10 leadership lessons from tree planting in Canada part 1.
Originally published at www.linkedin.com.
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10 Happy Leadership lessons I learned from Tree Planting. Part 1.
May 16, 2015
Some of my happiest and most proud memories came from the time I spent int Canadian North, planting hundreds ( more like thousands) of trees a day, for three months, during the summer.
Some of my worst as well.
I have felt like a loser. Completely alone. Useless. Forgotten.
At my worst and most pitiful.
At my very best.
Finally, I felt something, that I always knew was in me...brought to the surface, fully and without reservation.
I felt Invincible. Just as I was.
Sweaty and covered in dirt. My hard hat hanging ,magically on my unkempt hair.
My pants, duck-taped to my steel-toes, to prevent the mosquitoes from flying in.
10 cents a tree. Was that, why I was there?
I needed to find a way to see my values, strength and endurance come out on their own. At their pace. To surprise me in the most challenging way.
Sometimes we do not want to hear that voice within, that whispers: "Yes. You can."
Because, that means...we can? Really? Nothing is there to stop us? To give us an out?
You can. You are a leader, if you believe you are. Starting with your own life.
As an artist, a student, a friend, an employee, a trainer, an adventurer, a teacher...and inevitably, now, as a coach, educator, writer and leader, I credit my biggest accomplishments, moments of most profound happiness and bursts of spiritual, mental and physical evolution to Tree Planting.
What a schooling that was. Still is, as I write these words. I am STILL figuring out the lessons I got.
It's been 7 years since the last time I slammed my shovel into the ground.
I hated it. I loved it. I miss it everyday.
And every year I miss the trees, weighing me down, the crazy weather changes ( hail to scorching heat in a matter of hours, the terrible insects, the endless camping, the 10+ hour workdays....and the people I met in the remote northern Manitoba towns.
Here are 10 lessons I can now credit to leading me into my most powerful authentic, strong and loving self.
#1 Be ready to cry and laugh as you do the impossible.
When I "enlisted" to tree-plant, I had NO IDEA what I was getting into. I have never camped in my life. Never done any physical labor. I had never gone out of the city for longer than two days.
As I put myself, the innocent, spoiled, urban girl in to what is deemed to be one of the worst 10 jobs in the world- I WAS WAY OUT of what I thought I was capable of.
However, somehow, I knew I could. I got the job. I had to have what it took to do it. I didn't set any goals, other than- get through it, and learn.
I did not know what it was I was after, except an adventure.
It turned out to be the inner drive for physical exploration, connection with nature and my body, inner "mindfulness" work and learning how to brave ANY element.
Even when you doubt your decision to take on a new challenge, as you are doing it, whatever the job, whatever the task, whatever the goal: just let yourself do it. One day at a time. One minute at a time. One tree at a time. There is a reason you wanted to do it.
If you believe you can, you can.
#2 Know your value. It's not what you think it is.
When I came up to the camp, I had just finished my first year at university. I was already a professional actress...who had spent most of her life very focused on how I looked, sounded and moved...
Imagine my shock....when I realized that NO ONE cared about how I looked or what I knew. What mattered was how I performed there, in the moment. How I treated the people around me. What I had to offer to the camp.
First I was lost...how would I know my self-worth..if no one was there to make me feel smart, pretty or "accepted"??
THEN...I was RELIEVED.
I knew this was why I came.
The freedom to just be. Exactly as I am. Not to look into a computer screen, or a mirror...to find my worth, my purpose...but to just BE. To act, to give and to LIVE.
That has always been my value. I have found it again.
Look at what you are without the glam shine of what you use to get attention, money or validation...what is your true worth? To YOU? No one cares, but you.
#3 This too, shall pass...Look up and breathe.
There were many times when I saw people just collapse in the middle of their piece of land. I was told to expect a breakdown. However, as much as I cried, huffed and puffed...swore...and umm...sang out to the wilderness, in order to keep my sanity- whenever I felt I was losing my mind- I would stop, drop my shovel ( or slam it into the ground), and look up at the sky. I would look at it, breathe, and just feel the passing of every moment. The freedom, that was there for me to take.
"This too shall pass. I chose this. I am free".
I may not have said those sentences to myself. but I felt them. Unbeknownst to me, I was developing a stress management and personal power technique...hahaha! It worked.
Often I even sat down, just looking at the stillness and the vastness of the sky. It was my first foray into the world of conscious mindfulness.
That alone made tree-planting worth it! Who knew?
You can find your peace, power and your free ground ANYWHERE.
As long as you can find the sky, you can create your own POWER MOMENT story.
Keep on going!
#4 Will your trees grow? Focus on the HOW. Do the work. Keep on going.
One thing that I did not expect...is how HARD the work was.
I had always like to move one from things fast. Here, however, every tree had to be planted WELL. There was a whole protocol. I was caught. I felt that th eonly way to plant lots of trees, was to plant them badly.
There was no way around it. A tree is either planted well, or not.
I learned that, after a few run-ins with the "checker". I hated it.
I have planted my share of badly planted trees, just to get through the days when I felt like I didn't belong...like I was terrible at what I was doing...The more I felt like that...the less I cared about the actual work I was doing. And I was embarrassed by it, although no one knew.
I quickly learned that the only way to really do the work well, was to start CARING about it.
Well, one day, as I dreaded the beginning of another shift, we drove by a piece of land with 20-inch high fir trees. My crew boss- pointed to them, and looked at me. The sentence he uttered, changed how I saw my work...the process and the reasons behind it.
"Those are your trees from last month",- he smiled.
I was touched, flattered, and suddenly proud.
My Trees. Suddenly, I was actually responsible for my actions.
"I did that!"
I now saw, that my work caused those trees to grow.
It doesn't matter if you have not seen the results of your labor yet. They are a-coming.
And they will tell you just how much you actually care.
And if you don't truly care....your trees won't grow. A few may survive. But you cannot plant a field of dreams that actually lets your dreams take shape, wildly, powerfully and with the intention to build a better world. One mindful, unique forest at a time.
#5 Every move you make has to bring you closer to your goal. Has to.
At the time of my adventure, the best number I got was 2,500 trees in a day. That's a lot of trees. About 300 and hour. How many is that a minute?
Now...one guy on my crew, would plant over 5,000 trees EVERYDAY.
Strategy. Efficiency of movement. Focus. Pace.
In that order. He did not appear to move faster. In fact, he seemed to be moving in a more relaxed way, than I.
However, when you watched him, you would notice one thing- every move he made, every glance, every break he chose to take-they all led him towards his goal. He knew WHY he took a right, when to jump over a branch and when to speed up. He knew it in his bones, he trusted his intention and he let the present moment lead him.
It took him a few years to get to that level of mastery, but once set, he was a master.
Every move you make, every connection, every situation- see its' potential to allow you to do the work you love. See the opportunity to fully express yourself. Move in a way that lets you focus, rest and pick up with the energy you had in the very beginning.
Sometimes that means to step away. Sometimes it means turning back. Sometimes it means going around a wall, instead of charging through it.
Only your intention will tell you what is needed.
Make no mistake, the five seconds it takes to look behind your shoulder, because you lost track of where you were going-those five second will keep adding up, if you keep forgetting why you set out on your leader quest to begin with, and where you intend it to lead you.
Trust your own pace. Trust your inner warrior.
Feed the warrior.
It's not a race. It's a marathon
Whether you faint at the idea of spending a day in the woods, or you go camping every weekend....these may be of use- as they do not rely on anything to do with tree-planting. I urge you simply to look at the most challenging and the most bizarre experiences you have endured and come out of...what did they communicate to you? What did they help you develop? What message can you give to others?
To be continued....