Olivia Irvine Dodge founded the Dodge Nature Center in 1967. She saw the suburban sprawl spreading south across West St. Paul and bought up farmland.
Today Dodge Nature Center is an island in the midst of suburban development.
We have that swath of nature today thanks to the foresight and dedicated work of Dodge and many who worked with her.
If you want to accomplish something good it’s going to require taking early action and putting forth consistent effort.
You can’t wait for a better time or hope for more preparation. The best time to start is today.
What’s that saying about the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago was the best time, and the second best time is today.
Too often we wait for the perfect start. We want to have everything lined up and ready to go. But that’s often just an excuse.
If your organization wants to start something, sometimes the best way to start is just to do it. Make some progress, even if it’s messy and imperfect. Sometimes you have to spin the tires before you get traction.
Good work also requires consistent effort. You can’t just start something, you have to keep it going. While starting can be hard, maintaining that effort over years and decades is the real challenge.
It’s easy to start something and let it peter out. There’s lots of enthusiasm and excitement at the start, but there aren’t any cheerleaders six months in when you find out if what you’re doing is going to work or not.
You have to think long term. You have to be prepared to run a marathon, not just a sprint.
It’s true for Dodge Nature Center. They got that early start and they established one of the first nature centers in Minnesota. Now they’re working to secure their future with a $40 million campaign. They realize it’s not enough to start. They need that consistent effort, plugging away over the years and into the future.
I wrote something similar on my personal blog in 2017, reflecting on Dodge Nature Center and my efforts to support a trail. The underpass at the center of that trail project broke ground last month. The whole project goes back to at least 2012. That project required consistent effort to keep it moving forward, and it still took years.
It’s the Same With Communication
I’m talking about big, long-term—sometimes generational—efforts, like nature preserves and national parks and infrastructure.
But the same is true with how organizations communicate.
If you’re going to communicate well, you need to get started and be consistent. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help, that’s how you create a reliable and steady voice. It’s how you build a reputation.
It can’t be done in a single day, but it also can’t happen unless you start today.