Hiring Your Own Company A-Team

If you have a problem that no one else can fix, and you can find them, then maybe you can hire The A-Team.
— introduction to the original TV series, The A-Team

The theme song brings me back to our burnt orange velour couch, watching Mr. T flaunt his massive muscles and wield his weighty gold chains. As a kid, I never understood the concept behind this team -- had really no idea who they were, what they were doing, or why anyone would want to hire them -- but over the years, it's become quite clear: we all want an A-team, in some form or fashion. Even Rick Campfield.

Last week, I interviewed the CEO of SunModo, a solar racking company in Vancouver, WA. My interview with Rick was the third in a series on Thriving Culture, published in my monthly column in the Solar Review. In our conversation, Rick told me about a new 10,000 square foot headquarters that they're building, and pointed me to this article in the Vancouver Business Journal in which he discussed their own 'A-team' -- essentially all the vendors and partners whom they'd chosen with intention, who had helped them get to that point in their growth. 

Later in our interview, Rick referred to eight specific traits that they use in their hiring process, as a foundation for creating a thriving company culture at SunModo. Naturally reluctant to publicly share all of these traits, he did mention that they aren't traits that are teach-able, that they're more about a person's true colors than the knowledge, skill set or abilities they possess. 

While Rick and Tony of SunModo refer to their A-team of "lawyers, bankers, accountants and trucking companies," it would be just as easy to create an A-team of installers, office managers, and sales directors. 

Rick offers us great insight into their process at SunModo: 

  • write a very specific job description that fits the flavor of your company
  • be intentional about planning the short and long term vision for each position
  • interview for specific traits, specifically those that speak more to one's character than one's skill set

So, how do you hire for traits that are less trainable and more deeply rooted in character?

First of all, you must choose your traits. And you do so by identifying which traits -- or values -- are most important to both you and your company. 

What do you value? What is most important to you? What do you appreciate above all else?

Referencing a list of values may help get you started. It can often be helpful to print the list off and start by identifying your own values - circling 5-10 that feel most important to you as a person, as a leader. 

Then, repeat the process, but mark in yellow those 5-10 values that are most important or valuable to your company or organization. Are there inherent values included in your mission statement? 

You will likely begin to see overlap. At this point, complete the identification process one more time, considering and denoting in a different color, what it would take for someone in your company to be appreciated for the work they do and contributing to the company's purpose. 

From this final list, you can begin to whittle it down to the top 5-10 traits that you'd like your A-team to exhibit. After writing down the three lists into one, spend time with your list, letting go of those values that don't resonate, those that feel out of place or off in some way. 

This process may take time, or it may come quite quickly. As Rick said, his list of eight traits shifted with time...so it's likely that yours will, too.

If you're not quite ready to hire additional team members, and you'd like to focus more on aligning values in your place of business, check out this article, read about my services at thrivingsolar.com, or contact me directly for more information on how I might support you in creating a company culture that thrives.

Four Steps to Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

In a recent interview that I conducted, which was published in the most recent edition of the Solar Review, Jordan Weisman, owner and founder of Sunbridge Solar, referred to some challenges he'd had around building a thriving company culture.  Regarding some interpersonal challenges with some of his employees, he said that "when you're dealing with people or any relationship really, there are ways to talk about and handle things, and ways not to. Even if you have the best intentions of being open," he continued, "sometimes it still just doesn't work because you're dealing with a person who reacts in certain ways."

Jordan addresses a very valid and common conern. How do we navigate interpersonal conflict when it arises in our teams? 

In my work with solar companies, I address this very challenge. As humans, we are clearly quite complicated and bring a variety of perspectives and needs to the table. There are bound to be disagreements in our interactions with others, and when we can smooth out the resolution process, both business and culture can thrive. 

The following 4 steps can support you in navigating the next conflict that arises on your team:

  1. Listen curiously.
  2. Highlight similarities. 
  3. Appreciate difference.
  4. Generate resolution.

Listening in the truest sense of the word can be really difficult, particularly for leaders. Most of us have our own internal dialogue running while others are speaking -- as unaware of this as we may be --and this tends to strongly influence the way we hear others. But when we can be curious about others and what they are saying, our listening changes. And this, on its own, has the ability to change the way that the other person is speaking, which can then directly affect the outcome of the conflict, right from the start. 

Highlighting similarities may seem counterintuitive, particularly in the beginning of a conflict, but when you can do this successfully, the people in conflict are able to feel more connected. This, as with listening, has the potential to benefit the outcome before even addressing solutions. According to renowned psychologist, Daniel Goleman, we are wired to connect--it's in our DNA. When we can come at conflict from this place, possibilities are created that can't begin to exist in disconnection.

The third step, appreciating difference, is where you dive into the heart of the conflict. If you can take on a perspective of appreciation, really attempting to understand and feel what it might be like to be the other person, specifically around what has them so angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, the resolution process can often work itself out. You don't have to agree with what they're saying, or even like it, but appreciation is neither of those things. It's simply understanding from a place of compassion. Giving each person's struggle attention for time that it needs to be heard, understood and valued. This can make a huge difference.

Once the parties involved have had a chance to share, and each feels heard and appreciated for their perspective, the options for generating resolution are far greater. It's likely that proposed solutions have come up along the way, which you can refer to as possibilities in the mix, or perhaps just the process of listening and appreciating has done the work of resolution for you. Regardless, mapping out a plan that will work 'well enough' for both people, at least for now, can be very helpful.

It can be valuable to remember, in the process of facilitation, that there is no right or wrong answer, and solutions aren't forever. I find it valuable to propose a 'for now' solution, one that can be revisited with time and communication.

The Power of Reviews on Increased Revenue

As referenced in the related article entitled, 'Making a Case for Investing in Culture', published first in the Solar Review, thriving organizational culture often results in positive reviews from both customers and employees. This is yet another driver of a thriving business, and can serve to bolster the case for investing in a thriving organizational culture.

From a customer's perspective, it's easy to imagine how a positive culture affects and directly benefits the services offered and received. When employees feel supported, from their boss as well as their co-workers, they have less to worry about, and can spend more of their energy and brain capacity on the install or the sale. As evidenced by Jordan Weisman of Sunbridge Solar, "When culture is thriving, we operate more efficiently. We get more accomplished with less work. There is laughing and joking and the atmosphere is professional but light." 

You may have heard of Glassdoor, one of the fastest growing job and recruiting sites on the internet today.  According to its website, "Glassdoor holds a growing database of more than 8 million company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reportsinterview reviews and questions, benefits, reviews, office photos and more. Unlike other job sites, all of this information is entirely shared [anonymously] by those who know a company best -- the employees."

From the back end, it pays to treat your employees well.  A happy satisfied employee, from a company with a thriving culture, is far more likely to write a positive review of a company with a "professional but light" culture than of one where employees yearn to be heard, valued and respected.  Their positive review of their employer on Glassdoor or similar has the direct potential to attract both committed team members as well as potential customers. 

From the front end, a thriving culture breeds positive customer reviews. When customers feel supported and served, as they generally do when interacting with happy employees, they are also more inclined to write a positive review.  It goes to reason that the atmosphere in a thriving culture is seen, felt and experienced by customers. This ultimately increases not only their likelihood of writing a review but increases the chance that what they write will be positive. Jordan has seen this direction connection at Sunbridge, as well, "definitely noticing improved customer reviews when [their] culture is thriving."

You can see this if you take a look at various reviews on public sites.  On Solar Reviews, there is a review of truesouth solar that references their "team of installers [who] were the nicest, most professional team I've ever had out to my house."

Of Elemental Energy, reviewed in the Best and Worst Solar Companies in 2016, it is stated that, "while Elemental Energy is still fairly young...[..]....the reviews from customers are all positive and their 24-year warranty is right up there with the industry standard." In their Ranking Criteria, Best Company weights customer reviews at 20% -- clearly there is value on what the customer thinks. 

Sunbridge, as well, has multiple public reviews on Guild Quality from customers, which stands to highlight the value of a thriving culture. Many of them reference both Jordan and the team, and how "amazing" and  "great they are to work with," while others refer to the "personnel [who] projected great friendliness, knowledge, efficiency, [and were] very accommodating and courteous."

People matter. And treating them well, from both the inside and the outside, affects the bottom line. While it seems like an easy concept, it can be challenging to know just what to do to find a balance between prioritizing people and profits. 

For more information on how to create a thriving culture in your organization, or to share where you see examples of thriving culture in your company, contact me and check out the forthcoming articles on my exclusive column, 'The Value of a Thriving Culture', published monthly in the Solar Review. 

Growing Bipartisanship for Climate Action

For many years, I thought that politicians were lying, corrupt, self-serving puppets of special interest groups, doing everything possible to stay in power. I believed that there was nothing I could do about it, and thus watched from the sidelines, feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and hopeless.

But last Wednesday, I returned to Portland after my 4th annual trip to DC to lobby for a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend. After spending the solstice as a citizen lobbyist, meeting with 5 congressional offices from 4 states, collaborating with 800 citizens doing the same in over 500 meetings, I have come to adopt a much different view.

 

There’s plenty of reason to believe that our system is broken. Big money and corporate power make us seem small in the face of government. However, things are changing, through ongoing conversations, and I know that with patience, gratitude, perseverance, and trust, there is room for each of us in this democracy.

When we remain silent, those with money and less perspective speak in our place, filling up the opinions of our elected representatives. If we fail to participate, and remain insignificant, we'll be living in a state of forests ravaged by beetles and fires, as we’re currently seeing in 4 Western states [‘Central California wildfire wipes out 150 homes, threatens 2,500 more’, June 25].

At our reception on Tuesday evening, an experienced volunteer shared her experience on the Hill. "This is my 3rd year here," she shared from the podium. "First in 2013, again in 2014, but missed last year. And I ask you now, 'What have you done with my Congress?!'"

I smiled upon hearing this, feeling validated for my experience. When I started meeting with Congress in 2013, speaking to staffers and members of Congress about pricing carbon in a way that favors jobs, the economy and the environment, most were resistant. Democrats were defeated and Republicans were doubtful.

The following year, in 2014, more staffer took more notes, including the staunch conservatives. In 2015, we saw more openings, with multiple offices expressing interest in our proposal and beginning to collaborate. And, in 2016, we now have the 1st Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and the Republican Gibson Resolution (H.Res 424) in the House; and the Republican-led Senate Energy and Environment Working Group, and the House Republican Energy, Environment and Innovation Group. Clearly, things are changing.

 

It takes courage to stand up, to intentionally be outnumbered, especially when history often dictates a bleak future for doing so. But these brave members of Congress, including Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), Ted Deutch (D, FL-19), and Chris Gibson (R-NY), deserve accolades for standing up in a partisan world where it's slowly becoming safe enough to speak about climate.


Of the 1000+ people this year at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby National conference, 14 attended from Portland, 17 from Oregon, and 39 from the Greater Pacific Northwest Region.

About half of us from the Greater Pacific Northwest, heading off to meet with Congress for the day!

As Oscars shine spotlight on climate change, celebrities move the issue forward

For those of us working tirelessly on climate issues, committed to securing the health and the future of life as we know it, Leonardo DiCaprio’s message at the Oscars on Sunday lands powerfully. “Climate change is real. It is happening right now. […] We need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. Let us not take this planet for granted.”

Best Actor Winner Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actor Winner Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio wasn’t the only one on stage addressing his commitment to the issue, urging us towards action. Adam McKay, director of “The Big Short,” used up much of his minute with a political and environmental message, and Jenny Beavan, costume designer for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ made the most of her glory moment as well. “Mad Max could be horribly prophetic if we’re not kinder to each other and if we don’t stop polluting our atmosphere.”

It’s somewhat reassuring to hear those with influence use their voice for change. Don Cheadle is among the growing number of climate champions speaking out about the biggest issue of our time. “I hope to use my ‘celebrity’ to motivate people and contribute to moving our global society back from the brink. I am surprised the environment is not at the top of the agenda. What is more important than food and clean air? We need a big push.”

According to the Climate Reality Project, the public conversation is changing, along with a massive cultural shift, as “more and more marquee names publicly [are] standing up and calling for real steps to stop climate change.” As more celebrities bring up the issue, the rest of us talk about it more. This paves the way, as intentional action and big scale change rarely happen in silence.

Mark Ruffalo, another actor in the spotlight for Best Picture, describes himself as a “climate change advocate with an eye on a better, brighter, cleaner, and more hopeful future for all of us.” While he didn’t publicly speak to his commitment at the Oscars, Ruffalo is among the growing number of celebrities who are intentionally bringing the issue into the limelight, taking a risk by speaking out about what they know to matter. Over one hundred celebrities endorsed the People’s Climate March, including Peter Gabriel, Chris Rock and Brad Pitt, while others are intentionally changing the conversation and taking action on global warming.

But is their voice loud enough? And is it louder than ours? According to a 2014 research paper by AceMatrix analyzing the impact of celebrities in TV advertising, “58% of respondents [of 2577 Americans adults] believe that the support of a celebrity definitely (10%) or probably (48%) changes people’s views about which [political] candidate to support, versus just one-quarter who believe that such support probably or definitely doesn’t have an impact.” Is it the same for climate issues? With the shift in conversation over the past two years, how does their voice impact change?

Enric Sala, an explorer-in-residence for National Geographic, who has worked with DiCaprio, asserts in the Guardian that DiCaprio’s voice has great influence on the world stage. “He has a megaphone that nobody else on the planet has. He is so respected and admired and influential all around the world from the general public to head of state, so when he says something, people listen.”

Many of us are aware of the documentary television series, ‘Years of Living Dangerously’, which features episodes with celebrity correspondents, each with a history of environmental activism, and well-known journalists with backgrounds in environmental reporting. The celebrities in season 1 included Harrison FordMatt DamonIan SomerhalderJessica AlbaDon CheadleAmerica FerreraMichael C. HallOlivia Munn and Schwarzenegger.

In an interview with Dan Abassi, media strategist, clean technology investor, and one of the producers of ‘Years of Living Dangerously’, The Huffington Post wonders, as above, about the influence of celebrities on the public. In their article entitled, ‘Can Celebrities and Prime Time TV make people care about climate change?’, Abassi posits that “it’s going to take something that looks like a public movement. […] The hope is you’ll break the inhibitions on talking about it, that people will engage more, that they’ll start expressing themselves more, they’ll use some of the tool kits we provide, and mostly that they’ll put pressure on their elected officials to take concerted policy action.“

Maybe these celebrities support and advance the cause as much as we all hope they can. Maybe their voices are loud enough individually and we don’t need another ‘We are the World’ to bring it all together and raise billions of dollars for land lost to rising tides (this Midnight Oil remake didn’t seem to take the world stage in the same way). But let’s hedge our bets and lean into the research that supports the idea we each of us has more power than we may realize. According to SocialToast, it turns out that we’re actually “more likely to be influenced on important issues by posts from [our] close friends, family members and even well-known bloggers…”

So, let’s walk down our own red carpet and speak from our soapbox, regardless of whether the mic is on. We have a solution in our back pocket that can create a world stage on this issue, bridging partisan politics in one beautiful song. Whether for jobs or for the climate, for our families or those of our distant neighbors, we can take action in a way that matters and has an impact. And we certainly don’t have to be famous to spread the ideas that belong in the limelight.

The post As Oscars shine spotlight on climate change, celebrities move the issue forward appeared first on Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Choosing Hope to Take More Effective Climate Action

You’ve seen them. If not first-hand, certainly in the news and on your Twitter feed.  Ice core readings and glacial melt. Climate scientists fired in Australia. Drought, the new norm in the Southwest. How do we stay afloat amongst these dismal realities of climate change. How do we press forward into meaningful and effective climate action without losing hope and motivation?

We choose hope.

Child-and-windmill2-cropped.jpg

It’s tempting to believe that hope is circumstantial, that there is no hope until certain conditions are met. However, from my perspective as a passionate educator, facilitator, and climate coach, I’ve seen and experienced that hope can be chosen… and fostered. When we choose hope as an intentional practice, it shows up in the actions we take and the positive effect that those actions have on those around us. According to The Bottom-Line Benefits of Hope, and Shane J. Lopez pH.D  in his book,Making Hope Happen, not only can  hope be learned and taught, but “hope is the basis of all positive change because hope is the belief that things could be better and one can make them so.”

The key to choosing hope and being more effective is to consider our current state of being — our thoughts, feelings and state of mind — as we decide what to let in from the world around us.

When we’re physically sick, this concept is pretty easy. We know what we want, what we need and what we don’t, and we do our best to fulfill those needs. We sleep. We eat broth and Saltines, with time. And we avoid the food or drink from the night before that triggers us, emotionally or physically.

Can we do the same with climate hope?

There are times when we feel on top of the world: Our job is going great, we just got a raise! Our marriage is smooth, the therapy is working. We feel confident as parents, and we just had our biggest CCL meeting yet! During these times, there may be plenty of room for climate despair. Bring on the articles.  Dive into those conversations about massive calving glaciers and “vicious east coast snowstorms.” Our foundation is strong, and we feel strong and supported enough to tackle what’s needed.

On the flipside, we’ve all had days, weeks, seasons even, where life is just way too hard. Our dog is old and dying, legs splaying on the kitchen floor. We want to feel valued in the world, but aren’t sure where to begin. Medical insurance was supposed to kick in, but didn’t. Naturally, we’re much more inclined to feel hopeless and despondent in response to any of the dismal climate realities that come crashing into our lives.

When we’re aware of and fully accept our current state of being, we can better discern how much and what type of information will leave us feeling hopeful. In this way, by discerning how we spend our time, we are choosing hope. We might even consider our personality and overall tendencies and values when making decisions. I have come to realize, for example, that I value security, and if I’m not careful, tend towards fear —perhaps a good part of the reason that I am motivated to mitigate climate change and work with CCL. Learning this about myself, and getting to a point where I can honor this as my current way of existing in the world, has allowed me to filter information and focus, not to the point of wearing blinders, but simply in a way that allows me to choose what and how I’d like to be affected.

According to a new report from the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica, “Climate change will have significant negative impacts on Americans’ health and psychological well-being…Likely effects […] include stress, anxiety, depression and a loss of community identity.” When we consider this information, we are being intentional about our actions, factoring in the value and importance of adorning our own oxygen mask before looking to others with theirs. This surely isn’t rocket science (it’s technically cognitive science, right?), but it’s not easy to be pro-active when our habits dictate otherwise. It’s so tempting to believe that having all the information will help us take the right actions and move us in the ‘right’ direction…

But it’s really hope that will do that.

The post by Tamara Staton, Choosing hope to take more effective climate action, appeared first on Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Ready to Fail...

I've always thought that New Years' Resolutions provided a pretty cool way to push the reset button and hitch our wagon to a star. At the same time, I've never been really big on the concept, perhaps because I was always too afraid to be too much like everyone else?

This year, though, while I didn't put official energy (is there such a thing?!) into creating one, I did set an unofficial intention, as it's feeling like high time to be courageous and vulnerable in the name of possibility. 

I'm ready for growth, not just for me, which I'm always into, but for my business. I'm ready to feel fulfilled and alive, excited at multiple opportunities to coach, to facilitate, and to resolve lots of conflicts with lots of teams. 

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
— -Japanese Proverb

So, world. Here I am. Ready to fail. Again and again. All in the name of success...which, as I've been recently exploring, is all about leaning into and letting our passions fly in a way that has others wanting so much more of what we've got. 

May you have the courage to dive in along with me and jump into your dreams for 2016!

Stepping Back into Trust

We have this thing in our family - a rule you might say - for those 6 and under: no screen time on school days. All in all, I like it. It simplifies the boundaries around how much 2-dimensional exposure our Kaya gets, and hopefully supports her brain in all the ways that conventional wisdom now asserts (or is that just Portlandia-wisdom?!). But, I have to admit, as soon as she goes for the remote and makes the 'Nahko' plea, it takes a decent amount of effort and commitment for me to deny the YouTube request. 

Tonight, I didn't feel like putting forth the effort. 
I hear just a few notes of his music and I, like Kaya, am hooked, eager for the calm and inspiration I know can soon follow...

Tonight was no exception. As soon as I heard a few lines, my mind went spinning into Group Leader Land, dancing around Mark's invitation for me to join as guest speaker on our leader call tomorrow. It amazes me what speaks to me in Nahko's music, and how I can so directly relate my experience to his -- testament to the ultimate realization that I've come to in my Group Leader process as well:

We're all one, and thus, we're in this together. 

In his recent Nahko Doco Part III, I heard him refer to his music as 'real talk' - essentially "story-telling and truth about life, the process of the human condition, and the experience of evolution for somebody..." While I had quite a different upbringing than he did, my challenges feels similar, and to hear him express them so directly, so eloquently through song, serves as both reminder for me of where I've been and where I dream to go. 

In his recent Nahko Doco Part III, I heard him refer to his music as 'real talk' - essentially "story-telling and truth about life, the process of the human condition, and the experience of evolution for somebody..." While I had quite a different upbringing than he did, my challenges feels similar, and to hear him express them so directly, so eloquently through song, serves as both reminder for me of where I've been and where I dream to go. 

Oh, I fear nothing
No thing fears me
Justice has different hats for different days
Please release my anger
Love thy neighbor
Put that pain to some good use anyway

When I first started our Portland CCL group 3 years ago, I was quite afraid. I was afraid I couldn't do it. I was afraid I'd be alone, that no one else cared as much, or enough. I was afraid that if I couldn't, then we wouldn't make it. All of us. None of us.  And with that fear, came some anger and more strongly, resent. Resent when people wouldn't. Resent when they said they couldn't. Frustration that they didn't. And overwhelm that I did. And deepened was the separation between me and them. 

But over time, along with a healthy dose of awareness and acceptance at my deepest patterns, that began to change. As I learned to judge myself less, and accept my own weaknesses, I was able to do the same towards others. Just like I'd always heard was true, but didn't know how to even begin. How could I accept weakness in myself if I, according to these fear-laden thoughts of mine, was the only person who was going to do anything? There was no room for weakness, no time. We need to act now, and the action needs to be well-directed, right?! My ego heard that and ran with it. No room for error. No room for weakness, in me or other. No room for relaxation. But I hit a point where I was ready to quit. Taking it all on as mine became too much. Something had to change, and though I wasn't sure how, the fact was clear as climate change. 

In past life, I cut throats and scalps
And in this life, I mend the wounds I delt
Maybe by my hands or by my words alone
Maybe by my hands or by my words alone!

While I, unlike Nahko, have no Native blood, I've certainly delt many a wound in my role as CCL volunteer and Group Leader. I was careful with my words, as part of my Way was to assure that people liked me and were impressed. But underneath my words were messages laden with judgment and fear, and I know that people pick up on that. And those who didn't, surely felt the one that I delivered with my hands and my actions: "I got this." And if 'I got this', then they don't need to. And what do they do? Stay back. Stay involved in their own life. Save actions for later. Stay uninspired. 

So, I had to 'mend'. I had to come clean with what I humbly accepted, and step back in a way that made more space for them: physically and philosophically. And into that space they grew. Where I left a hole, they filled it. And they continue to. They step up on their own, they say 'yes' to my requests, they take actions and plan presentations and get tabling gigs. They ask, on the 3 hour drive to our regional conference, to be "the official researcher". 

And I breathe lighter.

Teach me honor
Must remember
Don't be selfish with all your love anyway

Mark always told us to love and appreciate our volunteers. I wanted to, I really did. And I kept trying and trying. But until I was able to accept and name my fear, and do the same with everything that followed in its wake, I couldn't move it aside enough to make room for who I really wanted to be.  

I tilt my head back 
Howl like you said 
In the end, my body's spirit anyway
In the end, my body's spirit anyway!

I finally learned to trust. Trust that it's not all up to me. In fact, it's not even all up to us. And I'm not even saying it's up to God or Buddha or another fill-in-the-blank deity. But when I can relax into that space of trusting that no matter what, it will work out...whatever that means and whatever that looks like...I'm much better off. From that place, no matter what it takes to get there, I can get inspired, and fulfill my purpose to do the same for others.

It's such a crazy catch-22. If I'm too afraid to step back out of fear of what will happen if I do, then I never get to see what happens when I do. Add a bit of trust to the mix, some faith in self, other, and universal design, and it's quite amazing what can transpire...

I will do things I've never done before
'Cause I'm powerful and I'm not afraid no more!

Thank you, Nahko Bear. You continue to inspire. 
And thank you, CCL, and every single one of you volunteers (and staff!). You continue to do the same...

For more information on Nahko and Medicine for the People, including lyrics and videos, check out my Nahko & Medicine for the People page as well as their website. For more information on CCL, including how and where to get involved, check out my page and their website.

Earth and hands photo courtesy of leadershipandspirituality.com.

Trusting a New Way

As you drive down the ramp from the St.Johns bridge, there's a pull-out on the right hand side, just next to a beautiful creek flowing down from Forest Park. Locals know it well, at least in passing, as we often sit and stare in traffic, waiting for the light to lead us over the river. Lately, this pull out has been serving as my parking spot, as I head up the road to the official trailhead. But this morning, I was up for something different. As much as I know that I'll love it during and after my run, I was feeling resistance to this new structure in my life (as usual!), and thought I might mix it up just enough to change the flavor and motivate me further. 

As soon as I heard the crashing of water on rock, I knew I'd chosen well. The burn in my legs kicked in quickly as the creekside trail lifted westward, and my sense of adventure began to beam.  The trail kept climbing, weaving tiny switchbacks up a steep litte hilllside, and it became clear that fewer and fewer people take this route. I paused for a moment, taking in the bright green of the moose-like groundcover, and a hawk screamed. It felt a bit surreal, and I definitely didn't feel in the city anymore. The trail continued to swerve through the trees, over and through downed trees and Oregon grape, and with time, grew much less defined.

At one point, as I stood there in contemplation of the new route I'd chosen, I was struck with a moment of concern and disappointment. Granted, it was minimal, and had I not headed into the forest in part to find the inspiration to write, I don't think I would have noticed. My mind knew exactly where my car was, and could probably even find my house through the trees if I tried hard enough. But my ego responded on auto-pilot to the messages sent from my reptilian brain: Where's the path? Did I make a wrong choice?  Is it time to go back? 

In that moment, when I'd thought the trail ended and felt alone with nothing to follow, I paused. Initially feeling stuck in the overwhelm and the spinning of my thoughts, I took a few steps. With that forward action, I could suddenly see what was previously beyond view: more path. And as the path grew less clear, that kept happening, to the point where pausing, listening, and taking discerned action became the norm. I find it's the same in life when attempting to move past fear or doubt. Pause to notice it. Let it be there. Sense into next direction and take a few steps, letting trust overtake the doubt that those steps might be leading in the 'wrong' direction*. 

And with that, we rise to a different place, and gain clarity, which can propel us to start the process over again. 

Clearly, Forest Park isn't Glacier or Yosemite, and I know I'm just a short distance from the civilization and support, but the  method is the same because it's all sourced from the same internal responses. Fear is fear, both in the wilds and in life. What if we can't mitigate global warming? What if everyone else gives up? What if people stay too busy? What if my way gets in the way of other people contributing? And while it may seem that the best way to address any of these fears is 'our way' - the way that has propelled us through many situations in our past  - there is definitely another way which can bring us closer to that which we want in life. A different path is available, whether tried and true or completely new. 

It's hard to let go of that way that feels most comfortable. I was just discussing this concept with another CCL group leader in our region. There's a lot of perceived safety, security, and structure in that comfortable, well-traveled path. I can go a little faster on the official trail, and be less focused on the moment. But does that really get me to where I want? As a new group leader, starting a Citizens' Climate Lobby group a few years ago, it felt like all I had to rely on was 'my way', as I sat in fear of what might happen if I couldn't make a difference. It really felt like a matter of life or death for me, from an ecological and societal perspective, which left me feeling that much more attached to my way. For me, that literally looked like doing and having things my way, to the point that I would give explicit direction, take it all on as mine and my responsibility, and be slow to offer others trust in how and what they might bring to the table. But, my ego also knew that it needed people to like me, so I did everything I could to master this art of perfectionistic solo activism in a very sweet way, while trying to hide my stress and any indication that I couldn't. And when I grew tired and resentful and so overwhelmed that I was ready to quit, I knew that it was time to find and learn to trust a new way. 

Trust doesn't always come so easily. It's scary to let go of what feels 'right', relying instead on more of the unknown and what could possibly let us down - particularly when the stakes seem so high. But if there is no right, then wrong is gone too, and we're more free to play in the space of what is really possible through collaboration,  cooperation, and exploration.

*A key aspect of the U-process, as laid out by Otto Scharmer in the U.Lab and in his amazing book Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies

Integrating the Heart

It seems like such an easy thing, 'integrating the heart', right? It's obviously, in a certain sense, mission control of the one and only body we have on earth, and without it, we clearly wouldn't get all that far. And yet, it's ironically so easy to leave it out, to drown out the sound of its beat and the sensation of its rhythm with myriad aspects life that feel much more important. 

My dad used to tell me that I should do something with my writing. Coming from my Dad, that meant a lot to me, after what felt like a lifetime of trying to be 'good enough' to earn his love and respect. But despite the elation that I felt from his compliment, I have continued to resist the idea. I love writing. I love the feeling that I get, the sense of timelessness that occurs, and the intense experience of being so in the moment and simultaneously so reflective. It's like living in a dream world, one in which I can craft whatever I want with my fingers and thoughts, in an attempt to paint a picture of my inner experience. And yet, I never want to feel forced to write because as soon as you bring in the 'have to', the whole experience is changed...and the heartbeat fades.

2015 Pacific Northwest Regional Conference of the Citizens' Climate Lobby - Partial Group Photo of 120+ participants

We explored this concept in a workshop that I led this weekend at our Citizens' Climate Lobby Regional Conference in Seattle. What is the difference between our experience of obligation and passion, between 'have to' and 'want to', between should and wonder? In our head, I think most of us understand the difference, and we may even feel the dissonance in our body as well. But taking action towards change is quite a different thing. How do we integrate the heart? How do we turn those obligations into passion, or direct our life and our attention in a way that allows us to be more filled with love and wonder than dread and obligation?

While there are a number of ways I attempt this, I find I can get there consistently through running in the forest. While I can't profess to love running in the same way I love writing, I can say that I'm slowly figuring out what is available to me when I push through that initial resistance, as I explored last week, and get out into the woods to run. I'm forced into my body. I can't help but feel my heart thumping in my chest, and to notice the heart-shaped wild-ginger budding on the forest floor. This is possible when we integrate our heart, tapping into the source in and around us, as the plants so naturally emulate. When we dig into our source, connecting to that which truly feeds us, we can simultaneously reach into the direction we want to grow.

We all have our most direct access to integration, that place or circumstance that allows us to feel that sense of aliveness, that state of excitement and wonder. When we can access this place, we are in a better position to pull in various aspects of our life in a way that moves us towards who, what, and where we want to be. Whether it's running in the wilderness or listening to music or dancing or singing or writing in your journal, that place exists, and finding it can change our life.

In the (somewhat wordy and nerdy) language of the workshop I taught this weekend on the quadrants lens of Integral Theory that I use as an Integral Coach...while I am so often tempted to choose stay in my 'upper right space' of doing and accomplishing, to gain what feels like more time and productivity, I sacrifice my access to my heart in that 'upper left space' - and my momentary experience remains disjointed, needing to rely on itself for any and all energy and motivation. While I may have more time (in that lower right space), I feel more trapped by the pressure to perform and produce (stalled by my experience in the Upper Left), so it takes me longer to get going and more effort to sustain productivity (in the Upper Right). When I commit to running on a schedule, though, and follow through despite initial resistance that may arise because of my strong need for productivity and goal fulfillment (my UR quadrant orientation), I have begun to integrate: my Lower Right systems & structures space with the schedule, with the Upper Right action space of going on a run, with the Upper Left more intentional & subjective space of feeling connected and at peace in nature. For a more thorough overview of the All Quadrants aspect of Integral Theory, click here.

So, while it's not easy to integrate the heart, it's definitely do-able. While it may take time and effort that may initially seem counterproductive and counterintuitive, the pay-off is huge. Who doesn't want greater connection to the passions that drive us and to the source that feeds our soul? And for those of us that seek to make our mark on the world, and on climate change solutions, in a way that truly matters for all of us, integrating our heart is the key to sustainability.

Huge thank you to those of you who were in my workshop in Seattle - I really enjoyed the opportunity to be with you! If you are interested in having access to the workshop documents, they can be found on my Citizens' Climate Lobby page under Resources. 

Resisting Peace

This morning, just as I was about to head out the door to jog my daughter to school, I glanced at myself in the mirror. Generally, not an event that I would do much writing about -- I've actually felt pretty at peace with my body, excited that it's finally become more of a vessel for me in my life as opposed to my entire identity. However, my experience this morning kicked up some dust and I'm feeling inspired to share.

Things had been going amazingly well all morning, and both Kaya and I were in amazing spirits. She had gotten up early, surprised me with 25 minutes of piano practice, feeding the dog, setting the table, and allowing me some space to finish a short meditation. She was beaming with pride, and excited to get out the door to be the first one to school. Dressed on her own, boots and jacket on, helmet in hand, she was headed down the stairs with her bike to surprise me yet again. And then, I caught the light. 

We have a window next to the mirror in our living room, and somehow, between the clothes I was wearing, the angle I was standing, and perhaps the momentary memory of the ice cream I ate last night, I went into 'self-bash'. My mind began to spin, dishing all sorts of judgments about me and this particular part of my body, worrying frantically that I'd finally crossed the line. 

But we had to go. She wanted to be the first one to school. So, grabbing my things, I run out the door, acting directly from my new frame of mind: Must change. Must fix. Must improve. 

Not good. 

The next ten minutes are some of those that Mama wishes she could erase and do over. Determined to head up to Forest Park for a longer run than I know I'll do in the neighborhood, I change plans on Kaya and decide to drive. Disappointment ensues, as does wet sock, impatience, and mini-tantrum based on a concern that she'll no longer be first. And, of course, spinning in my self-doubt and criticism, I have nothing left in the way of love and compassion to offer.

After hugs, kisses, and apologies attempting to mend my mistakes, I begin to drive south, headed for the hill. But then, a new plan begins to form in my mind, recalling that I'll be down by the river. Surely an afternoon run in the sun would be quite nice. If I did that, I could dive right into my long list for the day, getting more done, faster. As I pull up to my house, I pause momentarily. Am I just procrastinating? Do I really want to run later on the river, or do I really just not want to run now? The answer was clear, and I knew in my heart of hearts that Forest Park would heal, as would a run. 

My instinct wasn't validated until halfway up the hill, after my lungs started burning and my muscles began to scream. I began to feel better, despite, or likely because of, the pain. With my ultimate decision to follow my heart, I'd forced myself back into my body, out of my judging mind, and allowed myself once again to feel connected to my place in the world, dwarfed among the trees. 

Such resistance!?!  Granted, I know we don't always know what is 'best', what is 'good for us' in the moment. There are plenty of moments, esp. when it comes to chocolate and what I like to do with it when I feel stressed, where I feel completely lost, confused as to what to do and where to turn. But on some level, I know. And I think a lot of us do. And yet, resistance arises. Don't run. Run less. Stay home. Get shit done. Power through the list. Forest Park is too far...

Standing at the top of the hill, meditating momentarily on my new perspective and peace of mind and body, I hear a cacophony of validation in my mind. The body talks and meditation helps, says Nahko Bear. Stay mindful...stay mindful, his lyrics echo. 

I needed to get out of my own way, move the 'me' that was blocking access to inspiration, inner peace, and even productivity. But why is staying so tempting? It's crazy how comfortable it is to 'stay', and how it feels like such a huge effort sometimes to take actions around those things that are best for our overall well-being. I know that the forest is healing, and that going on an early run in the forest inspires my day. I know that being outside and away from civilization (even just across the bridge by 5 minutes) allows me a perspective that is hard to access otherwise. I'm clear that getting into my body, either through action or stillness, does the same. And yet I forget. And resist. Even after years of training. 

It is from this place that I feel so committed to crafting something for the world, transforming my prototype into a reality. Something that reminds us, that supports us in getting out and back into it, so that from that place, we can make the difference that needs to be made. Because clearly, there's no way we'll be changing the world from a place of self-doubt in front of the mirror...

Resonance Under the Trees

Nearly a year ago in March, just after my final coaching certification in Canada, I was incredibly excited about the idea of taking executives out, deep into the wilderness, as a way to both foster their connection and commitment to the natural world, and simultaneously support them on their personal development journey. If Mr. Corporation loves the forest and the birds, he'll be that much more likely to work on their behalf, right? The idea began to bubble when a coaching colleague shared of his plan to start such a program...and of his dream that others do the same around the world. He'd laid some nice foundations already, and I was beyond myself with excitement at the possibility. After years of wilderness leadership experience myself, through tripping camps in Wisconsin and wilderness therapy in Idaho, as well as multiple personal excursions of all sorts, this felt like a true fusion of me and my dreams. 

Summer rolled around, and my eagerness remained, despite logistical challenges of trying to connect on the phone. I was excited to learn about the latest developments, to hear about the progress around the pilot program he had planned. 

But it didn't happen. The call did. But the program didn't. And with my disappointment, I let my dream sink back into the ether, living on a story that I needed him to help it happen. 

Until recently. Last week, in our coaching circles for U.LAb (this amazing online class I'm taking), I reconnected to the importance of getting into nature. Granted, my dream is different now -- it's morphed from a really deep concern about the who, to a greater commitment around the why and the what.  This idea began to brew, instilling in me this quandary about what it would look like and how I could do it. What would we do? Where would we go? As I sat with the unknown, I became present to my desire to collaborate with others. I just wasn't sure who or how.

My neighbor and I have been running together for many months now, enjoying the opportunity to motivate one another through the cold, wet, busy or grumpy. Yesterday morning was no exception - I was certainly ready to use the morning to dive deeper into website change and business development.  As we're running our usual route to Pier Park, packing pavement until we reach the lush green of the Douglas coverage, my knee starts to hurt. Apparently, my knee likes it a lot better when we choose the Forest Park route, with its soft mud and dirt trails through the trees. So, in the process of questioning how far I could go, we end up taking this alternative route through the park, running over grass patch and hillsides that normally just see our backs. So, when we arrive earlier and from a different direction to our meditation location, I feel completely distracted and spacey. 

Perhaps it was from this place that my thoughts arose, I can't be sure. But I remember speaking the words to our mini, meditative '3-body workout' that we often do  (a la Integral Life Practice), but having a really hard time being present to them. While heard my voice saying, "notice the such-ness...the is-ness...of this and every moment...", my mind was dancing excitedly with this idea that had just come to me as we approached our spot. 

At the end of my attempted meditation, having made it quite skillfully through my disconnect between mind and body, I could hold back no longer. Partly out of justification for having guiding us 'incorrectly', letting my distraction be the source for some of the words I chose, I jump right into sharing. Some of it sounded something like this: "I was so distracted for most of that. All I could think about is this idea that just came to me regarding dream that's been brewing in my mind about getting this group going, about taking people out into nature to support them in bridging the divide between who they really are and who they end up being...tapping into the power and energy around the dissonance between self and self. And what came to me just now was you, and how awesome it would be if we did this together and got such a thing going!" 

When I first started sharing, I was so excited that I could barely speak the words fast enough to explain my ideas. But then, I noticed her silence. She was listening and saying nothing. My ego kicked in, sending a swirl of self-doubt and concern. Surely she isn't interested, I thought, having her own swirl of doubts and concerns around what I'm sharing. I notice my speaking slows a bit, and I begin to trip over my own words, unsure of which ones I'd like to use and settle upon. But I push through, ignoring the doubts, being partly aware that, were I to just stop talking, I'd be left even more vulnerable than I was originally feeling. 

As we're nearing the launch pad where we often stop to do push-ups (Pier Park doubles as a disc golf course...), her first comment begins to ease my concerns, as she briefly speaks to the concept of resonance and synchronicity. My curiosity piques, though I'm still aware of the doubt that is continuing to stamp out my initial stirrings of excitement. She's chuckling as she returns from her brief jaunt behind the trees, and she begins to share. "The reason I'm laughing is because of what came to me during our moment of meditation back there. I got this strong feeling that I just need to get out of the city and back into nature. I had also been thinking that I have so much energy and work in me, but I need a focus, a partner. I was wishing somebody would just invite me to join an awesome project!"

I was shocked back into a state of excitement and simultaneous disbelief at what she'd just shared. If what she was telling me was actually true, and I have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise, then it serves as quite the reminder of what is available to us if we choose to access it. 

I don't know if it was the silence or the stillness or the connection to the trees or our bodies or what...but somehow our desires harmonized and collided beautifully under the trees. So, while we're still talking about details of whether and how, this newest idea of mine may just become a reality sooner than I thought possible. 

Huge gratitude to Karin in Germany and the rest of my amazing coaching circle  -- without you, who knows what wouldn't have transpired under those trees.

Find Your Medicine

This morning, on the way to school with my daughter Kaya, it hit me: we finally found our medicine and have begun to use it.

As you may know, Nahko and Medicine for the People, is not only one of my favorite bands, but serves as one of my most valuable resources to get me 'back on the path'. We listen to him regularly, Kaya and I, and often get their songs stuck in our heads. This morning, it was Manifesto, and the idea to "find your medicine and use it":

They sang don't waste your hate.
Rather gather and create
Be of service, be a sensible person
Use your words and don't be nervous
You can do this, you've got purpose
Find your medicine and use it.

For me, like Nahko, music can be extremely healing, depending of course on the message and my state of mind...

Musical medicine, this is my healin'
For past and present things to come

But what came to me this morning was not that Nahko Bear has become like our medicine (because that's a gimme!), but that our newly created Anger Jar is serving a similar purpose, as well as the actions behind our intentions in crafting it. 

Suffice it to say that there's some serious energy around here when we get angry - likely not too different than many households, regardless of whether they tend towards stuffing or venting, fighting or flighting. For us, we've been looking for ways to calm down which we can actually grab on to and use in those heated moments--a goal that's much easier conceptualized than fulfilled. But last night, in our family meeting, Kaya augmented an idea that impressed the hell out of me. We have this sparkle meditation jar that we created a few years ago to support Kaya if and when she wanted to 'sit' with me. The idea never really took flight, so it's just been collecting dust. But last night, she resurrected this jar, suggesting that we attach all of our calming ideas to it so we have easy access to them all in one place. Maybe this would grant us access in those most challenging of moments?!

So, last night during nighttime activity, she drew little symbols for us all and taped them to our new medicine bottle, even going so far as to add our initials for those activities that help us each the most. For me, for example (T), I recently discovered that taking a break in front of the piano is a very effective way for me to calm down and feel better pretty quickly. For Kaya, her favorite of late is her new snuggle corner upstairs, complete with the Peace Box that we made last week (full of simple art materials for easy access). And the best part...it's working! During dinner tonight, I took a brief interlude at the piano, and Kaya buried herself under her blanket in her snuggle space. And within minutes, we went from rocking chair to dinner table, feeling 'medicated' and relieved that we have something to lean on. After years of anger and overwhelm, wishing I could just somehow feel better and have access to greater peace...my five year old daughter is granting me access to enlightenment. 

 

Songs for the Climate

It's only fitting that it's just before 1 am, and I'm just starting this post -- my inspiration often comes at the times when I really need to be doing something else. Like this afternoon, on this beautiful bike ride around the Peninsula, listening to Nahko as I sped down the path past Smith and Bybee lakes. To stop and capture my ideas would have interrupted my flow, the rush of the wind and energy, pulsing through my blood. But here I am now, listening to the clanking of the trains, reminded of my afternoon excitement, and I can't let another second go by without sharing it here, raw as it may be. 

As I listened to song after song on his newest album, Dark as Night, I would continually hear a stanza or two in each song that had me pedal harder and faster, feeling ever deeper inspiration on my path towards mitigating climate change. It's interesting, I find, that nearly every song grabs me somehow. And with this thought, I began to feel inspired to do some writing on this inspiration, highlighting aspects of each song as they speak to me, specifically in regards to working together to secure a livable world for us and the seven (plus) generations that follow.  

So, with that, I share the following excerpt from Manifesto

Well, I was listenin',
To the outgoing seasons
About climate change and some of the reasons,
When the sky opened, like I'd been hope'n
And there came horses by the thousands
And there was thunder on their tongues
And lightning on their minds
And they were singin' this old melody
From some other time

They sang don't waste your h - at  - e.
Rather gather and  cr - ea  - te
Be of service, be a sensible person
Use your words and don't be nervous
You can do this, you've got purpose
Find your medicine and use it.

It felt fitting to start with this excerpt, with 'climate change' directly mentioned towards the end of the song. For me, hearing Nahko sing about climate change gives me hope. It leaves me feeling like we're in this together, like he is singing for the same earth and people that I yearn to support. And with his skill, and our passion together (his and yours and mine), I have confidence that the message can be shared far and wide, and that all of us can come together and make this happen as it. And, like Nahko, I can dream big, dream of things like horses coming out of the sky in a manner that can send a message to those who won't otherwise listen, who can't otherwise hear because they are overwhelmed, or too busy, or too afraid, or too confused about what's real and what isn't.

And so, I do my best to take his advice: to set aside my hate, my anger, to set aside those the issues that hold me back in my everyday life--especially those that seem to have nothing to do with the earth and with climate change -- so that I can reserve and put my energies into bringing people together, to breaking down walls, to leading, to facilitating, to 'making easier' that which can feel so hard to so many. I volunteer with CCL,  hours and hours (to 'be of service') because I love it, because it does feel sensible, and brings out my passion. And I write, to 'use my words', and communicate with my daughter, and my husband, and my mother-in-law to do the same, despite my nervousness. 

You can do this, Tamara. You can do this. 
And this, too. 

This is my purpose. He's right. I do have purpose.
And between him, and his band, and CCL and coaching and big, old growth cedar trees on the Salmon river, I HAVE found my medicine.

Thank you, Nahko. And thank YOU, for being here with me, in community...

Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax?!

A few weeks ago, I was inspired to make a presentation board for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. I know, I know, sounds dry as hell! Two years ago, I would have thought the same thing, with a few more negative adjectives thrown in the mix. However, I've come to realize, over the past two years of volunteering with the Citizens' Climate Lobby, that if we were to tax fossil fuels at the source, in this country, and return all the revenue to American households, we could actually have a chance at turning things around and cooling down our atmosphere--an ever-important task for ALL life around here. 

So, I saw a version of this presentation board by Marti Roach, Group Leader for CCL Contra Costa County.  I was impressed with how simple she made it, just slapping things together and making it happen. Well, I can't say that I kept mine simple, but I did create something that I'm proud of and excited to share with anyone who wants to make one for their CCL group (or who knows, to show off to your friends?!). 

The following instructions are for the presentation board itself, including the graphics, photos, fonts, and layout. At the bottom of this post is a gallery of photos, containing both photos of the board itself as well as detailed photos of the table top easel that I made to support it. I am hoping to create a video of one of us giving this presentation, which I will post here as well, once I do!  If you are one of those who is inspired to take on this little project, I've made a little kit for you, downloaded here to Google docs, including the following instructions as well as the photos, graphics, and text that I used (please be in touch if I've forgotten anything or made any glaring errors that should be fixed!).

Enjoy, and share as you are so inspired! And may we educate, far and wide, that taxes need not be scary, dry, nor avoided, and that there ARE solutions to climate change that can benefit the economy!

Materials needed:
magnetic white board
magnets, optimally of varying thicknesses (roll tape, ceramic discs, plastic coated...)
color printer
regular printer paper
glue stick or spray adhesive
hot glue gun and glue sticks
cardboard (cereal boxes or similar thickness work well)
multi-colored construction paper
scissors

Bonus, if you have it:
paper cutter
photo paper

Making the Board

  1. Buy a white board/magnetic board from a local office supply store. The one I chose measures ~ 2ft by 2.5ft. I chose a smaller size for tabling, but it would be nice to have a bigger one for doing presentations to bigger audiences (at least until I put this on power point).
  2. Gather or print out the images for the white board, using either your own that you've collected, drawn, painted or otherwise crafted, or those below (you can print on paper that has print on the back because the words won't show through once you glue it down on paper).
  3. Cut out the printed images. On some of them, you may choose to cut directly around the image itself, leaving no border (as I did with the oil and coal), or you may choose to leave a small (1/8in) border around the image (works well with photographs or rectangular images). This creates contrast for the eyes to have some cut with no border.
  4. Mount the images to cardboard. You may choose to give a color background, using the construction paper, to some of them, (as I did with the pollution photo (#1), Wall St. photo and the family). If this is the case, glue the photo or image to the construction paper, then to the cardboard, using a glue stick or spray adhesive (my adhesive came undone a day later, but I'm not sure if it was because my adhesive was too old). Do this with all of the images.
  5. Print out the words and numbers, using glossy photo paper if available. This allows the words to stand out even more from the images. 
  • Cut out the title, "Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax", with a small border around the letters, and glue the title to red construction paper. Cut out the red with a small border (I made mine a bit bigger than the border around the letters).
  • Do the same for all the numbers. Then glue all of these to cardboard.
  •  Glue "Carbon Pollution" to the photo of the smoggy city (#1). I chose to put mine off center, low, hanging off the photo.
  • Glue "Free Pollution" and "Social Costs" to two different colored construction papers. I chose black for the pollution one, and cut spikes around it, and chose a triangle to point down to the images of the social costs. I avoided red, since I used that for the numbers, title, and results.
  • Cut the other titles out in the form of long arrows. I chose to make mine in different arrow shapes for variety. Then, mount these on to a new colored construction paper. I chose green (for 'go'). Then, glue these arrows to the cardboard backing. While you're in the process of cutting out arrows, cut out another one that will go behind the renewables (#5).
  • Glue the family on to something bright, (I chose yellow and orange), and cut them out into some shape that jumps out. Then, glue this on to cardboard backing.

6. Using a hot glue gun (or the sticky backing of the magnetic roll), glue on the magnets to the backs of the cardboard pieces. I used bigger (3/4 in) ceramic discs on the photos,graphics, titles, arrows (which has them jump off the board a bit), and thinner ones (office supply magnets with plastic backs, and magnetic roll) on the numbers and final numbers at the end (this allows them to cozy up under the photos for a neat 3D effect).

7. Arrange the graphics, titles and numbers on the board in the order that they go for our carbon tax solution. In my board, I chose to start with the title in the upper left hand corner, and put #1 just under that, with the picture of the carbon pollution, and the oil, gas, and coal graphics under or around that (those could also be added one at a time, along with all the rest of the numbers and graphics/photos as you are doing the presentation). See the attached photo to see how I arranged my board.

8. What you can't really see is that I have the white board sitting on a wooden easel, which I also chose to make one Saturday. This would be easily purchased at an art supply store for about $30-40. I didn't want to pay that much so I chose to download some instructions from the internet and use some leftover walnut countertop that we had from a kitchen remodel. With the rubber feet, and tying the board to the top of the tripod with string, it is actually pretty sturdy in the wind. I modeled mine after this one. And photos are attached, as well.

Additional Tips:

  • Using regular Elmer's glue on the back of your photos, assuming you've printed them on regular paper and not photo paper, will create a bumpy, less than professional look. Glue stick or adhesive spray is much preferred.
  • I used adhesive spray on mine, and days later, and after sitting in my hot car, they are coming unattached. However, my spray is many many years old, so it may not be good anymore. 

Click on the photos above to see partial visuals of both the board, as well as detailed shots of the table top easel we made to support it. For more complete depictions, check out my Citizens' Climate Lobby page. 

Aligning my Vision

When I look at the date of my most recent post--June 19--I'm struck with a variety of thoughts and images regarding an amazing two months of beautiful weather and extremely wonderful adventures. Camping on the Salmon, hiking in the Gorge, swimming in rivers, biking in the city--nearly all of these excursions in the company of my favorite five-year-old in the whole universe. 

At the beginning of the summer, I had a much different expectation for the upcoming two months. Like years past, I planned to carve out a great deal of time to work. I set up a number of child care trades, and felt extremely grateful to my in-laws, who have taken our daughter overnight just about every week since she was a year old. I signed her up for one camp, for two whole weeks, eager to use the time to blog, build my business, and interview executives. 

As Steinbeck so beautifully expressed, however, "the best laid schemes of mice and men... often go awry".

But, in this case, I might choose my own ending to more aptly match the reality of our summer. While there were some moments of disappointment at having so little time to dive into building my business, I am coming to realize that the opportunities that I had to be so fully present with my daughter--laughing and playing, adventuring and enjoying our amazing surroundings--contributed to building my dream business in a way that I never could have expected at the outset. This is coming from a place of having grown so frustrated in my past at trying to work while trying to parent. I finally realized that I'm not interested in living that life, or more importantly, in being the person that I become when I'm wishing my daughter would just let me work. 

I was reading an article tonight in which the author addresses a 'climate swerve' which he likens to the 'nuclear swerve' that ultimately moved us, as humanity, away from the use of nuclear weapons. He lays out a number of reasons for this shift, including the time-related threat of climate change illustrated by extreme weather events around the world, as well as the economics of the fossil fuel industry and the 'stranded assets' which, if released, could likely mean the end of life as we know it. 

I bring this up because I realized that the excitement I felt while reading this article mirrored that which I felt a few months back when I read a related article in Market Watch entitled, 'How CEOs Can Save the World from Climate Change'. At the time, that article felt like my light at the end of the tunnel, or perhaps more accurately, the foundation upon which I could base my whole mission to coach executives in mitigating climate change. As my path continues to shift, however, and I realize that I am more interested in working with my 'tribe' than expending the extra energy to work with those who may not recognize what I truly have to offer, I get truly excited about this article and its message. While I have had the strong sense that things are shifting, I also know that I'm quite biased, and my perspective may be skewed. 

So, while I have little doubt that I could ultimately be successful with executives, I'm feeling excited about my shifting path. This weekend, when I went to pick up a bike for Kaya on craigslist, the owner asked me if I was "in the trades." Confused, I asked him what he meant, and he pointed at my Wink's Hardware hat, and my black Carhartts. "I love wearing clothes like this," I told him. "My phone fits perfectly in this side pocket, and this hammer loop is incredibly useful!" He smiled and nodded, in full agreement. We were able to relate in a way that allowed both of to be ourselves. That's what I want. 

I want to bring my whole self to the table without having to wonder if it's good enough. Through shifting my path, and seeking out a new niche, I am making that more possible. While there are still maps to be created, and some rivers to ford, I'm excited for wet boots and what lies around the bend.

Is it Time to Combine My Hats?

It's interesting, I'm finding, what happens as I get older. I have all these different areas of my life, with differentiated to-do lists, email accounts, and connections associated with each one. When I was younger, they were all one. My friends all knew each other from high school, or from the camp where I worked, or the small liberal arts college that I attended. But with every passing year, it seems, the various aspects of my life have become more and more compartmentalized, requiring me to don different hats at different parties. 

As I become more and more clear about my mission in life, however, I'm finding greater ease in melding my pots. My non-native bilingualism blog about our journey of raising our daughter bilingually, for example, was always a process I felt needed to be dedicated solely to issues of language and child-rearing. The post I wrote on Climate Change, however, has turned out to be one of the most visited pages on that blog. And when I invited Citizens Climate Lobby members to my personal party to kick off my career in coaching, they, too, had a great time, and didn't seem to be bothered by these distinctions I'm noticing. 

Thus, I wonder, does my life really need to be so divided?
What would it feel like to let things bleed a bit?
Can I thrive in the messy, at least until it becomes less so?

2013 National Conference in Washington, DC

This Saturday, on my 40th birthday, I'm flying to DC with 5 other Portland locals, to lobby our members of congress to take action on climate change. As excited as I am to go again for my 2nd year, it's not about me, or even about the 5 others. We'll be joining over 650 other volunteers, who, over the course of 3 days, will be meeting with all 535 congressional offices (if you want to support this effort with just a few minutes of your time on June 23rd, it would mean so much to me and make such a difference! There is a Facebook event, too, if you're interested). Last year, there were 235 of us. The year before that, about 120, and one year prior, about 50. The first year, 6 years ago, there were only 4, and they were laughed out of congressional offices with their carbon tax proposal. This year, however, we have EPA regulations on our side, and a proposal that is appealing to both conservatives and liberals in how it doesn't grow government and benefits the economy. And we have two solid years of political will-building behind us to strengthen our cause. It's going to be good, even with Cantor's defeat.To be part of an movement with over 6500 volunteers worldwide who are creating the political will for a stable climate is one of the most inspiring and empowering things I've ever done--certainly something I never thought I'd be so excited to take on. 

But as I head into this week, aware of multiple roles, which hat do I don? As the Group Leader for our local Portland chapter, and the interim Regional Coordinator for the Greater Pacific Northwest, I'll clearly be representing Citizens' Climate Lobby at our National Conference. Sitting in the 6-8 offices of the congressmen and women, I'll also represent a committed citizen and constituent, educating our lawmakers on the difference they can and need to make for our world. But I wonder, is there room for me to don my coaching hat, the uniform that has me wanting to support and empower conscious leaders on their quest to mitigate climate change?

Being in 2 days of workshops and presentations with over 650 conscious leaders themselves has me quite excited at the idea of exploring this question. While I want to be respectful of the primary intention of the gathering, I am confident that there is a lot to glean from these leaders and the challenges they might share with me, as a coach, constituent, group leader and regional coordinator. Maybe this is my time to combine all of my hats, and create a new lens that supports the mission that we all share for a safe and comfortable climate?

This short inspiring film, filmed at last year's conference, might give you an idea of what lobbying in DC is like. I'm in the second row from the top in that big group shot, if you can find me...!

Let Them See Who You Are

"I agree with the last guy," he told me last week as we met face to face. "Get rid of the word coaching.
In fact, ditch the coaching altogether." 

When I met with this retired executive for the first time a year ago (we'll call him Dan, for ease of communication), his message was similar, and has been a part of my internal conversation since we first met. While his focus last year wasn't so much on offering advice around my coaching, he did strongly suggest that perhaps my place was with the foot soldiers--leading the troops, the students, the masses--to create change from the bottom up. At the time, I certainly took his message to heart, but simultaneously felt strong resistance. I came to him, both times, with the underlying belief that my place is at the top, supporting those with great power and influence in a manner that could only benefit our climate and the well-being of humanity. I had my dream, and felt torn about giving it up, despite his extensive experience and the respect I had for him.

Dan spent most of his career in corporate America, working as a marketing executive for many years in one of the most profitable businesses in existence at the time. Ultimately, it became clear to him that he wanted to focus on on environmental sustainability, and took to his own road in order to bring the benefits of sustainability into the business community. This experience certainly served as an inspiration for me, and paired with his heartfelt way of listening and delivering his message, left me hesitant to disregard his advice despite my temptations to do otherwise.

While my initial presentation of Dan's message may seem wholly unsupportive, I felt incredibly supported by him in the hour and a half that he offered me, and more connected than ever to the purpose that I'm seeking to fulfill. "Lead with your heart," he told me, with tears in his eyes. "Let them see who you are. Tell them that you're an educator, a mother, and that you want to learn from them. Ask them to coach you. And trust. Trust that things are going to work out." He also shared some of his perspective about the business world, believing that the hierarchical culture hems you in. You have to make your boss look successful, and you have limitations on what you can do. At the C-level, as well, business executives held back by the system. It's all about stock prices, earnings, and whether they are growing at a rate that will ensure their success in the marketplace. Thus, real change comes about by people who are willing to step out of the system, whose existence does not depend on being a success defined by status and money. "If you want to really make a difference," he continued, "find the people who have the courage and the motivation to step out."

For the rest of the day, his words swirled through my mind. And after hours of Nahko and deeper connection with what I really want, my vision began to change. It hit me that I'd been basing my whole business intention on three primary beliefs, structuring my life around the assumption that they were all true:

  1. In order to have the biggest effect on climate change, I need to work at the top. 
  2. I need to work with executives, or at least with business professionals, because no one else will pay me (well) to work with them during the day (and I'm ready to work days over evenings).
  3. If we make a lot of money, I can quit worrying so much about it, and we'll ultimately be happier as a family. 

As Dan helped me shine the light on these beliefs, I started to realize the fallacy of this belief-set--as obvious as it seems to me now as I write this. And, with that, came the realization that if they aren't true, then what is possible? What difference can I really make? Who could I work with? Who would pay me? Where might the money come from? 

While my conversation with Dan wasn't as I expected it to be, gleaning insight into his life as an executive and the challenges that he experienced in that role, it opened me up in a way that feels integral at this stage in the journey. I connected to what I really want, and got clear on what beliefs were driving the show. I want to be me. I want to bring my strengths to the table without the fear that my experiences will lose me the role I want to play and the difference I want to make. I want to be appreciated for what I can do, not chided nor disregarded for what I haven't. 

So, from that place, I move forward with this new perspective and acceptance. Maybe executives aren't my niche. Maybe they are. We'll see how it all unfolds. But either way, I'm clear that coaching remains my passion, as a beautiful blend of who I've become and what I want for others and this world, and that I will continue to put my heart into creating further opportunities to support others on their journey as I'm being supported on mine. Thank you, 'Dan'!

Executive Development

At the beginning of May, I lined up a meeting with a man who would turn out to be what I'm considering my first 'official' executive interview in this series of 50. At the time, as excited as I was to meet him, I hadn't concocted this little plan on mine, and was simply attempting to fulfill my market research assignment through my online MIT course on Entrepreneurship. Now, however, I realize what an auspicious place he holds in the 'line-up' and am eager to share my experience with the first of many.

As I walked into the coffee shop and saw him sitting there in his suit and tie, I felt the familiar overwhelm of emotions and counterproductive thought: DamnHe's well-dressed. Clearly very busy. I need to buy this tea and sit my ass down so as to not waste his time. I was on time. I was dressed well. Yet, my concerns swarmed.

"So, what can I do for you?" he asked, putting down his phone and looking me in the eye. I tried really hard to listen to my prefrontal cortex as I attempted to formulate my desire to mitigate climate change and to coach executives as a way to have big impact. He listened, attentively, and after my awkward attempt to sound professional and put-together, he began to inquire. He wasn't clear on what my role would be, on what I would actually be doing with these executives, and how I would even begin to sell my idea to them.  I, too, was feeling around in the dark a bit, trying hard to express the difference between my role as coach and that of a consultant. I so yearned for it to be easier.

Ultimately, we found common ground, and I rejoiced inside that I'd finally been able to communicate my dream.  And it was at this point that things finally did get easier. Once I stopped acting from the belief that I needed to prove myself, subconsciously seeking his 'yay or nay',  I was able to let go of my fears and really listen. Once I pushed those fears aside, there was room for him to show up completely, without needing to fit into the box I'd created for him to give me the answers I secretly hoped to avoid.

While my focus with him wasn't what I expect it to be with my upcoming interviews (What's it like to be a conscious leader? What challenges confront you?), I did end up gleaning a great deal of insight from him and the story he shared. He spoke of his own development, referring to the many years when he had all sorts of expectations about life, work, and specifically, his employees. They should be happy, he shared with me of his perspective back then, simply because they have a job. He paid them well--why are they continually dissatisfied? He did all sorts of things to attempt to improve their happiness, despite his underlying belief that their feelings should be otherwise. He hired coaches, he paid consultants, he organized trainings. Yet nothing seemed to create the change he was seeking. He was at a loss. He, too, was unhappy, and knew something needed to change. 

What this executive shared with me, ultimately, was that it was through his own development that he, and his employees, finally experienced the happiness they were all seeking. And with that, came not only 'the bottom line', but a multitude of other benefits that rippled through his life. His tension lessened, he slept better, his marriage improved, his friendships deepened, and work became less of a pain in the ass. Suddenly, he was able to actually enjoy his time with people with whom he had very little in common, and to overcome internal barriers that previously stopped him. People noticed how much more engaged he was, how much more loyal and motivated he seemed on more of the tasks he took on.

Just the other day, I received another email from him, referring me to an article he'd just read in the New York Times entitled 'Why You Hate Work'. I was ecstatic. Here's this executive, thinking of me as he's reading this article, sending me his thoughts which perfectly align with my intention. "This coaching angle is useful," he shared with me. "If executives are being pulled, they have less chance to focus on leading to solutions addressing the climate. They need help."

Exactly. He nailed it.

And for this reason, I continue to forge into territory that, at times, feels so wild, scary and uncharted...

Failure in a Linear Society

The other day, my Branding and Marketing Mentor expressed concern about all the linear advice that I was getting regarding my business idea:

Can it work?
Should I do it?
Will it work?

Yes. No. 

As I type this post, I'm reminded of the feedback that I was given in my coaching program, specifically regarding my tendency to ask these types of questions of my clients. When I looked more closely, I found I wasn't just asking such questions of my clients, but of all sorts of people in my life on all sorts of topics:

Do you want juice?
Did you sleep well?
Did you have a good day?
Are you coming to bed soon?

In beginning language instruction, we have a very fancy name for these types of inquisitions: 'yes or no questions'. In German and Spanish, they are excellent questions for beginners to learn because they are so easy to form--simply reverse the subject and the verb that is offered in the statement, and raise your voice tone at the end (Hast du Hunger? = Have you hunger?). Information gathering questions, on the other hand, are much more complicated, in that you need to know which interrogative pronoun to use (who, what, where, why, etc.), as well as the order in which to arrange the words. There's also the much more complicated aspect of when to ask such questions, which drifts into the more nebulous region of cultural awareness. While not completely necessary to learn when acquiring a language, having such awareness can help us in a variety of ways (imagine asking your manager at work, for example, how his sex life is going with his wife--certainly wouldn't go over so well in most American circles...). 

And so I wonder: am I getting a bunch of yes/no feedback about my business idea because I'm asking yes/no questions? Or do we live in a yes/no society where it's simply too complicated or awkward or scary or uncomfortable to gather information from people? Or is that, too, a type of yes/no boxed-in type of question that I'm posing, once again?

I know, I know, there is plenty of information that we can gather from people that doesn't come anywhere close to scary nor uncomfortable. 'What time is it?' certainly won't leave most people feeling awkward (unless you ask your PMS-y wife while she's sharing about her rough day). But my point is this: it's certainly outside the box to come at life from the side, and to look at HOW we might do things as opposed to IF...at least when it comes to ideas that go against the grain, like mine.  As I'm learning, innovation springs from this lateral approach:

How might I find these executives I seek?
When would be a good time to interview them?
Who might have ideas for me to connect to them?
Where on the internet might I look to find ideas?

It certainly gets easier, this ability to explore sideways through the doubt and fear that failure looms when we don't follow the scripted route.

And with that ease and progress, I imagine, will come the paradigm shift that I know is necessary for this plan to work: Failure is my path to success. They taught us this early on in my Entrepreneurship 101 class at MIT. You've surely heard the saying about falling off the horse--but this graphic really sends it home. Failure really IS on my path to success. If I get 48 execs who think my idea sucks, and 2 of them who are willing to hire me, doors can open. In fact, doors can open with 50 no's. Or 100. 

For me, though, I suppose that I'm bit afraid that I won't have it in me to get back up after 48, especially if all of them come back to back, before the glorious 2. I think that's where community comes in, though. That's when we call our friend in India and she sends us this awesome image. That's when we go to a coaching presentation and find tools to create visions. That's when we call our climate-skeptic dad and seek his love, even if he doubts the essential foundation upon which our business is built (love you, Dad, even if I'm not following the path you had in mind for me!)

Thanks for being part of my journey here!  I'd love to hear from you, if you're willing go take the sideways route and add a comment...would be fun to hear where you are in yours.