I was meeting with some other Neighborhood Watch leaders when there came in among us a man who claimed he was an expert in how to start and run a Neighborhood Watch. He claimed he had started a Neighborhood Watch in another state and he started telling us what we were doing wrong.
So we gave him a Shibboleth, a test, to see if he really had the experience he said he did. We asked him what he would do first if he were starting a neighborhood watch in our town.
When he started yammering about how we needed to write by-laws, elect officers and hang fliers on doors. We looked at each other, smiled knowingly and declared this man a fraud.
How did we know?
We knew because, those of us who have actually done it, have collectively made every mistake in the book or watched others make every mistake in the book and we persevered long enough to learn from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others.
Everybody who reads this is familiar with Einstein's declaration that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting to get a different result. Similarly, most of you are familiar with the old bromide that if you want to change the outcome you've been getting you have to do something different than you've been doing.
Both sayings are true. And since some of us had made those and other mistakes we already knew why these are not good uses of time and energy and that the neighborhood watch volunteers who misspent their time and energy that way never successfully started a neighborhood watch. What happens to people who spend their time delivering fliers, electing officers and writing by-laws tend to get discouraged and quit in failure after about 6 months or a year. Neighborhood watch leaders who spend their precious early days electing officers, writing by-laws and hanging fliers on doors will have meetings but they won't have enough people to have a functional neighborhood watch. Their leaders will likely quit in discouragement and disappointment. This is why so few cities actually have some residents who know how to start a neighborhood watch. Most who try simply don't last long enough to figure out why they failed.
In my next post, I'm thinking of writing a contrast and comparison of two neighborhood watches - one successful, the other not - so readers can see for themselves what works and what doesn't, and, so that readers can see how a neighborhood watch effort can fail despite doing a lot of things right but failed because it didn't do the essential things.
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