We Can’t Wait for the Cavalry

Mark Duplass, a successful filmmaker and actor, was the keynote speaker for the South by Southwest conference and festival in 2015. His speech focused on his self-realization about personal responsibility, exemplified by the mantra, “The cavalry is not coming.”

The phrase refers to the danger of waiting for and anticipating help from others. We can get lucky, and unexpected good things can come our way periodically, but we cannot depend on outside support.

The concept is simple: Do not wait for help because no one is coming to help you – take action now.

A great local example of this same concept comes from Ray Minervini, the developer of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Ray has been known to share his father’s saying: “After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. You have to get out of the truck and get to work.”

Minervini’s words are the guiding philosophy that transformed a set of dilapidated and crumbling buildings into one of the most successful redevelopment projects in the country.

We need to follow Ray Minervini’s lead because the cavalry is not coming … or at least not coming quickly. The COVID-19 vaccine development is promising, but the full distribution of millions of doses is months away and will be done in phases, likely with many logistical challenges.

The November election did little to resolve our ongoing political disputes. Additional federal relief funding is possible next year, but the legislation is far from certain and a potentially divided government will delay the arrival of further aid to small businesses. With Lansing wracked by political gridlock, we are unlikely to see a unified state-level policy to address the pandemic.

Our only solution is to get to work.

Our entire community needs to commit to personal responsibility to protect our colleagues, friends and families by following social distancing protocols. We all need to wear a mask – not because of a state mandate, but because we each pledge to keep our community healthy.

This is a community of doers with a strong sense of responsibility and a belief in doing what’s right. When the next generation asks us what we did to help fight the biggest crisis we’ve confronted in over 100 years, let’s tell them that we put each other first.

Local initiative is the proven solution to the ongoing political divisiveness. Our local businesses and leaders have the power to enforce productive and civil discourse at every level of government. Partisanship will not give way to progress until we make it clear to local, state and federal officials that good public policy and proper government function take priority over the occasional political victory.

We can demand civility from our elected officials and set the example by demonstrating it ourselves. It is our right to advocate for our preferred policies, but it is also our responsibility to debate policy solutions within our community in a civil manner.

We have seen incredible strength and resiliency from our local business, education and healthcare organizations this year. Armed with the experience of 2020, the new year provides an ideal time to implement new lessons, set new strategic goals or deploy new business plans. Dust off that idea sitting in the file, revamp your supply chain, improve your online presence or take the next step in your profession.

Businesses that are taking the opportunity to find new customers or new product lines are weathering the storm better than those who are waiting for the situation to improve on its own. Don’t hold out until the pandemic is over; take steps now to pandemic-proof your business and your career.

If and when the cavalry arrives in the form of a comprehensive vaccine, federal spending or bipartisanship, all the better. But let’s not wait for these things. Seizing the opportunity now in business, public policy and community health will position us to rapidly accelerate out of the crisis in a way that enhances our competitive advantage.

Who is coming to the rescue? We are. We are the calvary and we can work together to address the current circumstances and future challenges.

As Minervini reminds us, it is time to get out of the truck.

Warren Call is the president/CEO of Traverse Connect, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North. Contact him at warren.call@traverseconnect.org.