La Paz - The City that Blossomed:  A Story To Inspire Nonprofit Leaders

I first visited La Paz, Mexico 13 years ago on my honeymoon.  It wasn’t a random decision. Friends certainly all gave me their recommendations for other sunny spots and we considered them.   But it was Jacques Cousteau who called the Sea of Cortez the "natural aquarium of the world".  And then who wouldn’t be drawn to the place that inspired one of my favorite authors of all time, John Steinbeck.  In fact, he wrote “The Pearl” after his visit to La Paz.      

So off we went, bags packed, to a place few people heard about.

It took us close to six hours (today it takes about three) over two-lane dirt roads through dry arroyos. And we stopped several times to let goats and cows cross.  Few people were around town the night we arrived.  The Boardwalk or Malecon was crumbling and I didn’t see any walkers strolling next to the bay.  It was quiet, but the hosts at our small boutique hotel, the Mediterranean, welcomed us and brought out the ouzo, tequila and grappa, we so appreciated after our trek.

So Mary Anne, you are asking, what the heck does this have to do with nonprofit leadership or management?  

Well you see, this sleepy fishing village had a dream.  They aspired to be more while maintaining their authenticity.  It wasn’t about tourists or revenues coming in. It was about creating a safe, positive experience for the locals who lived there and secondarily for those that wanted to visit.  And so it happened.  This small town became a vibrant, sustainable city simply because they never gave up.  They believed they could become more. Actions speak louder than words so they engaged all the town’s residents in community efforts to make the town a shining star in Baja.

The Mexican Government recently announced La Paz as one of the top three Mexican cities to live in. And this once quiet coastal town was awarded funding to become the first Mexican city to be totally solar powered in 20 years. 

Like the little engine that could, La Paz became the little town that could.  Were there daunting challenges? YES.  But it is all about perseverance when you’re in it for the long haul.  To trust that it will work.  To evolve and grow the organization in spite of all the challenges and obstacles – to keep with it and finally be around to reap the rewards. 

With that said, here are some tips to reinforce your belief in your vision: (These are time-tested principles and you’ve heard them all before. But I challenge you to put them into practice today!)

1.       Congratulate yourself on the baby steps that keep you moving forward.  Two steps forward and one step backward is still progress.

2.       Remember to see the glass as half full and to make lemonade out of lemons.

3.       Don’t take yourself so seriously. Remember: it’s a journey not a destination.

4.       Reminder yourself that ultimately it is about the people you touch, the connections and relationships you make.  See them as powerful tools to reach your goals.

5.       Be authentic and true to yourself and your dream.  Distractions occur, but hold fast to your vision as it evolves.

6.       And finally, make the daily affirmation in spite of setbacks, “Yes…I am moving forward!”