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By Brian Fogle, President & CEO

Looking past the rearview mirror for dreams of a better community

Turning calendar pages isn’t for the faint of heart. I had a friend tell me once, “I used to fight The Man. Then one day, I woke up and was The Man.” I still look around the room when I hear someone say “Mr. Fogle …” — that can’t be me! I’ve also had younger friends call and ask for career advice. I find that odd as well, but certainly take the compliment, and find such conversations reciprocal in what I learn from them, too.

Recently, I had such a question from someone who asked: “You've been a banker, in higher ed, and now philanthropy. Is there a common trait that has served you in all three?” Before I really could think, out of my mouth came “My drive.” But I didn’t mean my drive to succeed, or anything quite so esoteric. I meant getting behind the steering wheel and driving all over this corner of the world.

One of my first jobs in banking was in the correspondent department. For several years, I called on more than 70 banks in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. I traveled many of the same roads I travel today going to see our regional affiliate foundations. Nearly 40 years later, those towns have changed, and many of my favorite lunch spots or ice cream havens are now gone. But, most importantly, good people remain.

I now have satellite radio to listen to, versus turning the dial on the radio as one signal faded into the next. And voila! We have these mobile phone thingies now. Although our staff might say I sometimes “expand” the speed limit from time to time, I am conscientious about two-hands-on-the-wheel driving. No texting. No talking on the phone. There is a purpose to driving, and it’s to get from here to there safely and efficiently.

My biggest distraction, I do have to admit, is looking too much in the rearview mirror. Am I holding anyone back? Is that jerk following me too closely? I have to truly focus on looking to where I’m going, not where I’ve been. It’s also much safer.

Yes, you know where I’m going with this … but I do have that tendency in life as well. Irwin Shaw wrote a short story, “The Eighty-Yard Run,” about a college athlete who made a spectacular run for a touchdown, and in his mind, never reached such a pinnacle again. He lived his life looking into a rearview mirror. There is an old Yiddish saying that “A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams.”

Some of the communities I visited in the early ’80s, and again now, I fear, have had regrets taking the place of their dreams. We cannot recreate our Main Streets of the ’60s, and we need to quit looking in the rearview mirror to see if we can still see them. Yet, there are dreams and possibilities if we can look ahead, plan the route and don’t give up until we get there.

Getting where we want to go requires leadership, resources, collaboration and vision. Coincidentally, all those are part of our mission statement. It doesn’t mention a rearview mirror.

It’s probably okay if you even decided to expand the speed limit just a little — and get there a bit early.

Brian Fogle is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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