I was the last of four children in a post-WWII family. Mother and Daddy worked hard to provide for us — Mother taught piano; Daddy bought then sold timber to local pulp mills. Lucky for me, I had a great aunt and uncle who had no kids and lived only 1/2 mile away. Aunt Mary & Uncle Perry were kind–even to six year old me. They listened to me, answered my questions and appreciated my ideas. Once, when I heard a bird singing in the swamp next to the house, I said “It’s the jewelry bird!” (The high, dancing notes sounded like gems sparkling in the sky to me). Aunt Mary & Uncle Perry nodded just like I had made complete sense. They encouraged me–unlike my stressed-out parents who had to give their attention to the hard facts of making a living instead of “jewelry birds.”
In 1976, Richard Bowles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, guided me to my first job. He advised his readers to learn about the area they wanted to work in by meeting people through “Informational Interviews”–instead of asking for a job. I moved to San Francisco and did exactly as he suggested. Within two months I had a job with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. His kind and wise coaching got me where I never would have imagined I could go. Within six months I’d been promoted to National Director of Public Relations at the Ringling Bros HQ.
Six years later when I realized that I wanted more meaningful work, I happened to read an article about Marilyn Ferguson. She also focused on strengths: “Our past is not our potential! None of us is as smart as all of us.“ To me, she was a career nightingale. Promoting her work, I met thinkers like Peter Senge, Roger Birkman and Buckminster Fuller. The common thread that linked these visionaries was to imagine work as a learning opportunity…instead of thinking of work as an endurance test.
Since the late 80s, I’ve been carrying on what I learned from the great teachers I’ve had so far. My clients and I take a respectful view of life together and ask: How can this situation help me learn how to be a better leader? What would be most helpful for everyone involved? How can I use my strengths to solve this? The answers–and the process–bring connection, meaning and results. What else is there?