The dinner dishes were cleared away. A few of our friends and fellow entrepreneurs sat with us around the dining room table. The conversation turned to the spate of negative stories proliferating in the news and on social media. At least eight separate businesses based in New Mexico were represented that night, and each had already made an impact on some level or another on the economy as well as having contributed to the momentum of our growing startup community. Our dinner companions talked with us about the frustration of reading the words and stories of individuals who were no longer a part of the community, and, thus, should have no impact on the economy. Even after moving away, the platform of news stories made it possible for these individuals to negatively impact morale of those purposed with driving forward the momentum of change beginning to take root. The cumulative effect of the barrage of recent negativity was heavy on some of the most inspirational, driven entrepreneurs in our state.
I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and have come to a few conclusions.
I cannot change the news. I have no influence or say over what is deemed to be newsworthy – and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to even if I could, because – as much as it may sometimes be a practice in futility considering the ever-growing conflict between journalists covering the news and publishers wanting to protect the bottom line – I very much want our news to aspire to the highest standards. I want stories by journalists who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers, strain friendships, and weather public scrutiny in order to write hard-hitting news stories. While I may want news agencies to leave the public relations spin with those who should carry it into social media – from the cheerleaders to the woe-is-me crowd, I’m pretty sure that the line between news coverage and using spin and social media to build eyeballs – and thus enough revenue to stay afloat – is not going to go away. It is here to stay, and, like it or not, has become a part of the news cycle. I can’t change that, either.
What I can do is choose a new view and purposefully focus on what is right in our state. During the last five years which I’ve spent growing a tech company in New Mexico, I have crossed paths with an incredible number of people who – in the process of our interaction – inspired me in some way to push forward, think bigger, be more generous, rise above the pettiness, protect my integrity and build faster and better.
And here is what I will do.
For the next year, I am committing to turn the inspirational call to action – watchNMrise – started by my good friend, Jessica Eaves Mathews, and turn that call to action into a yearlong project. I will write about the people who have inspired me, about the companies that I am proud are a part of our economy and the organizations who have earned my respect because of the contributions they are making towards our future. It won’t be a complete list, and I’ll likely fail to cover some of the real movers and shakers among us, because this will be an in-the-moment decision to focus on a single reason we can watch New Mexico rise. This isn’t about PR or getting the spin just right, so I won’t be asking for updated projections or bios or photos. This is simply one person’s decision to combat the drain brought on by fighting negativity by reminding myself what an incredibly inspiring community we call home here in New Mexico.
If my project inspires you, here is what I hope you’ll do. I hope you’ll start on your own list – for everyone else to read or just for yourself. I hope you’ll send an unexpected email or text – or pick up the phone – and thank someone for the value they are adding to our community. It would be great if you decide to volunteer a day at a nonprofit you admire. And I hope you’ll spend a few dollars in a locally owned shop.
And the next time you read an article that covers a tough topic but is fair and balanced, take note. Make a point to acknowledge journalists who cover tough stories that must be addressed, who uncover the unseemly underbelly of the world in which we reside. Acknowledge their efforts, because these journalists are also doing their part to better our community – whether their words make us feel better in the moment or not.
Tomorrow I begin with my first Watch New Mexico Rise post. I may not post every day – I am running a startup after all. But I’ll be here often – and I hope you’ll join me.