One of my all-time favorite movies is Jimmy Stewart’s – It’s a Wonderful Life. Though it is probably viewed by today’s world as corny or sappy, the core theme of the story is timeless. Throughout the movie, the character, George Bailey is faced with the start reality of the difference that he made to his family, his community, and the world. The actions he’d taken and the decisions he made all set off a chain of events that impacted his community in a large way. George’s life, as drab as it seemed to him, carried out the circle of life, from father to son, from business to community.

A good friend of mine once introduced a concept to me about his manner of living. He called it the 10-Foot Circle around you. It requires some commitment – first, you must recognize that people are there. Think for a moment about that one. How many times do we NOT make eye contact or acknowledge the people we pass by on the street, or in the store, or at our place of work? How often are people merely invisible to us?

Second, we can’t be passive – making a positive difference takes action. You might start by just smiling at those who enter your 10—Foot-Circle. No harm and no threat there, simply exercise those cheek muscles. The reaction may surprise you. You’ll find that their reaction may cause you to blurt out a phrase like “Hi!”, “Hello”, or “Good afternoon”. Heck, you might even get caught in the moment and ask, “How are you today?” Whatever level of action you take, be assured that it does matter to you and to the recipient.

Each of us, every day has a ‘moment’ in which we can positively impact those we encounter. It’s those moments that contain the power for change. Which may cause you to wonder – what does this have to do with Forward Cody and economic development? It may surprise you when I answer, “Everything!”

Our interactions or moments set the stage for conversations. When a company arrives in town to check out our community, they rarely come to our office first. Rather, they go to their hotel, a restaurant, or a gas station. Perhaps they browse around downtown. Their first impression and our community’s “moment of truth” is in how they are regarded by those they meet. Any subsequent conversation a person may have is colored by that initial interaction. Brandi Nelson at the Plush Pony didn’t know me or why I was in Cody when I interviewed for this job. Yep – I stopped in a few stores to ask about the community! But Brandi met me with a smile and a very positive outlook about the community. It mattered.

We often view our tourism community as a “one and done” proposition. With many people passing through our community, it’s easy to assume that we won’t see that person again. So, we meet the customer, sell them stuff and move on to the next customer. Interactions are short and impersonal. However, if we shift our thinking just a bit, and view ourselves as selling the experience of Cody, the conversation changes. It goes from a simple smile to a “Hello”, to a “How long will you be in town?”

That step changes you from a salesperson to an ambassador. People don’t remember a salesperson, but they will remember the ambassador.

And more importantly, that customer may be your next neighbor, children’s teacher, or boss!

Our moment of truth can set into motion a chain of positive events. A simple conversation elicits an introduction, the introduction connects one to resources and just like that a deal is done. I know this because I’ve seen it happen.

As you begin 2020 and wonder “What can I do to be a more engaged member of my community?” – do this – adopt a 10-Foot Circle. Make a positive impression on the people that you encounter, and you’ll see a change for you and for them! Plus, you’ll make a difference.

It really is a wonderful life.