(This article originally published in the Lake County Record Bee.)
I startled the woman at a local hospitality establishment. She made some comment that business was difficult, hinting that it should be expected because this is, after all “just Lake County.” She expected me to join in, lamenting about the challenges of doing business in a depressed rural economy.
In short, I told her that any depression in our rural economy is caused by people like her.
You see, more than 3,000 people came to our little winery last year. They drove over a mountain to get here, and down a rustic road. But they came smiling, with high expectations, based on what their friends had told them. Some had read a glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle, or Sunset Magazine, or Wine Enthusiast, all of which have published substantial pieces on our region in the past few months.
The moment they got here, they started to look for an answer to the question: Do I dare recommend this place to my friends? Many of them did dare, because many that came were friends of friends.
What the woman I first introduced doesn’t realize is that she creates the story that guests see when they get here. If she tells people that this is, after all, “just Lake County,” the people that visit believe it. But if she tells them about the incredible hike up Mt. Konocti, or the world-class bass fishing on Clearlake, or the outstanding guest experience at one of the many wineries or local hotels, or even the resilient nature of our community following fires, those are the stories guests tell their friends, and locals tell each other.
Now, does Lake County have challenges? Of course it does. We have homeless people, and we have an extraordinary climate for growing cannabis, which competes with what some consider to be more noble crops. But do other great regions of the world have challenges? Are there homeless people in New York and San Francisco? Sure there are. Yet those places foster a great sense of local pride, a sense that is beginning to take charge in Lake County too.
One club member at our winery is a young woman who works in the tech industry. She lives in a beautiful home on Cobb Mountain and works remotely. She lives here because she wants to, and makes a fine living that pays taxes into our local economy.
Let’s imagine her first visit to Lake County, before she decided to move here. I assume that it was a positive experience, or she wouldn’t have bothered, right? But she did bother, and she brings up friends from the bay area, and her presence here improves the experience of the region as a whole.
What if that bitter woman behind the counter had ruined her first visit? She wouldn’t have come. And thus the woman’s message is a self fulfilling prophecy. If she tells people that this is a discouraging region, it becomes just that. But if she shares the beauty of the region with enthusiastic people who come here expecting to see great things, it becomes a beautiful region with a focus on great things.
If the bitter woman wants to improve this region, the best thing she can do is leave! Or even better, pretend it never happened, and change her tune immediately. Talk about the great things that surround us, and we will see more great things.
Let’s call out the negative, magnify the positive, and harvest the result of a beautiful place to live, shall we?