Archive for the ‘vitality’ Category

Man Overboard!

May 19, 2011

“You can only ever become bored, when you no longer follow your heart.”  ~Mike Dooley

A series of ear-splitting bells split the afternoon air, followed by “Man overboard!  Drill, Drill, Drill!”  All around us the crew spring into action, shifting from whatever they were doing to pre-set roles, as gracefully as a professional dancer moving from a ballet to a Samba.  Over the next 15 minutes we witness the crew of the sailing schooner Adventuress hone their individual and collective skill to respond to emergencies.  I am moved – to tears – each time I witness the crew in action like this.  They are doing work they love, with people they respect, for the sake of things that matter deeply to them.  And I cannot help being moved, though I confess I hide behind my sunglasses and the viewfinder of my camera.

Hauling away to raise the sail.

Observing all of this, from the viewpoint of a group of civic and corporate leaders in training, we get a glimpse of something I believe we all seek: A Purpose Driven life.  In my experience, the heads and hearts of the crew are fully engaged in work they love.  Their commitment to each other, the boat, and their passengers, is one I am repeatedly inspired by.

For context, this drama unfolds aboard the floating national historic landmark – the schooner Adventuress.  This beautiful sailing ship measures over 100’ long, her rig reaches 110’ into the sky, and she carries roughly 5,500 square feet of canvas sails.  She is also nearing her 100th birthday.  It takes a crew of 12 – mostly volunteers – to sail her, and thousands of hours every winter to maintain and restore her.  Last winter alone she absorbed 5,000 volunteer hours plus roughly 10,000 paid hours by skilled shipwrights practicing their ancient craft.

The Adventuress is owned, operated, and is being lovingly restored, by the non-profit Sound Experience.  Their mission is to “educate, inspire and empower,” for the sake of a sustainable future for Puget Sound.  And the Adventuress is their platform for furthering this mission.  (www.soundexp.org)

Betsy climbs the rigging on the main mast.

Viewed through a different lens, the Adventuress is the physical manifestation of a massive pool of human energy – expressed in the form of Love, Passion, and Purpose.  Channeled into a wooden sailing vessel.  And formed into an organizational culture that fosters exceptional teamwork, models deep respect (for people, boat, and planet), and embodies purpose-driven work.  Their heart’s are in the game.  Fully.

Thank you Adventuress crew and staff.  You always dazzle and touch us!  Safe sailing!

This is our Leadership Journey, Pacific Northwest style.  To learn more check out a recent article in Seattle Business Magazine featuring this program.  (link here)

Reflection questions: If you followed your heart for the next 24 hours, what would you do differently?  Who would you be?  How would you treat those that grace your day?  What would you say YES to?  Who and what would you not take for granted?  What would you say that you haven’t been saying?  To others?  To yourself?

The combined Ascent and Adventuress Crew!

What Drives YOU?

June 25, 2010

Autonomy.

Mastery.

Purpose.

According to author Daniel Pink (in his book DRIVE: The surprising truth about what motivates us) these are the 3 factors that really drive people.  Pink’s perspective resonates with both my personal experience and my work with people.  Once we make enough money to meet our basic needs, it isn’t money that actually drives us.

Autonomy — The desire to be self directed.  We don’t want to be told what to do, we want to feel like the authors of our own lives.  We want to be challenged to bring our unique gifts to solving interesting problems.

Mastery — The urge to get better at stuff.  We get a sense of satisfaction from learning and getting good at things.

Purpose — The need to make a contribution.  At the end of the day we feel good about ourselves and our efforts if we feel like we made a real contribution to something.  Or someone.

Want to learn more?  Buy Daniel’s book or check out this really cool 11 min animated video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc (I guarantee you’ll find it worth 11 mins of your time.)

What motivates YOU?  Why do you work?  What leaves you most fulfilled at the end of the day?  How aligned is your life/work with what you care most about?

Look how much we have lost

May 18, 2010

We have just returned from leading a 10 day Leadership Journey to Ecuador (http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/tlj.html).

Christina and John chatting in Puanchir's home (c)2010 Scott Stout

At one point during our journey we were sleeping under mosquito nets on the uneven dirt floor of the village shaman’s house, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.  In the morning, I was chatting with our Ecuadorian guide Christina when she said something that landed with a profound impact: “Look how little they have; look how much we have lost.”

Puanchir, Ishpingo village, Achuar Territory, Ecuador (c)2010 John M. McConnell

To put that statement in context: we are in the home of Puanchir, a man whose entire collection of belongings adds up to less than any one of us has brought with us for a two day visit.  He began his life as a warrior, fighting to protect his family from nearby marauding tribes.  He was present when the first missionaries arrived, bringing with them medicine, education, religion, and the radical change of moving from scattered home sites into small villages.  He went on to become the village healer, learning the traditional ways of using plants and ancient ceremonies to heal mind, body and spirit.  His village is on a dirt airstrip where light planes occasionally come and go, but he has never left the rainforest, nor seen the ocean, a town, or even a mountain.

Despite these drastic changes (all in one lifetime!) he remains fiercely committed to preserving the traditional ways, yet open to the knowledge and benefits of what the developed world offers.

Puanchir generously offered to share his home and to do a ceremonial healing for us, and he welcomed our support for his own physical ailments (he is in his 70’s but doesn’t know his exact age as there were no calendars during the first 1/2 of his life).  He has had essentially no “western” health care in his lifetime.

Puanchir does spend every single day with his family.  His life is sustainable and in harmony with his surroundings.  He works when he needs to and he naps/relaxes whenever he chooses.  He is so attuned to his body and the natural rhythms of life around him that he can sense animals and insects without seeing them.  He can hit a banana at 10 meters with the dart from a 10′ long blowgun.  He is committed to preserving the natural environment, not as an abstract idea but rather because he knows that a healthy environment is essential to a sustainable future. For everything and everyone.

He knows the legacy he is leaving for his family and village.  We witnessed him coaching the young men from the village with a balance of his fierce commitment to preserving the traditional knowledge and a patient and loving presence.  Most importantly, and despite the fact that at his age he lives with constant pain, the biggest gift that Puanchir gave us was his laughter.  We couldn’t help but join the giggling whenever he started to chuckle.  Some forms of human communication are universal and need no translation.

No one, least of all me, would suggest that we abandon our modern homes and move into thatched huts.  Yet I do long to experience and be much of what Puanchir has in his life.  Deep daily connection with family and community.  Knowing clearly his purpose in life.  Peace with who he is and who he isn’t.  Freedom from the damaging myth that we are independent — he knows we are all one.  Understanding that he already has enough.

***More posts re: our Journey to Ecuador coming soon.***

For more pictures of our journey visit: http://homepage.mac.com/jmac999/JourneyEcuador/index.html

Leadership Journey to Ecuador 2010, Ishpingo, Ecuador. (c)2010 Virginia Rhoads

Human DOING

December 10, 2009

[Post by John McConnell]

I have been going full tilt now for several months.  Really fully engaged in my work, my play, my family, my life.  It feels really good.

Yesterday I was scrambling to pull together the final details for our first newsletter, while packing for a trip to California, while attending to few client needs, while planning my holiday gift buying, while…. you get the picture.  Sound familiar?

On the one hand I love it.  I am so plugged in right now.  Generating, learning, sharing, doing, checking things off the list….  On the other hand, I think I lost the OFF switch.  As I boarded the plane I pulled out my laptop thinking “if I can just get one more thing done…”  And then I stopped.  And I FELT IT.  That state of being where I am no longer BEING, but rather stuck in the DOING mode.  I am a HUMAN DOING!

So what did I do?  I finished that one thing.  I kept pushing, even though some part of me was saying, “whoa, its time to slow down for bit.”  And I’m doing it right now.  Posting this blog as my last action before going into a 3-day training to continue my own personal and professional development.  I am choosing that.  Given what I am committed to right now it feels right to me.

That said, I know I am close to the point where I will lose the ability to CHOOSE.  I’ll be stuck in GO/GO/GO mode.  Historically I know that I’ll do that until something makes me stop.  Usually for me that involves getting hurt or sick.  So, I take a moment to breathe.  Stretch my shoulders.  Soften my eyes and brow.

Doing is so seductive.  Yet whatever I get done there will be another thing to do.  Fortunately, the training I am going into will help me slow down.  I am committed to slow down.  Do a Sudoku, take a nap, take a walk, take a bath.  Call my wife and tell her I love her.  It is time for me to bring my BEING self back to life.

How about you? Are you choosing your pace of doing or is it choosing you?  What are the unintended consequences your current pace?  How are you balancing the doing with the being?  What action or inaction might you do for a few minutes or a day to slow down, recharge, renew?  What little actions can you take in the midst of the doing?  My favorite on-the-fly techniques are: pause and take a deep breath; soften my eyes/brow; smile; think about something or someone I love; remind myself that I really do have all the time I need.

By the way, the project I was working so hard to push forward is our announcement of our new website and our latest offerings.  You can check it out here: http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/ascent-news-2009-dec.html

We invite you to join us!

Reflections from the Rainforest

December 4, 2009

[Post by Virginia Rhoads]

I recently co-lead a journey deep into the Amazonian rainforest.  We immersed ourselves into this living, breathing corner of the planet and had the rare opportunity to interact with an indigenous tribe.  Here is an excerpt from a journal entry I made after my first encounter with the jungle and the Achuar tribe……

Stillness… deep stillness… inner quiet allows me to hear so many sounds, chirps, burps, creaks, shrieks, bellows, whirrs, flutters, mutters, snaps, cracks…. Leaves falling down and these are leaves the size of the top of a coffee table… always falling and falling yet there is no deep layer of rotten things… only growing and growing… so much growing… the vines from above and draping down all around me… and the earth below my feet reaches up to itself above my head…

The depth and the darkness of the Achuars’ eyes, and the light therein… always just a split second away from great laughter and mirth… such a presence… only the present to be in, observing, being, and such laughter… all us sacred… the Directions are already called and have been in our service and we in theirs since time before time and will be so long after we have departed… regardless of what has been and what is to come…

Nature has timed her downfalls perfectly… for all of us… for our initial entrance into the forest and the first tippy canoe ride up river… for the long afternoon of resting and yoga to the sounds of rain unlike any of us have ever seen or heard or been cleansed by… the cacophony of sounds and sights, and the uncanny birds who flaunt their calls and their wings and their flight for our joyful witnessing… all we are to do is to keep the channel open and keep breathing… in and out and in and out… to keep paving, without pavements, the way to begin to hold it all and at the same time feeling so full in our eyes and ears that we also are aware of how thirsty we all are for all of this to integrate into our bodies our skins our lungs…

The pre-dawn rituals… such a sacred space that begins all of their days at a time when most of us would still have called night, is their morning… good morning begins at 3am and well, why wouldn’t it… a fire that is every day sacred … and they are we and we are they… what you see, is you… what I see, is me…

The heartache in listening to Achuar being spoken and the call and response and the beauty and strength and power in the exchange… a dance of beingness… a dance of power and deep connection to the sacred that is the everyday…

Listening to the Call… opening myself up to hearing this Call, to being this Call without blame or shame or embarrassment or wishing or begrudging or anything other than just allowing it to build and flow and then to receive it and to keep expanding to hold it all and at the same time to rejoice and share and marvel at the opportunity right here right now… all there is to do is to be Life, to engage and listen and then step in and step into and keep breathing and embracing and speaking …

Virginia in Amazon rainforest.

Less BRAKING, more TRUSTING

August 5, 2009

The Tour De France, the most grueling event in sports (2241 miles ridden over 3 weeks), completed last week with an exciting finish in Paris.  The British sprinter Mark Cavendish had won some sprint stages but had never won the final sprint into Paris.  He wanted it BAD!  As they riders approached the last corner before the final straightaway Cavendish was in a virtual tie with the other top sprinters.  Coming out of that turn, however, he launched into the lead and ended up winning by 20 yards — in a race where the victor usually wins by inches.

How did he do this?

Looking at the video it becomes clear.  Cavendish did not touch his brakes as he rounded that final corner while his competitors lightly touched their brakes to maintain a feeling of safety and to hedge their bets against crashing.  This reflects a commitment to win and a willingness to live with potentially negative consequences.  By not braking he ran a higher risk of crashing and losing, not to mention possible injury.

After watching this race I went mountain biking.  As I was riding, I noticed how often I was touching my brakes as I went into corners.  Occasionally this was a necessary check on my speed, but often this was merely a way to FEEL more comfortable.  So I began to experiment.  To my amazement I found that on about 75% of the corners I was braking unnecessarily.  Better yet, this resulted in greater speed, fluidity and JOY in the experience of riding!  Paradoxically, this did not make me more scared, it made me less scared.  Why?  Because less of my focus went into focusing on my fears.  Thoughts like: “oh boy, be careful here, you might be going to fast, look out for that obstacle…”  Instead, I placed my attention on trusting my body’s ability to set up for each corner with the appropriate speed.  As a general rule, we have more wisdom, knowledge, and capacity in our body than we tend to trust.

Questions: Where do you see that you are riding the brakes in your life?  Where are you playing it safe rather than playing to win?  What result do you stand for with such conviction that you would be willing to go for it rather than hedge your bets?  What would you be doing if you believed that you couldn’t fail and/or were willing to live with a few bruises?