innovation

Is There a Right Place to Chase Your Dreams?

Ana Pierce

Nearly 100 years ago, two brothers traveled from their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to a small beach in North Carolina. To the average person, there was nothing notable about this shoreline. In fact, it was nearly deserted. But the brothers saw something else—potential. They knew Kitty Hawk had heavy winds and high air density, which made it the perfect location for their big experiment. They wanted to fly.

On December 17th of 1903, Orville Wright manned what is now known as the first flight. 12 seconds. 120 feet. And only five people saw it happen.

Orville and Wilbur Wright invented and built the world’s first successful airplane. It goes undisputed that the brothers revolutionized modern transportation, paving the way for our present-day world to discover and be discovered. Doesn’t it seem like their endeavor should have been a bit more glamorous?

I picture the Wright brothers living and working in New York City, spending most of their time hanging out in the tallest skyscraper around, casually drawing up blueprints for the first plane. They’d probably have a line of custom suits and aviator sunglasses named after them (doesn’t “Wright Bros” sound like a distinguished brand name?), and they would frequently lunch with the mayor, I’m sure.

But this wasn’t the case. The Wright brothers essentially lived and died in Dayton, Ohio. There was nothing big about their city other than the dreams they dreamed while spending their lives there. Once the trial run crashed near Kitty Hawk, they returned to their tiny hometown and resumed all flight-testing from Small-town, Ohio.

Grow up. Move out. Relocate to a “real” city. 

Is this not the 2016 millennial’s American Dream? Often, it seems to be. Yet I fear that on some level, the dream has been misplaced. If the Wright brothers’ biggest goal was “Let’s get the heck out of Dayton,” they might not have spent as much time changing the world. It’s easy to idolize the big-lights, big-dream, big-star city. And some dreams are most effectively sought after in a metropolis.

But don’t underestimate what can be done in your hometown.

As a twenty-something, you need to understand it is not as important that you move geographically as it is for you to push yourself to move developmentally. Don’t feel like you have to pick everything up and head over to the big city to lead a meaningful life. You can live, love, learn, create, play, and grow professionally in many environments. You can define your twenties while residing in a shack in the Middle-of-nowhere, Ohio. You have the capability because it lies within you.

Planes, trains, and automobiles—these vehicles are often valued as avenues for us to see and influence the world. And they are. We live in a global society, and mobilization is becoming increasingly important. Mobility, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “capable of moving or being moved.” But in the midst of our big-city dreamin’, let’s not forget the most important part: internalmobility. Moving toward goals. Being moved by others. Pushing your self to be better. To me, internal mobility is the necessary precursor for external mobility. Don’t think “I’m going to move to LA, and then I’ll do something with my life” when you could be doing something with your life now. 

It is possible to do something worthwhile in spite of limited resources or a less-than-glamorous location.

In the house that I grew up in, there was a huge elm tree in my backyard with deep, wide roots that spread all around the ground. When I was a sophomore in high school, my family built a house on the other side of town. We planted seedlings around the new property, and we all understood those baby trees would take time to bloom, but everybody missed the giant elm and oak trees in our old neighborhood. It just wasn’t the same. You see, the biggest trees have the deepest roots. In the same way, your hometown may have roots and resources to help you grow that you could miss out on if you are so focused on planting yourself elsewhere.

Your hometown is always going to be “somewhere else” to someone else. So value it for what it is, and learn to appreciate it. If leaving Small-town, USA will be best for your professional or emotional mobility, then leave. But don’t think that you have to leave your hometown to make something out of your life.

Please don’t misunderstand me, here. I have been dazzled by the big city life probably as much as (or more than) the next girl. But I have come to realize that the biggest dreams don’t necessarily require an airplane. Sometimes dreams are realized on a deserted beach with only five witnesses.

Sometimes dreams are developed in a small town. And sometimes adventure begins in your backyard.


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Ana Pierce (@itsanaactually) is a writer and editor residing in Springfield, Missouri. In her free time you can find her over at her blog She Learns Things, or just trying to keep her houseplants alive. 


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Courage is only the accumulation of small steps - György Konrád

Creative Confidence

By the time we reach adolescence, most of us know whether or not we are creative. This label, a label we assign ourselves, is informed by what other people tell us. Pretty early on in life, our parents and other important adults, educators, and peers begin to separate us into two different camps--those who are creative and those who aren't. 

Our perceived level of creativity guides our choice of university and career. It tells us which pastimes are for us, and what peer group we belong in. We begin to play a role in our families, our social groups, and our organizations based on this. Creatives over here and non-creatives over there. By the time we reach adulthood, we are already living within the limits of our self-imposed label.

Is it as simple as that?

In our April giveaway book, Creative Confidence, authors Tom Kelley and David Kelley challenge the false dichotomy between creative and non-creative. Using personal examples and storytelling, Tom and David tell us that creativity and innovation do not depend on the label you were given by society, but by the way you behave in your personal and professional lives. Creativity is a choice.

It starts small.

Creativity often starts small. For example, if you want to begin to employ more creative problem solving in your everyday life, try making a list of things that bug you. Find areas where you see improvement to be made and then, instead of shrugging your shoulders and saying, someone ought to fix that, try to do it yourself.

It can also look like recruiting co-workers or members of your community to engage in brainstorming sessions and innovation groups. What problems are your organization or community encountering? The small steps of forming a peer group can sound intimidating, but each small step leads you closer to living a wildly innovative life.

This means a lot to us.

Michelle, Madison, and I all saw a need in our community for empowering mental wellness. What it took to begin the journey of The Bravery Board was the small, courageous step of Michelle reaching out to us to find out what we wanted to do to meet this need. 

While all three of us work in the fields of behavioral science, education, and/or mental wellness, we each have personal creative pursuits, such as painting, crafting, or writing. We find personal and professional fulfillment in making and doing and producing. We see our ability to create not simply a contribution to our communities and workplaces, but also to our personal mental health.

To live a creative life, we must be courageous with our time, we must be generous with our minds, and we must take brave steps for ourselves and our communities.

If you're interested in learning more about maximizing your creative potential, check out The Bravery Board's Creativity Gathering on Saturday, April 9 at 10 AM.