Walker Talk – BLOG THURSDAY

So it’s Thursday and Here are your week of blog posts. I hope you enjoy and share what turns you on.

Walker Talk

Thirty five years ago my consulting business took off like a rocket. I did 65 entrepreneur business driven turnarounds in 3 years. From this platform in Australia, the business went global. All the way to Canada working in total community transformation and huge projects like culture change in 10,000 person Government agencies. Plus thirty six group led journeys to the high Himalayas of Nepal and Bhutan with execs and leaders. It grew and grew and grew. Then, on 11th September 2001, everything changed.

Standing looking at the magnificent panorama from my magnificent corner office at 555 5th Avenue New York, I felt the rumble of trouble in my bones. A plane skimmed the roof of my building. I could see the rivets in the wings and fuselage as it swayed from side to side, lost, searching, fighting for control. I knew there was trouble but who could have dreamed the events that followed.

Seconds later, with black smoke and flames bellowing from the WTC – people began jumping from that tower and it was only then that I realised how far down the path of life the work I’d been sharing with others had taken me. I had no reaction.

To understand the world in such a way that human suffering did not translate into shock or horror or even sadness was massive. I was available. I helped thousands of people over the next days, firemen and women cried on my shoulder as they grieved so deeply it seemed they would never recover. I slept five hours in the next 3 days spending my time reaching out to help. I walked the streets stopping to offer support wherever I was asked.

Candles burned on every corner but the smell of death in NY those days permeated everything. 3,100 bodies incinerated in the rubble. And yet, I was available. The work with Innerwealth allowed me to process the grief and pain instantaneously.

One week later, I was leaving for Nepal (actually I was waiting for the car service to pick me up to take me to the airport when that plane flew so close overhead) – but just before I left GE Finance contacted us and withdrew the $34mil funding for our project. The project I was in New York to build. The project I’d put all my own eggs into. I was broke.

Still I remained open hearted. I flew to Nepal and began to lead a fourteen person group, most of whom were in deep shock and grief about the events of New York. The US had not invaded Iraq yet, but the signs were ominous. It was my 30th trek up these hills, up to Base Camp, but never before had so much gone wrong. People were distracted, nervous, emotional and all fourteen were reacting differently. Some drank, some cried, some became angry others became weak and vulnerable and some did all the above.

The trek takes 14 days from the low lands and over the course of these long eight hour walking days I had the opportunity to work with each person one on one along the trail. The WTC was not the prime topic – although it was the trigger, the prime topic for each person was the fear it generated about the things they valued most. For some it was their business, for others it was their family, others it was the families of those lost in the event.

What couldn’t be discussed sitting face to face found a voice out there in the mountains. I personally felt that there was a spirit of trust in those hills, in nature, that all those Buddhist prayers and prayer flags had created a temple outdoors, a safe haven, where hearts could open and minds were not so welded to beliefs. This experience changed my relationship to consulting, coaching and nature. I realised that there are such sacred grounds everywhere, and although Nepal is super special in this regard, we can create sacred ground to open our hearts even in the middle of the New York or Sydney CBD.

Price Waterhouse Coopers invited me to present to their young partners training programme and as preparation, I met with executives and leaders in their magnificent Sydney CBD offices. A glamorous space, high above the earth, with walls laced with black and white photographs of the “team.” What a stark contrast to that walking trail in Nepal. Suits guarded hearts, minds rigid in fear of failure, the smell of those days after the WTC collapse in NYC returned to my memory. Nothing creative could emanate from this place and space. It was, in short heartless and soulless.

The PWC conference was equally benign. Held in a magnificent resort most attendees preferred the bar to the beach. Which, given their working environment back in Sydney, it was understandable that there was allot of stress. I offered extra sessions either side of my keynotes, to go do yoga on the beach and swim and meditate. I took that group down to the beach and they were really in a great space. The keynote however did not work quite as well.

At the first mention of the idea that there is balance in nature, a small band of fundamentalists took offence (I suspect they were just looking for an excuse) and a blockade was created. It’s the common situation where the loudest voice is usually the most unconscious voice and yet, rules the culture. This group would rather be inside a building separated from nature reading out of a book than in nature with an open heart.

People are different in nature. All my coaching and training programmes are now done outdoors, even in the toughest of weather we try to create a space where that beautiful connection between nature and human is celebrated. But this space isn’t what most people imagine.

When we talk about connecting people to nature, a walker talk, we talk about losing the boundary between human and environment. We are not confusing this space with conservation (that is human protecting nature which is not connection), we are not confusing this space with wildlife protection, that’s not connection, it’s projection.

Connection to nature is when you depend on nature – you are in it, not judging it. Your immersion is so thorough when you connect to nature that you begin to think like and act like nature. You ebb and flow with the seasons, you move with grace and the usual ego centric concerns about dealing with insults or being right or even wanting to separate pain and pleasure are forgotten.

A Walker Talk is a walk on the wild side. It’s never far from a good cup of coffee or a warm bed. It’s never far from a warm shower and hot breakfast. A Walker Talk is not camping, or trudging with a 50kg back pack across the antarctic. A Walker Talk is along Bondi beach, up a Himalayan trail, out in the woods of Canada. It’s about nature in everyday life – rather than nature to escape everyday life.

HOLIDAYS ARE RIDICULOUS

Family Holiday is an oxymoron. One of the best. One or two adults transporting a bunch of helpless kids half way around the world to find enjoyment in a place designed for enjoyment by people who make a profit out of people finding enjoyment.

What’s wrong with us? Why would we board a plane to go somewhere to enjoy ourselves when, right here, in your own back yard there is all the love and fun and excitement a person could dream of without the carbon, stress and cost. Are we so lost that club med has become a great idea? A place where parents can booz while kids get amused?

Back track a minute. A car, a beach, a river, a few rocks, sandcastles, a ball, maybe a footy. No TV, a few bumps and scratches, new friends and wham, that was after school everyday.

Holidays are for those whose life is not keeping pace. Holidays are for those who can’t find love and joy right here, in this space. Holidays are testimonials to stuck, to disconnectedness from nature.

And then there are adventures.

For those families who are enjoying the day, a holiday or weekend is not something to look forward to as if it’s an escape from prison, but rather an opportunity to do something to enhance their education, to learn something new. To become wiser, to live their purpose, to evolve. This is not enjoyment. This is purpose and it’s way greater than the short term stress of enjoyment.

Can you have both? Of course. If you are learning to ski and your career is as a ski instructor that’s enjoyment to the next level.

Sometimes this seems harsh. But if you are creating something you love, holidays are a pain in the butt. They cost time and money and really the kids, who are used to justify the trip, are often more available and happier at home. As they grow up it becomes harder to find one holiday that fits all. One kid might want to dance their life, another might want to paint it and yet another might want to read it. So, one holiday turns out a compromise for everyone. Usually parents doing what they want and finding ways to convince the kids it’s for them.

Your self-worth goes up when you do what you are born to do. Live your values, your priorities, and it goes down when you don’t. Learning is earning, feeling good makes no difference under the hood.

So, consider the possibility of taking a holiday everyday. Go to nature and do a Walker Talk. You’ll love it and it’ll make the day a brilliant day, one that you don’t have to sit counting the hours until the weekend or annual leave.

A walk in nature can trigger one or all healthy responses:

  • Mastery and control of nature: coping and mastering adversity, capacity to resolve unexpected problems, leading to self-esteem
  • Physical attraction and beauty of nature: adaptability, heightened awareness, harmony, balance, curiosity, exploration, creativity and an antidote to the pressures of modern living
  • Affection and emotional attachment to nature: fondness and attachment, connection and relationship, trust and kinship, co-operation, sociability and ability to develop allegiances
  • Spiritual and ethical importance of nature: understanding of the relationship between human wholeness and the integrity of the natural world, leading to a sense of harmony and logic
  • Immersion and direct involvement in nature: immersion in the sense of authenticity of the natural rhythms and systems, leading to mental acuity and physical fitness
  • Fear and aversion of nature: developing a healthy respect for the risks, power and dangers inherent in nature with an equivalent sense of awe, reverence and wonder, leading to learning to deal with fears and apprehensions in a constructive way
  • Knowledge and understanding of nature: developing a cognitive capacity for critical thinking, analytical abilities, problem-solving skills leading to competence
  • Metaphorical and figurative significance of nature: being able to access the limitless opportunities offered by the process in the natural world to develop understanding of one’s own circumstances, leading to cognitive growth and adaptability
  • Material and practical importance of nature: emphasising the practical and material importance of the natural world on which we rely for survival.