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If you were governor

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

Here on this island, there thousands of people who are concerned about where the CNMI is heading, given its current economic state. People discuss it every day, and end up with many unanswered questions. What’s going to happen? Should I leave? Should I stay? How will I survive?

Many of these people have joined various groups and organizations committed to doing something positive to improve life here.

Others sit on the sidelines and lament that those in power aren’t doing all they could to improve things.

Others have left for what they perceive as greener pastures.

If you have an activist’s spirit, if you are aware of the issues and want to do something about them, you may find yourself being overwhelmed by the sheer number of issues that exist. There’s so much that needs to be done, it can be daunting.

I was at a meeting recently where someone said, "There’s so much I see that needs to be done, and so many things I’m involved in that it almost feels like I’m governor!"

What if you were governor?

That comment got me thinking. So, here’s my idea. Sometime today, when you have a free moment, why not sit down with pen and paper, or keyboard and mouse, and pretend you’re governor? It’s an exercise in solution-oriented thinking, focus, multi-tasking, and goal-setting that might be quite enlightening.

First, the issues

It takes a lot to govern a country. The issues our nation is faced with managing include tourism, education, animal welfare, wages, crime, immigration, cost of living, utility bills etc.

What, therefore, in your estimation, are the 10 most important issues and challenges facing the CNMI and its residents? Write them down. But don’t just state the issues. Be specific as to the exact nature of the challenges you see. For example, you might write "the crime rate is too high—there are too many thefts—and that needs to be lowered," or "school test scores are too low and need to be raised."

Choose your platform

After you make your list, decide which five you’re going to focus on for your tenure as governor. The reality is, a governor doesn’t have the luxury of choosing only five, but we’ll let you off the hook for this experiment. These five areas of focus will represent the platforms upon which your administration will seek support.

What’s your vision?

Next, for each of your five areas of focus, paint a picture of an "ideal scene." In other words, simply write a detailed description of what things would look like in each area of focus if you could magically create all the changes you desire and envision. So, for example, if you decided that improving education was an important issue for you, then you might write something like this:

"In my ideal scene, every school on Saipan has been overhauled. They are now equipped with the necessary supplies, equipment, chairs and desks. The school buildings are clean and have been newly painted; students are testing at competence levels better than the national average, the student to teacher ratio has been improved to be optimal...etc."

Remember, be as specific as possible.

Then move to your next area of focus, and do the same for this one. When you’re finished, you’ll have five separate vision statements for each area of focus of your platform.

Appoint your Cabinet

There are certain organizational, personnel and communication steps you must take in order to be successful. One of those is deciding on the people (personnel) who will help you achieve your ideal scene.

In other words, governor, you need a Cabinet. So, from among your friends and associates, whom would you assign as the Minister of Education? Secretary of Public Safety? (You can refer to them however you wish) What skills, interests and passions do your friends possess that might make them well-suited for a particular position? I suggest that you choose carefully. You want people who are doers, not just talkers. And they, in turn, must involve others to accomplish the administration’s goals.

I’m also going to suggest that you take this exercise even further and actually contact those friends and associates, tell them about this article, and enroll them in your vision. Ask them if they’d like to sit on your Cabinet.

Set your goals

Next, set a series of goals for each area of focus. This is very important. It’s the only way you’ll know if you are making progress as governor in creating your ideal scenes.

You’ll need to have a concrete overall goal, and a series of quantifiable targets. You must be able to distill your vision—your ideal scene—down to observable, measurable goals. If school improvement is your focus, then how many schools will be painted by September? October? If crime is your focus—say thefts, for example—then you’ll first need to find out how many thefts occurred in June and July, and set specific goals as your targets for August and September. Every area of focus must have quantifiable goals attached to them—we call those measurable goals “production targets”. Other production targets include airline seats purchased, hotel rooms paid for, dogs spayed and neutered, number of students reading at or above grade level, trees planted, etc. If your vision for YOUR New Saipan cannot be converted into quantifiable targets, then there’s no way for you to be sure you’re making progress.

Conditional targets

Before you can start implementing any strategy to reach your goals, you’ll need to gather information about if, where and how a project can be done, before you take action. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with certain practices and processes.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a great idea to construct an offshore oil drill to extract oil from beneath the ocean floor off the coast of Managaha. You’d first need to find out what regulations, laws, codes and such exist that may or may not make that a viable project. These could be state, federal or local regulations, environmental concerns, etc. Every project or solution to Saipan’s challenges comes with certain conditions with which you must be familiar in order to be effective.

Operating targets—your strategy

The accomplishment of any goal is simply the end result of a series of steps performed in a pre-determined sequence. That’s all a plan is—a series of steps.

In previous articles, I’ve outlined a broad series of steps for any beginning entity (or administration) starting from scratch:

1. Find the lines of communication

2. Make yourself known

3. Discover what is needed or wanted

4. Produce or present it.

Within that broad plan, of course, are the specific steps of the plan: people to contact, items to purchase, research to do, appointments to make meetings to attend, agreements to come to and so on.

So, for each area of focus, start outlining all the things that you need to do in reverse order in order to arrive at the end result. Start with the goal in mind, and then ask yourself: "What would need to occur before this milestone can happen?" Then keep doing that step by step until you reach the present.

The point of all this

So what’s the point of all this? Well, if we’re lucky, this exercise may help you realize several things about what matters to you, what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished.

The first realization is that the perceived quality of your life is most immediately and directly affected by the things you feel are important. If you have children, then education might be on your list of five. If your passion is the environment, then the protection of the reefs might be on your top five. If you have pets, then animal welfare; if a business owner, then wages, and so on. We can all agree on certain issues, but everyone’s list of five is going to be a little different.

If we combine all of our lists, then you might get a sense of the tremendous task that faces anyone in a position of leadership, even on a small island such as this.

It’s my hope, however, that you’ll realize that the future of these islands is much too involved a process to be left up to one individual or administration alone, and with your personal goals set, your Cabinet in place, your strategy mapped out, and with an awareness of the conditions surrounding each challenge, you might find that YOU actually have the power, the people, the passion and a plan to actually move ahead and effect meaningful change here on this island....even if you’re not the governor!

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Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!


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