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“Do you know that only 3% of our nation has ‘the edge’? Before I tell you what ‘the edge’ is, I’d like everyone to shut your eyes and think about something you would like to have, do, or achieve. At some point today, write down what you visualized. You now have the edge.

Set goals, don’t visualize them in your head and dream about them at night. Write them on paper and read them daily. Once you have written them down, evaluate your list of goals. Simply assessing your list will trigger new ideas, alternative solutions and more goals.

With these goals, make a difference in your own life. You ultimately determine how far you will go. In the books of Matthew and Luke it says ‘ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.’ I’d add one more – set goals and you will overcome obstacles, jump hurdles, and you will be a success!”

Natalie Powell, circa 1995

These sound like wise words from someone who has had a great deal of life experience, right? Not so much. They were delivered by me at a church conference around the age of 15.

When my priest announced that 168 second graders received their first communion this month, I was reminded of my small church upbringing. I quickly went home that day and found my copy of the Good News Bible – a gift that all 2nd graders received in my church. I was looking for one thing in particular. This speech – real-time editing and grammar corrections included.

Found buried in my bible

I regularly attended the annual church conference that my mom helped run because of her job at the United Church of Christ association in northwest Ohio. At these conferences, they had time between sessions called “Speak Out”. This was a time for vendors to ask people to visit their table at lunch, people to give an update on missionary work, and anyone else who felt like they had something to say to take the microphone.

I was a kid from a small town with big ideas and I wasn’t afraid to step in front of a microphone. I would get inspiration somewhere in the content of the day and come up with my speech. I would put my name on the “Speak Out” list without abandon and could hear a pin drop when I spoke.

If I had been one of 168 kids from my church, I might not have taken the microphone like that. I might have felt lost in the crowd. Kids in small towns get noticed because there is no crowd to get lost in. Taking the microphone in front of nearly 1,000 conference attendees felt the same as standing in front of the 50-person crowd that showed up on a normal Sunday for church services in Republic, Ohio.

Now, it’s normal for me to take the microphone when I have something to say. Speaking in front of those congregations was my foray into presenting in front of very large crowds and developing content when inspiration strikes. These two skills serve me well as I build Small Town Leadership.

Small Town Leadership Lesson: Take the microphone! If you have something to say, find a forum, audience, or platform to share it with. In 1995, I had the “Speak Out” sessions and 4-H to help me craft my speaking skills. Today, I have this blog and speaking opportunities, not to mention a variety of social media and digital platforms.

If you want the 30-something version of this speech delivered at your next event or conference, let me know! Here is what people say when I present.


Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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