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Reflections on Think Summit

There are some moments that just stick with you. That make you think about who you are and what you’re capable of. They make you reevaluate everything you think you know and everything you thought you didn’t.

The second annual Biz 417’s Think Summit was that moment for many 417-landers. With world-class speakers, community leaders and inspirational storytellers, the summit was like a moment suspended in time.

The premise of Think Summit is to make 417-landers think big and reach beyond what they currently believe about themselves, their friends and their community to see a world that has so much more to offer than anything their imagination could dream up on its own.

It’s an event that creates reflection about who we are as a community and what we can change about ourselves to make it even better.

Learning from the Past

417 is filled with a wonderful mix of so many different viewpoints, perspectives and backstories. We are home to people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Our community is rich, not because of any attention brought to 417, but because we embrace differences.

Or at least we like to think so.

When Brett Miller spoke about the breakdown of communication and conversation, it was easy to see the parallels in how the progressive bubble and the strong suburban, conservative base co-exist.

He’s driven all over the U.S. in an attempt to try and understand why the communication breakdown came about and how we can go about repairing it. What he’s come to understand, and what we readily see happening all across our community, is a new communication dynamic -- where people on both sides are more likely to be offended or jump to the attack than they are to try and have a productive conversation about issues that directly impact our community.

In order for us to move forward and become the city we want it to be, we all must first be willing to come to the table. We need to leave our differences behind and truly embrace the people we live and work with every day.

Through his travels, Brett realized two things: that our country is beautiful, and that the people in it are inspired. As he talked to individuals from every avenue of life, every religion, nationality and ethnicity, he noticed that there are three key factors to true conversation that most people today are missing: humility, empathy and honesty.

This communication breakdown doesn’t stem from a lack of education or inability to speak, but rather from a willingness to view other people as intelligent and emotional human beings. Until we can recognize our own ability to be wrong and come to acknowledge other perspectives and lived experiences, we won’t be able to act as a single, unified community.

Living in the Present

This idea of understanding, of listening to other people’s stories with the aim to learn and grow, is paramount to creating a Springfield we are all proud to call home. It all starts with seeking out stories that aren’t like yours.

Prosper Springfield is one of the best examples of community care. It’s goal is to help 417-landers who don’t have the same opportunities that the majority of us do, who don’t recognize skills in themselves or simply don’t know what opportunities are out there for them. It wants to bring prosperity to 417-land.

What that is and how it looks will vary drastically depending on who you’re talking to, but that isn’t the important part for founder, Francine Pratt. She just wants to use her influence to empower the people around her. She listens to their stories, and helps them develop skills they didn’t even know they had.

Daniel Gutierrez does something similar in Reed Academy with students in lunch detention. For him, prosperity is intrinsically linked to inspiration. He took kids that didn’t believe in themselves, that didn’t trust their abilities and didn’t know their true potential and created a middle school choir that competes on a national level.

Think back to a time when someone (other than your mother) inspired you, or showed you the potential you had to create, listen, educate or build. Would you be who you are today without that inspiration? Gutierrez’ mission is to make an impact on as many lives because he understands the power that a little bit of inspiration can have on someone’s life.

Understanding, caring and inspiring future leaders, movers and shakers is a key part of creating a community, but we also need to acknowledge the silent leaders -- those who are already breaking down barriers, showcasing the little things that makes 417-land so unique and building something we can all proudly say is ours.

We have to recognize our teachers and superintendents who go above and beyond to care for our children. Who’ve created projects like LAUNCH and the Christian County Course Exchange to bring knowledge to our rural communities that don’t always have the same resources we sometimes take for granted.

It’s the relentless community organizations and nonprofits like Ozark Greenways who are fearlessly leading the charge to create a cleaner, more beautiful 417-land. Who believe that we have to treat our community with reverence and respect if we want to create something we all can be a part of.

But just because we’ve started building a community, creating conversation and inspiring those around us, doesn’t mean we’re finished.

Looking to the Future.

Charlie Rosenbury, founder of Self Interactive and Tacit said it best: “The present you see isn’t final.”

He was right. What we see around us isn’t the final version. How can it be? With so many driven, creative and influential leaders, we have too many opportunities to grow into a thriving, caring community of world shakers.

With all eyes on us, we have the power to create a Midwest movement that shows the country, and the world, the power of community, conversation and change. But it all starts with our ability to think. And not just to think, but to think big -- to think beyond ourselves.

Throughout history, people have been afraid of change. Lyle Foster was one of the inaugural few to desegregate his school in Alabama. He was afraid. As were his friends. Fear is a natural response to the unknown. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us alive. But it also holds us back. It keeps us from innovating, progressing and growing.

Thinking big and taking risks are hallmarks of great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Stephen Hawking, Galileo and Michelangelo. If we want to be a community that leads the nation, if we want to create an civically- and socially-engaged community, we have to be willing to take risks and to fail.

Ultimately, we have to, as Lyle Foster said, “Think big if you’re going to think at all.”

Check out our 2017 Think Summit recap, too!

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