A Year of Living with Intention

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We even have an approach for how to make that change. A Strong Towns approach means that we:

  1. Stop valuing efficiency and start valuing resilience.

  2. Stop betting our futures on huge, irreversible projects, and start taking small, incremental steps and iterating based on what we learn.

  3. Stop fearing change and start embracing a process of continuous adaptation.

  4. Stop building our world based on abstract theories, and start building it based on how our places actually work and what our neighbors actually need today.

  5. Stop obsessing about future growth and start obsessing about our current finances.

  6. Put faith and power in ourselves and our neighbors to co-create the places we live.

Many specific policies and programs flow from this way of thinking.

What we have not had is the futurama-like vision and narrative for how the world will be better with a Strong Towns approach. Sure, we talk about safer streets, lower taxes, affordable housing, greater small business opportunities, increased public health, real job creation, a better environment, and many more things. We talk about these things, absolutely, but mostly as abstract outcomes in a broader policy debate, not as real lived experiences that people can have right now.

This year we are going to work—you, me, all of us in this movement—on living with intention. While the core of GM’s Futurama vision is merely state-driven consumerism, the core of the Strong Towns vision is a life of meaning; one with purpose and a high quality of life. In many ways these two visions are the antithesis of each other. This year, we are going to lean into that.

Starting this week, you are going to get a regular weekly column from Karla Theilen, our new Neighborhood Storyteller. We’ve asked Karla to write about life in a neighborhood and all it entails. Her introductory column (“The Typewriter Mailbox: Small Ways to Bring Joy to a Neighborhood”) gets at what we mean by a life of intention, one where our small and ordinary, everyday actions add up to something more important than anything promised in a GM advertisement.

This year, we are also going to publish regular insights from my long-time colleague John Pattison, whom we have just moved from a role on our content team into the new position of Community Builder. We’re asking John to not only share the stories of people doing the work of building stronger communities, but share ideas, knowledge, and best practices for others to learn from. We want to help you see success for you and your place in the story of others. And, when you are ready, help you build a team that can change your place for the better.

We’re also going to try a new experiment: A fictional series about a small town planning commission dealing with a controversial zoning request. In the horse race of national politics, we often overlook, or even diminish, the drama of decisions whose impact is often more direct, immediate, and impactful than anything that will happen at a state capital or in Washington, DC. We’re going to try and bring this drama to life this year, with all the complexity, messiness, and human drama that accompanies such decisions. 

Finally, as we kick off another year of Strong Towns content, I’m going to commit myself to not only living a more intentional life, but sharing regularly with you what that means to me. That’s not something that comes naturally for me—I am way more comfortable talking about policy, finance, budgets, or anything but my own life—but I also recognize that what this movement needs right now is that narrative, the one that inspires us to, for example, care about the elections taking place this November, but not let ourselves be so distracted by them that we fail to make good progress on the important work we are doing in our own community.

I’m grateful that you are here with us. I’m excited to share the coming months with you and see what we can accomplish together.

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