Gifts On the Trail

Last Saturday, on my way up the Mt. Woodson trail, a Buddhist monk passed me heading the other direction.

Later, as I finally made my way back down, I came across a clutch of prayer flags placed atop a boulder. I assume the orange-robed monk left them there, but I can’t be sure. What I have since learned is that prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetan Buddhists believe these prayers will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into the surrounding environment.

I received peace, an appreciation of the rough beauty of my surroundings, my concerns about completing the hike abating with each step down the hill.

I received compassion, for myself and my limitations, and for my dog who was a faithful and willing companion on the trail.

I received strength, both of spirit for having spent the afternoon in a beautiful and challenging place and of body, discovering a small but steady resurgence of my physical well-being as I neared the end.

I received wisdom, having bathed in the humility of my limitations during the final hour of my ascent, a fresh awareness that my core responsibility at all times is to offer the best that I’ve got.

These timely prayers, washing over me as I passed by, were a welcome reminder of the physical and spiritual generosity that always surrounds us. They were freely given and happily received.


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Prayer Flags – Mt. Woodson Trail – Jan. 2020

The Reviews That Matter

I was scrolling through the customer reviews of a movie a friend recommended and I got a terrible case of whiplash.

“5 Stars,” “2 Stars,” “5 Stars,” “1 Star,” and on it went.

Just at the edge of falling down the list much further than I had ever intended, I remembered something crucial: my friend recommended it to me.

So I watched it and it was great. And I am not surprised because my friend is great, and she likes interesting and informative things that I nearly always enjoy.

Random user reviews are meaningless. So are referrals, and proposals and anything else that places a significant demand on your time and attention by someone about whom you know absolutely nothing.

Fall instead down the rabbit hole of great relationships and learn to trust them. They will send you all you need.


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Photo by Robin Schreiner on Pexels.com

Living a Redwood Life

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the eyes of others only
a green thing which stands in the way…
As a man is, so he sees.”

{William Blake}


Last year at this time, with the semester drawing to a close, I decided to share with my students some images from a recent trip to the Humboldt Redwood State Park here in California.

I wanted to share my childlike enthusiasm for these magnificent trees. I wanted to inspire them to seek out wonder and awe in their lives.  I wanted them to remember that in the field of “management” (which is what the course tells us we are studying) we do well to remember that organizational life is first and always a human endeavor.

I wanted them to believe my admonition that a profound sense of awe and wonder – an appreciation for the spectacular miracle that is any living and learning system – is essential if we are to appropriately honor the very real human beings present in our workplaces, responsive to our decisions, trusting of our intentions.

I then took it a step further. I encouraged, even challenged them to choose to be redwoods in their own communities. I suggested that such a choice comes with great risk because a redwood outside of a redwood forest would be seen as a peculiar, if fascinating anomaly. I then suggested that living a “redwood life,” conspicuous though it might be, might just inspire others to do the same, and that we might just create an entire forest of people fulfilling their potential for growth and impact. In fact, it would be the only way for them to survive.

Redwoods are shallow rooted, a shocking realization given their massive size. Instead of deep roots to support them they use their upper limbs to make contact with their neighbors and together form a dense network of mutual well-being.

Stand tall, reach out, help one another. Live a life of wonder and awe at the gifts of living and learning.


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The only place where things are real

I hope you will set aside 20 minutes and take in what is a perfect introduction to David Whyte‘s work. A poet and philosopher, and a longtime consultant to leading organizations, he begins by talking about the “conversational nature of reality.” It’s a phrase that may seem esoteric but the meaning of which is fundamental to your experience as a parent, a partner, an employee, a leader, a friend and any other present or future role you can imagine.

Early in the talk he says, “The conversational nature of reality is the fact that whatever you desire of the world — whatever you desire of your partner in a marriage or a love relationship, whatever you desire of your children, whatever you desire of the people who work for you or with you, or your world — will not happen exactly as you would like it to happen.

But equally, whatever the world desires of us — whatever our partner, our child, our colleague, our industry, our future demands of us, will also not happen. And what actually happens is this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you. And this frontier of actual meeting between what we call a self and what we call the world is the only place, actually, where things are real.”

I hear this as an invitation to a third way…one that is about engagement with the unknown rather than the seduction and false security of yes/no, this or that thinking and acting. This requires the capacity to sit in complexity…messiness…precisely when we – when I – want my work and relationships to unfold in neat and tidy, measurable and manageable pieces.

The poems he recites are from a collection called “Pilgrim.” And the work that first made me a fan is called “The Heart Aroused.”


landscape photography of mountain

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

You Are the Sun

“Businesses must view people not as resources but as sources. A resource is like a lump of coal; you use it and it’s gone. A source is like the sun – virtually inexhaustible and continually generating energy, light and warmth. There is no more powerful source of creative energy in the world than a turned-on, empowered human being.”

– from Conscious Capitalism


You are a source of creativity, passion and purpose.

Everything you need you already have within you. And, the world will let you down if you expect it to consistently honor and recognize this for you. So, you must find both the resolve and the means to become the author of your own power, by what you read, by the quality of people with whom you interact and by the way you spend your time; by focusing on what makes you larger, more fulfilled, more complete and more passionate.

This is the undiscovered country of our existence, as I see it: to take 100% of the responsibility for surfacing and sustaining our most “turned on, empowered” selves. That is the version so brimming with positive energy and compassion that every room, every conversation, every endeavor is better because you’re involved.

This week, starting now, let’s give ourselves the gift of being a source instead of a resource. And let us trust that the more ownership we take for discovering and revealing the sun within ourselves, the more we will help others do the same.


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Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Labor Day

“Work isn’t to make money. You work to justify life”

Marc Chagall ~

When I was 17 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I just didn’t know that it was possible to apply what came naturally to me to a formal educational and professional pursuit. And so began a 14 year journey to find what it was I was supposed to do with my life. When I finally landed on my vocation I was shocked to find that I had known the answer so many years before; that the answer had always been in me, just waiting to be unlocked and reintroduced to the world in a new and more profound way.

Of course, had I not wandered in the desert, searching in vain for the perfect fit; had I not been tested and molded by so many “roads to nowhere” I never would have found the road to somewhere. It was because of the work that was not my work that I was able to find the work that is.

James Michener wrote, and I’m paraphrasing heavily, that until we find our “thing” everything else we do along the way is creative. It’s all part of the process of learning who and what we are and how we are meant to use it in and for the world. Another sage, Joseph Campbell, said this:

“If the path ahead of you is clear, you are on someone else’s path.”

In other words, your path – the work of your life – is the one with all the obstacles. You have to fight for it, up and over, through and around; clawing, scraping, racing, pushing, pulling. This is how you know it is yours. And, in my experience, while all of that is happening you are deeply gratified by knowing that this fight is your fight, this labor is your labor; the work meant for you and you alone.

And what a joy it is to find that work. Truly, it is an exceptional thing to realize that this is my offering, my contribution. And with it comes a deep and significant responsibility to fully explore, fully realize and fully practice that which I am meant to do.

I am grateful on Labor Day to have found my work. More than that, I am grateful to have the resources, support, trust and well-being to fully express it.

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Albert Camus ~


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Every Superhero Has An Origin Story

Soon after I published my book, A More Daring Life, in early 2016 I was invited to take a daring new step of my own, teaching in the business school at Cal State University San Marcos. I had no idea what I was in for, no idea of the energy, enthusiasm and kindness of the students it would be my privilege to teach.

A few months ago, I started noodling on an idea built on the foundations of my book but specifically geared to soon-to-be graduates and young professionals. The outlines of a storytelling workshop, one that would teach participants to transcend the quantitative constraints of their resume by learning how to tell a more personal and selectively vulnerable story about their experience and qualifications, began to take shape in May. This weekend, planning and thinking became doing and I led the first one.

For the generous “yes” of those willing to be first I offer my deepest gratitude for trusting me, for being all in and for teaching me how to make it better. (Session 2 is next Saturday!)

To them and to you I offer a toast: “To a more daring life!”


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Poem for a Sunday Morning

This week’s poem is the song Most of All by Brandi CarlileI hadn’t heard of her until a friend showed me her epic performance of The Joke at this year’s Grammy Awards. I finally bought her most recent album – one that she describes as being about “radical forgiveness…an ugly but ultimately rewarding act” – encouraged that it would contain other gems. It does, this one among them. Enjoy her beautiful writing, and take some time to listen, also. I think you’ll find it to be a powerful meditation on love, presence and, again, forgiveness.


Most of All
{Brandi Carlile}
I haven’t seen my father in some time
But his face is always staring back at me
His heavy hands hang at the ends of my arms
And my colors change like the sea
But I don’t worry much about time lost
I’m not gunning for the dreams I couldn’t find
‘Cause he taught me how to walk the best that I can
On the road I’ve left behind
But most of all
He taught me to forgive
How to keep a cool head
How to love the one you’re with
And when I’m far into the distance
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love
I haven’t heard my mother’s voice in a while
But her words are always falling out my mouth
My mind and spirit are at odds sometimes
And they fight like the north and the south
But I still care enough to bear the weight
Of the heaviness to which my heart is tethered
She taught me how to be strong and say goodbye
And that love is forever
But most of all
She taught me how to fight
How to move across the line
Between the wrong and the right
And when I’m turned out in the darkness
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love
Give your love away
Oh, give your love away
And remember what comes back to you
Give your love away
Oh, give your love away
And remember what comes back to you
I haven’t seen my father in some time
But his face is always staring back at me
His heavy hands swing at the ends of my arms
And my colors change like the sea

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Inside

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter

 

Always Bet On Yourself

You are not going to get picked.

No one is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “It’s your turn. Right this way, please.”

There is no committee of “deciders” who will stumble upon your work, some fragment of your idea and fall so in love with it that they grant you permission to begin.

You have your track record, your value system and people “whose eyes light up when they see you coming.”

That’s enough. That’s everything.

Stop waiting for permission. Bet on yourself.


HT to HA & MW