Author Heath tells community leaders to focus on positives
Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Lindsay Boyle / Observer-Dispatch New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath speaks to hundreds about switching their thinking to create positive change during The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties' fourth annual Corporate Partners-sponsored Speakers Series at SUNY Poly Thursday night.
In the 1980s, the Rev. Maria Scates had good-paying job and was climbing the ladder to success.
But through a series of events, Scates found herself on the streets and unable to get off of them.
Then, she switched her thinking.
"I got to the point where I had absolutely nothing," she said. "And in that state I learned that the biggest asset that I had was myself."
The Johnson Park CEO and founder was just one of more than 20 community member movers and shakers speaking to a crowd at The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties Speaker Series pre-event Thursday night at SUNY Poly.
At a time when Utica is changing — businesses are popping up and the nanotechnology industry is seemingly on the rise — hundreds gathered to see how local activists have switched their thinking prior to hearing from New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath, who gave tips on how to transform a city, an organization or even an individual behavior.
"Sometimes, huge changes come with relative ease," Heath said, "and other times, seemingly trivial changes are like banging your head against the wall."
"We have a natural instinct to focus on problem areas rather than successful areas," Heath said, using a report card as an example.
If a parent sees an "F," it likely won't matter if the rest of the grades are A's and B's.
But in times of change, he said, a report card would be all over the place: some things are working, some things are in flux and others are failing miserably.
"Ask, 'What's working today and how can we do more of that?'" Heath said.
Scates, for one, is thankful she wasn't resistant to change.
"Everybody was telling me how devastated the place was, but I saw Cornhill as beautiful," she said.
She moved in to the then run-down three-story building at 26 Johnson Park on Nov. 14, 1995, with just a bed and a few household supplies. But what began with occasional neighborhood cleanups has turned into an organization that has 31 housing units in the area, a green living initiative and programs that target nutrition, youth, the homeless, recovering addicts and more.
"We came here wanting change to happen and we've now witnessed quite a transformation," Scates said. "All of that that we do that serves thousands of people started when we moved in to Johnson Park with almost nothing."
2015 will mark 20 years of growth for the organization.
"So often in times of change... the change grows, the change snowballs," Heath said.