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Take a Lesson from Nature

A good friend once suggested that I take my problems
to the oldest teacher alive: nature. He told me to frame my most
pressing question, articulate it by writing it down or speaking it
aloud, and then go for a walk in the wilderness with the question in my
heart. I tried it out and found it to be a wonderful self-teaching
tool, a beautiful form to use for autopoeisis. Add it to your
collection of reflection tools.

Once I was challenged by one of my executive clients who was
heavy-handed in his leadership. It seemed to me that he was creating
resistance with his authoritarian approach and thereby alienating the
very people he depended upon most. We had discussions, but they did not
lead to any satisfactory changes. I took this issue with me on a long
walk on the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C.

While strolling along, I saw aggressive plants coexisting with the
other wildlife and had two insights. First, all plants were driven by
the same life force, the desire to thrive. Second, some of the more
aggressive plants were wiping out the others, taking over their sun

I brought these observations back to my client. I used them to
jump-start a conversation about his intentions. It was a successful
talk that led him to reflect on his leadership style and the results he
generated. He decided to change some of his behavior and back off a
bit. Imagine if all interventions were that easy!

Even if he had not changed his ways, it was a valuable excursion for
me. I take these wilderness walks often. They are an effective way to
get out of my own head, break free from conceptual conundrums, and gain
some insight from the natural world.

Nature is man’s
She unfolds her treasure to his search,   
unseals his eye, illumes his mind,    
and purifies his heart;     
an influence breathes from all the sights and
of her existence.

– Alfred Billings Street