Beliefs & Assumptions

Ten years ago I facilitated what is the best and most fondly remembered piece of education I have had the good fortune to be a part of. At the time I was teaching and developing a 2 year degree in Outdoor Recreation Management. The first year was tightly scripted and ended in a 3 month work experience. The second year we offered the students the opportunity to execute their own trip which we staffed for up to a month and which they had to fund and make happen. Each year the trips became increasingly ambitious as these young people wanted to create something better than what had been before. My final year in the job the students elected to contribute $160 and spend two weeks canoeing the river that separates Finland from Sweden and then a further two weeks mountaineering in Norway.

The whole experience was incredible, a year of learning skills relevant to their journey. Watching young people grow before me and convince leaders why they wanted to help them make this trip happen. Being part of a very significant rite of passage for 12 young people. I felt humbled.

What I want to write of today though is an experience I had during this trip. We had had to change our plans as our intended river was in spate and the mosquitos prolific, so we opted to head further North with sea kayaks and paddle above the Arctic Circle for 10 days. Our Odyssey had been planned around the summer solstice so we had been witness to an incredible phenomena. While on the ferry between Newcastle and Stavanger I had watched the sun set on the west side of the boat and pop up 15 minutes later on the East. Driving North into Trondheim we had been descending a hill and the sky was a continuum of dawn through dusk colors along the horizon line. Then while kayaking North at midnight just off the Lyngen Alps I looked up and into the sun.

I do not know about you, but there are a few very important constants in my life. My mother will always love me. I am happiest outdoors. I will always respond to gravity and fall down. The sun sets in the West and rises in the East and in between describes an arc through the South. Suddenly mid paddle stroke I was hit by a thought of such enormity that it cut me to my very core. If the sun was in the North was anything really true? Did my mother love me, did gravity truly exist? Is it all just a perception?

What does someone take from a realization of this magnitude? Well for me it is quite simple, thoughts and beliefs that help me bring structure to a majority of my life do not always work. I need to be open to anything being possible and I certainly must not allow my beliefs to be so entrenched that I cannot believe something because I do not understand it.

What beliefs are barriers in your life?

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What do you stand for?

What is it most of us really want from work? We would like to find the most effective, most productive, most rewarding way of working together. We would like to know that our work process uses all of the appropriate and pertinent resources: human, physical, financial. We would like a work process and relationships that meet our personal needs for belonging, for contributing, for meaningful work, for the opportunity to make a commitment, for the opportunity to grow and be at least reasonably in control of our own destinies. Finally, we’d like someone to say “Thank you!”
Max Depree

Max DePree wrote a book called Leadership is an Art and the warmth and wisdom it contains leaves me nodding my head in agreement every page I turn. It is eloquent and tackles real issues head on, in fact President Bill Clinton calls it “astonishing”. The thing this book makes me do is read, re-read and think.

Here is what I am reminded of – I will only find the job that I truly want when I truly know what I want. Each time I edit my resume I am taken a little closer as I am that much clearer in my own mind of what it is I am looking for. The less often I edit my resume to fit a job and instead send the resume that describes the me I want to be the more likely I am to find the work that will leave me truly satisfied. The most important thing is to find a job and organization that aligns with my vision and beliefs – I had better know what they are.

In the words of a new friend, Stu Cabe, “what do you stand for?”

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