The Fort Smith Experience Part 18

"It may be time to change the way we think."  ~ David Potts

The quote above is a statement made by David in his article titled, Compounded economic development, posted on TCW on the 6th of April.  David's excellent article was one of three that were posted on TCW that were prompted by a "Strong Towns" workshop presented by Chuck Marohn in Fayetteville on April 3rd.  I will be excerpting from all three articles later in this post.

A fact that I continue to repeat in this series (and you're probably tiring of me doing so) is this:  ALL doing comes from thinking.

I continue to repeat this fact because it's a fact that everybody knows.  And because it's something that everybody knows, it is taken for granted, fades into the backdrop of life, and in the backdrop where it is so obvious, so ubiquitous, it becomes obscure. In other words, we become unconscious of this primary fact and focus our attention instead on doing (actions and behavior) that we erroneously assign as being the cause of all outcomes. Doing, though, is just the means to an end.  Doing is the carrier wave of thought manifesting in physical form as action, which produces a result.

When David Potts suggests that it may be time to change the way we think, he's looking past the doing to the cause of all outcomes.  By changing the thinking the doing is changed and thereby the result is changed. Obviously, to change the thinking, it is necessary to first become aware of what is being thought.  By the way, when awareness is brought to thinking, that's when veritably original ideas can surface.

One does not have to be an expert on history to observe that, more often than not, the future is but a repeat of the past.  Why is this so?  It is because the lion's share of humanity's thinking occurs unconsciously and automatically.  In other words, the thinking mind, because awareness is not engaged with it, becomes a piece of mental machinery that automatically keeps churning out the same patterns of thought again and again and again.  Due to these patterns of thought being so consistent and so repetitive, they are generally accepted as being the way things are.  The danger and problem with automatic thinking (thinking absent of awareness) is that it becomes quite insane.  This mental machinery begins to act as if it were an entity (of course it's not – it just pretends to be) and in so doing, it demonstrates a desire for self preservation.  Meaning…it does not want to be turned off by awareness and it will defend itself.  How does it defend itself?  With thoughts.

The reason I mention this 'mental machinery' and its pretending to be an entity with a desire for self preservation and means of self defense, is to alert anyone who might endeavor to go about changing the way they think, which would have to include becoming aware of what they are thinking, that there could be some formidable resistance encountered from that part of the thinking mind that is running on automatic.  I say formidable because the resistance can be incredibly clever and subtle.


The city of Fort Smith is the city it is because it reflects the thinking of the collective mind of the city.  And like David said, it may be time to change the way we think. Notice…he said we. But how do we do that?

Changing how a collective mind thinks begins with an individual that is a component of that collective mind changing the way they think, which, to reiterate, begins with the individual becoming aware of what they are thinking.  A good place to start becoming aware of what one is thinking is to observe the language one is using (especially the adjectives and adverbs).  Also, look for repetitive patterns of thought that operate as a reflex. For example, if you're talking about Fort Smith with someone do you find yourself always having the same things to say?  If so, is what you're saying more positive or more negative?  In addition, always inquire about its validity; is the thinking actually true?

On a personal note with regard to becoming aware of thinking patterns…my wife and I have been together for twenty years and throughout this time we have had our share of arguments.  Not too long into our relationship it became so obvious that whenever we argued we would say the exact same things that it became a joke for us.  And when one of us began to point to this while (usually by indicating that the other needed to get some new script writers) we were in the throes of anger and horns locked, it would expose the absurdity of the argument whereby the recognition would instantly diminish the force of argument and eventually incite laughter.


Okay, following are a few excerpts from the three articles posted on TCW mentioned at the beginning of this post.  As you read them, and these concepts register in your understanding, I encourage you to examine your thinking in the moment and what it's telling you that you can or can't do because you're in Fort Smith.

"Sometimes cities need to allow citizens to make changes outside existing protocols. Citing neighborhood actions in Memphis in which citizens made slight changes without city approval, Marohn said local governments “don’t need better engineers and better planners,” they need more citizens “with the ability and the freedom to step up” with their innovative ideas outside the confines of government control."

From the article:  Marohn:  Most cities are on a financially unstable path

"Marohn told us a story of how Memphis turned a small declining area of town into a economically vibrant part of town with a cost of approximately $16,000. He showed a picture of a small area, maybe couple of city blocks, were a group of residents took it upon themselves to clean up a section of their neighborhood. The picture showed this group with paint and brushes repainting the parking lanes in front of some local shops.

"While telling this story he asked the audience, 'What would happen if a group of residents acted the same way in your town?'

"When Marohn asked the question, 'What would happen if a group of residents acted the same way in your town?” he proceeded to answer his own question. ”In most of your towns you would send people to inspect and measure whether these volunteers had complied with all the town’s codes and ordinances. When found there were not in compliance, you would then remove what they had voluntarily done.'

"Marohn continued the story. Memphis city officials did not impose their authority in this effort. Just the opposite. Somebody recognized the benefit this group’s effort. The City of Memphis did eventually remove their paint job, but only to replace it with a higher quality paint job. To their credit the City decided to extend the volunteer group’s area of coverage, cleaning up and painting where needed on adjacent blocks. Within a year this same area attracted new businesses and building vacancies disappeared. The building owners were thrilled because their cash flow was up and the value of their buildings had increased. This inexpensive effort by the city had an almost immediate return on investment."

From the article:  Compounded economic development

"Underneath the existing fabric we see in the Fort Smith area, The City Wire is convinced lies several strong towns. We remain hopeful – some have said naively so – that strong leadership will emerge to uncover the strength by fostering collaboration and ensuring that Logic can withstand Loud."

From the article:  Finding strength through discomfort

My comment on this last excerpt…if you find yourself waiting on strong leadership to emerge in Fort Smith, recognize that waiting is a doing and take a moment to look to see what thinking is dictating the waiting.  Then look for the thinking that explains why waiting is the action to take.  Now, ask yourself (not your mind) if this reason is actually true.

Finally, I have a video that I really would like you to watch.  It's Tony Hsieh speaking at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference earlier this year (32 min long). It's the video that prompted me to write part 18. There is nothing that is said or shown in this video that could not also occur, at least to some degree, in the city of Fort Smith.  However, for that to happen, we will have to change the way we think. Here's the link to the video: