Well we did it folks; we made it through the holidays and on to a New Year. After eating my weight in potatoes like a good Norwegian, I’m ready to make some intentional changes for the coming year. I’m not the kind of person to make grand resolutions I can’t keep. So instead of setting myself up for failure, I try to make small changes to improve myself, my life, and my community. I really do believe that these small changes can add up for a significant net gain. I have decided to share my little list and invite you to take a look at what you can do to make our little corner of Iowa just a bit better.
1. Support the Arts
Northeast Iowa has a thriving artist community. Buying art locally contributes to the creative fabric of our community. Local art builds character and creates an atmosphere that makes people want to stay and put down roots. Purchasing local art supports small businesses and keeps our economy vibrant.
2. Send a Thank You Card
Everyone talks about how busy we are these days. And it does seem like the more time saving technology we acquire, the more ways we find to fill that time. Taking 5 minutes out of your day to write out a thank you note can be more impactful than you might think. I’m starting by challenging myself to write just one per week for a month.
3. Bring a Bag
Oh I tried so hard last year. My house is full of reusable tote bags that I just can’t seem to bring with me. So I’m tying a string around my finger and won’t forget because this year is different…for sure…I can feel it.
4. Attend a Class, Seminar, or Discussion
We have amazing resources in Decorah for thought provoking discussion and experiences. Luther College hosts dozens of speakers for events that are free and open to the public. The Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center invites the public to attend documentary screenings and discussions with local leaders. There are class opportunities offered through Vesterheim, ArtHaus, and Eagle Bluff Skill School. Learning is a lifelong process that I hope to continue for quite some time.
Working at the Chamber, I am amazed by the impact of our Visitor Center volunteers. In 2018 they put in over 300 volunteer hours to facilitate memorable visitor experiences. That is over 300 hours of time they gave to welcome people to town. This is exactly what makes Decorah the kind of place people want to visit again and again. They have inspired me to find my own volunteer calling in 2019.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities check out Northeast Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program or contact me at the Chamber. We can always use new friendly folks who are familiar with the area.
May your new year be filled with self improvement and the betterment of your community.
I love local. In the last year I moved back to Decorah after living in Minneapolis, and began working at the Chamber of Commerce. This change completely reshaped my perspective on what it means to shop local, give local, and invest local. There are all kinds of facts and figures explaining the positive impact that local dollars have on a community. When Ben Grimstad spoke about the role of Decorah Bank & Trust at the December YP event he didn't just throw out a bunch of numbers; he told a story.
I’m not going to give away all the good details because you will have to attend a YP gathering for the inside scoop, but I will say that Ben’s story is compelling because it defined the purpose of a community bank. A community bank, like all banks, is focused on growth, however this growth isn’t limited to just money. Growth can be measured by the number of new businesses financed, or satisfied employees, or solar panels installed.
Ben made banking relatable to each and every person sitting in T-Bocks Upstairs. When I think of businesses that foster community, my mind typically goes to the neighborhood grocery store, coffee shop, or brewery. A bank that is focused on a variety of growth metrics achieves success by investing in these community cornerstones. My perspective on investing in the local economy continues to evolve and now includes: shop local, give local, and bank local.
I really can’t remember the last time (if ever) I was excited about a bank, but I am now!
*Book recommendation: Think Big, Act Small by Jason Jennings
This month we had the honor of hearing from Dr. Wee, President of Northeast Iowa Community College. He was willing to share his journey of how he got to where he is today.
He started off by telling us about growing up in Singapore where his parents wanted the best for him. Following his service in the Singapore Armed Forces the search for a college education ensued. He applied to colleges all over and took the first acceptance letter he received. On July 4, 1983 Dr. Wee arrived in the USA and studied at University of Arizona, Tucson.
Dr. Wee has been an educator for more than 25 years. He taught at the University of Arizona, Luther College. and since 2011 he has been the president of Northeast Iowa Community College. It was evident in listening to Dr. Wee that he is very passionate about the community he serves and every student that crosses his path.
During his talk with the YP group he spoke about following the voice inside you. When you feel like you're not happy with your career, relationship, etc. then it is time to move on. He continued to relate to his experiences and times that changes told him it was time to go do something new. Dr. Wee expressed that happiness is a large key to life. He told us that he truthfully never knew what he was going to do next, but his heart was saying it was time for something new.
Towards the end he was asked to repeat something that they had heard him say before: life isn't short, it's long. This was a new way of looking at life. Looking around the room, I could tell that others were digesting this bit of information and realizing that his reasoning made a lot of sense. Every time I hear Dr. Wee speak he always has new bits of wisdom that I take away and really process. He has an amazing way of opening your mind and making you think in a new ways. If you ever have the chance to hear from Dr. Wee you should definitely listen.
If you would like to learn more you can visit the YP Decorah Facebook page, or contact me everyone is welcome.
Thank you to Dr. Wee for speaking with us and to T-Bock's for hosting us.
It was a privilege for me to fill in at our November YP Decorah event last night. Dave Mitchell, Luther College wrestling coach, teacher, husband, and father was an inspiration with his honest comments and feedback to the group.
Dave learned a long time ago that he was going to need to be resilient. Great leaders are resilient. You can't be a great leader if you are not resilient. We are constantly challenged with responding to changing environments, requests from friends, family, coworkers, bosses, etc. Sometimes we need to be quick to respond or help. Sometimes it's matter of being resourceful but often we need to be resilient in our approach and ability to problem solve. Change is constant and we all fall on occasion. The real challenge lies in getting up and learning from it.
"When you face setbacks and defeat, take the lesson from the experience, commit it to memory, and move forward with the positive." Dan Gable
Do you have a growth mindset? Are you actively looking for ways to improve yourself, your job/career, or personal relationships? It can be very easy to become complacent or just comfortable. And, for the record, I do believe it is okay to live in that space for a moment or two once in while! Dave encouraged us to look at the past fondly and take a moment to recognize our growth, how are we better now? Always grow from our experiences.
Dave learned from a CEO at a National Wrestling Coaches Association event to set 3-5 goals every year. 3 is better than 5 because you are more likely to accomplish them. 3 goals each year personally and professionally. Be sure to take time to reflect on them throughout the year. By all means celebrate your successes or adjust when and where you need to.
Dave also shared a very tangible concept - are you an energizer or energy destroyer? Everyone will have that really great day where everything goes right and it's easy to be the ultimate energizer! You'll also have days that make you wonder why you got out of bed. Outside of those extremes where do you land - an energizer or energy destroyer? I think we can all agree the energizer is probably more effective.
Dave ended the talk with a quote from Warren Buffett:
"The BEST investment you can make is investing in yourself."
Find balance in your life. Work-life balance is a challenge and we all fall out of sync once in a while. Be honest with yourself and be open to making adjustments as needed.
Dave engaged in a thoughtful conversation with the YP Decorah audience. We touched on today's employment challenges, the pros and cons of social media, and challenges you may face as a young professional.
YP Decorah, a program of the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, meets once a month with local professionals like Dave Mitchell. If you would like to learn more you can visit the YP Decorah Facebook page, or contact Rachel.
Thank you to Dave for speaking with us and to Rubaiyat for hosting us.
See you next month!
*Book recommendation: Resilience by Eric Greitens, Navy Seal