Last fall I decided I was in need of more leadership experience. After a few conversations with friends, I applied for an NLC (New Leaders Council) fellowship. After a selections process and a round of interviews, I was accepted. Our first institute was this last weekend. It was intensive.
The focus was something Life Entrepreneurship. I think I can safely say it was one of the most transformative weekends of my life. We started the institute by taking a self evaluation. Basically, we wanted to know where we were. From there we wrote out our personal history so we could understand how we got to where we were. This part was partly informative & partly boring.
What came next, though, was of great value. We started listing our strengths, then passions and finally values. Eventually, this lead us to drafting a purpose statement for our lives. Then, using that purpose statement we set some short and long term goals and developed a strategy for achieving them.
Obviously, the above summary is a very brief overview. Through each step of the process we got into pre-selected groups, shared what we had written and helped each other further refine what exactly we meant and/ or wanted. Over the course of the weekend, this institute helped all of us work through our individual struggles with defining exactly what we wanted and how to get there and helped lay a much clearer path into the future.
I’ve done all of this before, at different times and in different ways. But, to have it all happen in once place, to have it facilitated by someone who has done this numerous times and to have the exercises and feedback component added in was incredibly valuable.
In other words, what I’m saying is this: if you ever get the chance to attend a class like this, I would highly recommend it. It’s value extends far beyond whatever it may cost.
Eating in St. Louis
We got back from St. Louis late last night. I couldn’t be more impressed. The local food & craft drink scene seems to be blowing up everywhere. What set St. Louis aside for us, however, was the quality of the people. They were incredibly nice.
Our first night in town we were taken to Taste. whose cocktail program was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. The cocktails were everything they’d been built up to be. But, the surprise was the quality of the food. It was outstanding. And, the service was impeccable both in timeliness & friendliness.
Even more surprising, however, was a small restaurant in the eastern suburb of Edwardsville, Illinois. Cleveland-Heath is what a restaurant should be. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything I would want to change. The food menu was small but spot-on. It offered something for everyone in both selection and price. And, the kitchen was dialed. In fact, their beef tongue gnocchi was one of the best dishes I’ve had in quite some time.
But, CL’s excellence extended far beyond food. The St. Nick (gingerbread infused rye with barrel aged orange bitters) was one of the better cocktails I’ve had anywhere. Additionally, they had a fantastic wine menu with selections from all over the world offering the ability to easily pair with anything on the menu.
It was a great trip. But, it wouldn’t have been the same without the deep generosity of our hosts Jenny Cleveland & Ed Heath (of Cleveland-Heath), two of the most humble, talented and gracious restaurateurs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. So, next time you’re in St. Louis, I’d recommend visiting them. Everything about their place is impressive, simple & unpretentious.
This poem was
written in response to the High Park fire outside Fort Collins, Colorado in June of 2012. It was started by lightning.
Creation vs. Reaction
This blog has served many different purposes over the years. I’ve reviewed small farm tools and delved into philosophy, cultural criticism & questions that probably don’t have answers. But, I’ve always kept ‘safe’, so to speak, by not allowing myself to be too vulnerable. I published a few personal thoughts & a few poems, but mostly I’ve held my art back, choosing to point out the problems elsewhere rather than create my own solutions.
This was okay for a time. It was what I needed to do. However, that has passed. It was a time of reaction. I am now moving forward with creation. Notice the difference between the two words? The letter ‘c’. It’s a tiny change that makes a huge difference. To react is to look backward. To create is to look forward. Reaction is negative, creation is positive.
Creation make me uncomfortable. Its exposure leaves me vulnerable, open to criticism, bare. I have a friend who has told me repeatedly to ‘lean into’ that which makes me most uncomfortable. This is how we grow. So, that is what I’m doing.
This blog is an expression of my personal passions: culture, agriculture & art (as I understand them). I’ve recently launched my new business website which deals with my other passion: helping socially & culturally conscious entrepreneurs create the change they want to see. You can check that out here if & when you’re interested.
In the meantime, look for more personal posts, poetry and thoughts on this site. And, don’t hesitate to weigh in with your opinion. Making myself vulnerable is only one step in personal growth. Sharing is another.
So, here’s to creation; creating a better self, better friends, better businesses & a better world! Thanks for being part of the journey.
There are no global solutions to global problems
We, as a culture, operate under the assumption that there are global solutions to the global problems we’ve created. The errors of this type of thinking are many. Perhaps most important is the issue of origin. Where did these problems come from? They didn’t materialize out of thin air. Each problem originated from a specific place in both space and time. And, each problem scaled upward in both space and time.
Sustainable solutions don’t come from the top down. They propagate the same way the problems evolved, slowly. If we consider each problem to have originated from a specific place, then we can begin to think of each problem on a scale we can comprehend. We can also begin to think about solutions to these problems on a scale we understand.
Years ago, I heard Wendell Berry, the poet & farmer, point out that every problem was, at its root, small and, therefore, had an equally small solution. These small solutions are the answer to large-scale problems generated by the likes of industrial agriculture and global economics. But, they will take time, as all good things do.
Our culture has taught us to expect instant results. That, perhaps, is the worst of our ‘global’ problems. If we plant the seeds, it is our grandchildren who will eat the fruit, and if we fail, it is they who will suffer accordingly.
Deep down, as humans, we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves yet small enough to understand. The solutions to our problems offer us exactly this opportunity. If we can set the distractions aside, slow down, live mindfully and think on long time scales, without fail, we will become the change we want to see.