In the movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven, one of the people he meets is his old army captain. My vague recollection is that Eddie asks his captain why he stayed in this terrible place full of war and suffering and I think the captain says "That's what YOU see. This is what I see." and the war-torn hellscape gives way to a beautiful tropical paradise.

There's also an old story I heard years ago about two shoe salesmen going to the same place and seeing that everyone there is barefoot. One of them calls the company and says "Bad news: There's no market here. No one wears shoes here." The other one calls their company and says "Good news! Everyone here needs new shoes! The market is HUGE!"

I came to Aberdeen, Washington to try to make my life work without a car and on a tight budget. I had been researching my options for a long time (something like three years or more) and creating private profiles for various cities across the western US.

When I first looked at Aberdeen online, my initial impression was not positive. It's only about 16,000 or 17,000 people and I was looking for a place with more like 50,0000 to 100,000 people.

So my first thought was "It's too small. There won't be anything there." But I had a checklist of specific things I was looking for and it had a lot more than I expected it to have for a town of this size.

What I didn't know at that time is that Aberdeen is the largest city in the region and serves as the commercial hub for a much larger area than just this small town. So it has a great deal more commercial activity than you normally see in a town of this size.

It's actually got more big city vibe than Columbus, Georgia had the last time I lived there. At that time, Columbus was about 160,000 people, so roughly ten times the size of this small town, yet felt much more rural, small town than Aberdeen.

The last time I lived in Columbus, my apartment was close to four shopping centers yet most stuff closed by 10 p.m. Before the pandemic hit, Aberdeen had several places with 24-hour service and others that either opened early or closed late such that there was always someplace I could go any time of the day or night if I wanted to get a bite to eat or something.

When I arrived in Aberdeen in September 2017, it already had a Tesla Supercharger. I recently saw news that Columbus is finally getting one.

So I think this is a rocking little town with a lot going on. But a lot of locals seem to not see it that way.

Shortly after I moved here, I began looking up meetings pertinent to community development that were open to the public and checking them out. The views expressed by locals at such meetings were extremely negative and stood in stark contrast to the views I held of the town.

The general attitude expressed was that Aberdeen was on life support and needed to be brought back from the dead. Given the high level of commercial service this tiny town has, I think not.

If you are doing community development work, you will be more successful if you actually like the place and can find good things to say about it very sincerely. No, that doesn't mean sticking your head in the sand about any problems the community has and it doesn't mean spin-doctoring the truth.

All communities have problems, but it's kind of like some saying to the effect that "If only desperation were attractive, no one would be lonely." You cannot attract investment money based on "We are desperate and want outsiders to throw money at our problems." That simply doesn't work.

If you see the place as "a pig" and your job as being about "Trying to put lipstick on a pig," good luck getting buy-in from other people. You need to adjust your mindset about the place before you are likely to see any success.

Thanks to parking minimums, the downtown area for Aberdeen has a lot of empty storefronts. Where other people seem to see nothing but blight, I see a very lively small town with enormous potential.

I plan to do what I can to foster that potential and avoid the haters, the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats.

Years ago, a guy who made his fortune in real estate did a class where he started by laying out a bunch of cubic zirconium on a table and mixed in with those "fake" diamonds was one real one. He would give class participants a jewelers loupe and ask them to identify the real diamond.

Most people couldn't do it and he didn't expect them to succeed. It was an object lesson that was designed to make an impression.

The real diamond was the one with a flaw. Similarly, real estate deals with enormous upside are primarily found in properties with some defect that you can remedy if you know what you are doing.

You don't typically get rich by buying flawless real estate. It generally takes a lot of money to purchase flawless real estate and it may not appreciate. In fact, it may well depreciate.

No, you get rich by buying flawed real estate and improving it. I see Aberdeen as a diamond in the rough that needs a little polish and to my mind that means it has enormous potential.

Wherever you live, if you want to help it thrive, you need to find some way to view it as a diamond in the rough. You need to be able to realistically assess the flaws and come up with solutions, but you also need to be able to list its strengths.

Those are its selling points. You can't sell an area on the idea of "We are desperate and hope to manipulate you fools into investing money here to try to save our drowning ship."

Most people with money simply aren't that stupid and you will give away your real attitude with the way you phrase things when you talk about the place. No one wants to try to save your drowning ship. They want to know "What's in it for me?" and a drowning ship holds no promise of a return on their investment.

If you can think of nothing good to say about the place you live, ask yourself why you are there. The answer to that question should be one of two things:
  • You actually hate it and should probably just leave.
  • Or you will come up with a list of strengths, such as low cost of living, great weather and peace and quiet.

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