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Reflections On Growing My Self

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Sometimes I forget that my job is more about growing my self than growing others. It is, or at it least seems to be, easier to grow others than to grow me. I usually have a point of view about who you need to be or become to do your job better. Such clarity about myself, however, is often elusive.

The amazing success of Seventh Generation has created possibilities and opportunities that we couldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.
Those possibilities become expectations and then commitments to achieve some pretty amazing things. For me, that produces both excitement and fear, anticipation and anxiety. On the fear front, I wonder how I can provide the leadership needed to sail across the ocean on a 100-foot vessel when the totality of my experience is guiding a model sailboat across a pond in Central Park.

At times, I notice that the hand I place on the tiller of the boat trembles, and that trembling produces vibrations in the boat that slow it down. Other times I notice that I am inclined to change directions when it seems that we are not sailing quick enough. These actions may seem impulsive or reactive. But never having sailed across this part of the ocean, I can’t know how fast we are already going relative to our potential or whether a new direction will get us to our destination any quicker.

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Relentless Caring

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This past Saturday I spoke at the Green Festival in Washington, DC. What I spoke about represented a significant departure from my usual focus on the business case for corporate responsibility or the growth of the natural products industry.

Here are some notes from my talk:

Love, I believe, is about relentlessly caring
That means not just caring when it’s comfortable or easy. Or when you feel like caring. But caring all the time. Especially when you don’t feel like caring. It means that you never stop.

Because the caring is not for you or even necessarily for another. But because it is the only way to be in the world. To love the whole of the world rather that the parts and pieces you choose.

To care relentlessly we must also see what lies within. The unexpressed potential. The wisdom in the most simple things. The essence rather than the outward manifestation. And to care relentlessly you need to be able to generate new patterns in your being because to care relentlessly is not what we are taught to do. Especially at work.

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How to Be Better and Do Better

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My recent post about roadkill and global warming generated some thought-provoking comments, among them this note from fellow inspired protagonist Kevin:

Jeffrey, if you eat meat despite the evidence that a meat-based diet is non-sustainable, how then can we have hope about the future of ethical consumerism?

To shed light on the answer, Stanford's Center for Social Innovation recently came out with an interesting report.

There may be a fundamental disconnect in the marketing of socially responsible products. It is the difference between what people say they want, and what they actually buy.

http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_other_csr/

If you have the time, I would certainly appreciate hearing your response.

I was going to post my reply here simply as a comment on the original post, but then I thought that maybe it deserved to be a post of its own. So here goes…

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The Light at My Journey's End

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Monday, September 11th, 2006,
Charlotte, Vermont

I spent yesterday looking out the windows of planes. Looking down on a world I could barely see, feel or touch. For the better part of twelve hours I made the trip from Cortes Island, to Seattle, on to Washington, DC, and then home to Burlington, walking into the door of my home at the stroke of midnight.

Today is a celebration of sunlight, bright green colors, and crystal specks glowing off the lake. This is an amazing place to come back to on a day like today. Well actually it's an amazing place to return to almost any day but today especially. This is a day to decompress, to go slow, to look and listen. A day without phone calls or e-mail. A day to be home.

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The Week After Labor Day

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The expansive time and space of the long Labor Day weekend has faded, almost as if it never happened. Where does the past actually go other than taking up some space somewhere in my mind? I’m 36,000 feet up in the sky generating CO2 emissions that I’ll have to offset. The expansiveness has now moved from my mind to the picture outside my window. The sun just dipped down below the horizon. We aren’t heading West fast enough to keep it in sight as I fly in the late afternoon from Washington DC to Seattle, where I will head out to Cortes Island, off the Vancouver coast, to give a talk at the Hollyhock Institute.

In a few short days I have marched 10 miles in a Global Warming action, met with the head of labor’s largest union, spent 2 ½ days in a Greenpeace Board meeting, and tried to exercise and meditate enough to keep my head in a place that allows me to keep contributing to the creation of a future that my three children will want to live in.

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Thoughts From Summer’s End

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(Note: I wrote this over the Labor Day weekend, and I've been debating about whether to post it until just now. Please let me know what you think.)

The remnants of a hurricane blow through northern New England leaving the sky cloudy and the ground damp. The temperature isn’t quite cool enough for a bath, but I take several anyway to escape to that clearly defined warm space. The endless possibility leaves me at a loss for where I fit into the huge landscape. While my place is so well defined in other people’s minds, it is unclear in my own. The empty space of a long weekend extends the uncertainty. So I write to see what I write in the hope that the formality of the words on this page will reveal something that seems to escape the informality of my mind.

The rapid movement of the work week is easier. It leaves few unfilled spaces and little time to recalibrate my purpose and meaning in the universe. But somehow that place of reflection is always where I return to over and over, year after year. Given enough time and space the same question reemerges. The mind that asks it may be different, but the question remains remarkably the same. I, of course, have answers. But none that I choose to attach myself to.

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Presence

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Over the past month, I’ve been reading Presence by Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers. Those of you who have come to know me probably realize by now that I’m a pretty obsessive reader. Yet unlike most of what I read, Presence was more like a wonderful meditation than the acquisition of information. It is one of the most important and valuable books I’ve read over the past 5 to 10 years. Over the next few posts I make I’ll try to explain why.

One quote I will probably never forget is “the longest road is often from your mind to your heart.” It will (I hope) forever remind me that more value will always come from love than anything else. How can I do all that I do lovingly. As a serial entrepreneur, I am pretty good at action, criticism, analysis, and creativity. I still have a lot to learn about love. One can of course be lovingly critical or analytical, but somehow the depth of my analysis usually seems greater than the depth of my love.

I was also overwhelmed with the notion of how much of our lives fall with-in the preestablished patterns we seem to follow over and over. Whether it’s how we respond to each other, read the newspaper, participate in a meeting, or watch a sunset, most of what we do we do as we have done before. Somehow the idea of doing it differently doesn’t occur to us. Yet outside our patterns lies all possibility. Whether it’s figuring out how to stop global warming, be a better lover, or design a new product, 99% of what is possible but yet to be waits outside the pattern.

If we can slow down our thinking enough to actually watch how we think, become conscious of the generation of our thoughts, question whether there is another way to see what we are seeing, do what we are doing, and hold what we are holding, a whole new world opens up before us.

More to come…

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