our ever-growing startup community has taught us anything over the last few years, it is that it's okay to fail. The key is when you do fail, don't let failure hold you back from trying again.
We can all agree that it takes time after a failure to regroup and process its meaning, but it is possible to step back into the ring at a later day armed with the knowledge of experience.
Need proof failure is admirable? Look no further than our locally created (and now internationally recognized) Failure: Lab – a lecture series devoted to the knowledge-producing act of failure. Recently the subject of Vicky Elmer's Fortune Magazine's
piece on leadership Failure: Lab is "putting unvarnished failure on stage, in Michigan and beyond."
Failure produces evolutionary thoughts and in an era of great expansion, we need to allow room, like any scientist will tell you, for failure to produce greater things in our region.
7. Remember cities do matter
As politicians struggle to solve problems and craft effective policy at the state and national level, cities retain the ability to work collaboratively to get things done. People are moving back to cities, and the growth in urban areas continues to outpace the rest of the nation. And on both ends of the age spectrum, both Millennials and Boomers are beginning to favor urban living.
Need more proof that cities are beginning to gain traction?
In 2014, city leaders from all over the world met in Amsterdam to talk about this unique intersection of the city and the people in relation to how things are getting done at the micro level. And if the efforts of Benjamin Barber, organizer and author of If Mayors Rules the World
, are successful, then later in 2015 the first Global Parliament of Mayors – a new pilot project – will convene in London. Barber believes (as do many who agree with him locally), the power in the future belongs to our cities where, according to studies like the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs' (DESA) World Urbanization Prospects, by 2030 75 percent of the world's population of humans will live in an urban center, with a projected 41 mega cities with more than 10 million inhabitants in each. .
So if you are with me on this idea of producing a greater city in the years ahead, then join those of us who want to see our city be more than a place where just "my resolutions" come true. Let's be the city where a revolution takes place and one that, with a bit of failure, a little more walking, and even more equality, inclusion and empathy, can deserve to be called "cool" – and not just because we wrote it, but because we truly became it.
I resolve in the New Year to be a part of a fresh urban revolution. For while it is true that most resolutions will fail (and fail fast), those who post their goals online within the social spaces actually have a higher success rate. Maybe in this case, the truth is we are stronger and better together. Maybe this is the great multiplying factor that Walt Whitman meant when he wrote, "I am large, I contain multitudes." I am not me alone but contain you, too, when I resolve all of us should rise.
The Future…..well, The Future Needs All of Us.
Happy New Year, West Michigan!
G-Sync Events: Let's Do This!
The very best options this week as you venture out in the region.
Editor's Note: In keeping with the Revolutions theme, this week I have included images I shot at the Art in the Streets exhibition - a survey showing of the street art of our time. Included are both historical and fresh new works that were placed around Los Angeles in honor of this survey show. What is fitting is that on the street is where most of us interact and the street artist is most often one who stands on the outside urging us to consider adding more as they encourage dialogue. In the year ahead more street art will emerge in this region and now is the time to begin to ponder it's role, message, and its beauty as a form of art. Enjoy.