Lifelet: What’s your aspiration?

Coach:  What is your aspiration?

Skip: I thought that was pretty clear, I want to be able to walk normally again so I can hike in the mountains.

Coach: That sounds more like a goal than an aspiration.

Skip: No, it’s much more of an aspiration.  Being able to hike in the mountains, particularly the Olympic Mountains, is an aspiration.  It is one of the few ways that I can ground myself in nature.

Coach:  Still sounds like a goal.

Skip:  What I am trying to say is much more than a goal.  I am using my own shorthand concept.  Let me share something I experienced many years ago in a southern Oregon vineyard at Cowhorn, surrounded by low mountains and the Applegate River.

For a couple of years I traveled once a month to the Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma, CA, for a biodynamic seminar attended by many of the great winemakers.  The Rudolf Steiner book seminar component in the morning was followed by a walking through a vineyard experience in the afternoon at one of the attendees vineyards. Alan York usually led the vineyard experiences.  Whenever possible, I also accompanied Alan when he visited his client at Cowhorn Winery.  One fine day, I walked with Alan, Barb, and Bill, on a vineyard assessment.

Alan York at Cowhorn Winery

As Alan and I were walking through the vineyards I stopped dead in my tracks and almost shouted at Alan “One of the vines near me is diseased.  There is something wrong.  I CAN FEEL IT!”  He got this great big smile and said “I’ll be damned.  You, the knowledge book learning dude, have been paying attention to the experiential learning, not just the book learning.  Yes, the vine to your right is indeed diseased.  Let’s dig through the dirt to expose some of the roots and I will show you the disease pressure that this vine is under.  I am amazed that you could feel what was going on below the ground.”  Sure enough we could see the disease artifacts and it was the only vine in 40 acres that had this problem.  This experience was the outcome of those monthly biodynamic day long seminars.

This experience felt the most grounded in nature with my body, mind and spirit.  It is what I so miss right now by not being able to move easily or at all through my favorite vineyards in Washington, Oregon, and California.

So when I talk about being able to hike in the mountains and being able to roam through vineyards it is recalling and looking forward to the ability to fully ground myself (body mind spirit) in nature.  One of my favorite quotes is from Brian Doyle’s The Grail:  A Year Ambling and Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wide World.

“On my way back uphill to my car I remember what Jesse told me once, that each vine produces enough grapes to make about three-fourths of a bottle of wine, and I chew on the idea that three-fourths of a bottle of excellent wine is probably just the right amount necessary for two or three people to start telling stories fast and furious,so that each of the vines I pass is pregnant with stories, some of which were never born into the world before, and this idea makes me happy also, so by the time I get to the town where I am supposed to give a talk I am cheerful as a chipmunk.”

From my blog post on “A Funny thing Happened in the Tasting Room“.

Coach: Thank you for the fuller explanation.  Let’s try this as an aspiration – “Optimize my wellness, so I am able to be fully engaged in my life – transforming healthcare, hiking in the mountains, and living my purpose.”

Skip: That sounds good.  And this photo of the Alan York Memorial in the Benziger Family Winery biodynamic garden helps me visualize my aspiration.  You can see one of the vineyards and the composting pile in the background.

Alan York Memorial at Benziger Family Winery

Skip: But I don’t remember us talking about “living my purpose.”  I did a lot of work on that when I collaborated with the TAI Group in NYC.  My shorthand for living my purpose is “develop talent always.”  The long form of what this means is drawn from an interview with Gifford Booth, CEO of TAI:

My real reason for joining the FTI Consulting Technology Segment as Chief Product Officer in 2016, was I felt like I had learned a lot about managing the last eight years, particularly the last three or four with TAI.  Instead of going back only to do a business thing like produce a product or generate revenue, I went back to put into practice what I had learned.

The focus of my learning was on the people and the talent, which I had never focused on before. I had always focused on the what or maybe the why (as Simon Sinek shares), but never the people. The people were sort of, well not sort of, a necessary evil.  I can be social and I can be nice, but at my previous companies my thoughts and actions were not on developing people.

With this job and the 100 people that worked for me and the customers, suppliers and influencers that we touched, I’m being as conscious as I can be to help them develop their skills and talents.  I help them to get to their next career level and pursue whatever their goals are. I’ve never taken that as a first level objective in my fifty years of managing.

Another way of saying “develop talent” is in every endeavor how can I come in and add energy to the room?  This behavior is the opposite of when I’m in analytic mode, where I tend to pull energy out of the room. In analytic mode people go mentally internal trying to analyze something and the energy just goes out of the room.

While I’m not facilitating as much as I would like, and I’m not teaching graduate school as much as I would like, I am teaching all the time and trying to add energy in each interaction. Some days, I can make it a whole day developing talent. Other days, I get distracted with the urgent. But I start everyday with a big smile, asking my colleagues about what’s going on in their life, and that’s been noticed now. Several of the folks who didn’t know me before I took this job share “You’re always excited, you’re always happy, what’s going on?” Oh, if you only knew how much work it takes to focus on developing talent.

This focus on developing talent is not just for business.  I am loving doing what I can to develop the talents of our grand children.

Coach: Should I add that to the aspiration?

Skip: Please.


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