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Des Moines, Commit to Saying "Yes"

Saying Yes in DSM

November 25, 2020

Over the last two years my business partner Lyndon Haselhuhn and I, Sören Albaugh, have organized Limited Space, an art and music showcase in Greater Des Moines (DSM). When COVID-19 hit in February 2020, we were forced to reformat our event from its norm — an in-person event with up to 100 artists displaying their work in a limited space of less than 25 square feet, two DJs and a lot of dancing — to a pandemic-safe, outdoor drive-in-movie with art projected on big screens.

From its fruition in a small room atop the Des Moines Building, to its run at the Des Moines Social Club and other DSM venues, Limited Space has faced a number of changes over the last two years. Making further changes to Limited Space for COVID-19 forced me to reflect on not only the past and future of our event but also on DSM and the progress that could be made within our community.

Focusing on What’s Next

Steve Jobs famously said, “Focusing is about saying no.” Most of us have said “no” more in 2020 than ever before. No to: large in-person gatherings, happy hours, dining in, seeing loved ones and so many other activities that haven’t been deemed pandemic-safe. Saying “no” is happening so often that it’s downright trendy.

With budget concerns, work stress and a modern life that can foster so much anxiety, it’s all too easy for executive directors to fall into the trap of a protective mindset that leads them to also say “no.” “No” to new ideas, “no” to outsiders, “no” to things that aren’t the norm. These executive directors might try to conserve resources and energy by only offering opportunities to those already in their circle because it feels like the safe option. However, this protective instinct is really just a scarcity mindset. The moment one adopts a scarcity thought process, they start excluding opportunities from outsiders and the true innovation and better ideas they would bring to the table.

I want to instead talk about saying “yes.” Every executive director, every artist, every organization, every entrepreneur and every person must start to say “yes” more often. While it’s obviously not realistic to say “yes” to everything that gets pitched, one can commit to saying “yes” more and can also quantify it. Every executive director can commit to taking two meetings with someone they personally regard as an outsider in the art world twice a month; they can then commit to saying “yes” to one of those people at least every other month.

The most valuable and most innovative ideas are initially usually seen as outside ideas and often come from less-established sources. In today’s extremely globalized and competitive world, DSM can’t afford to keep saying “no” to its best resource: new ideas.

It’s an open secret that Iowans prefer to work with people we already know. We regard these insiders with great esteem and, more often than not, we are wary of outsiders. In order for us to progress, we must break out of this mold to ensure great ideas are not left on the table, and saying “yes” in your own life is the first step to making that happen.

You can see Limited Space: Drive-In Edition from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, November 28 at Water Works Park in Downtown DSM. Over 60 artists — from local to as far away as Singapore — will be featured.

Named the #5 Best Place to Live in the U.S. and a Top 10 Best Place for Business and Careers, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.