Celebrating the Harvest: A Shift in Focus

Celebrating the harvest

Without a doubt, 2020 has been one of the most bizarre years on record, at least in my lifetime. Between COVID-19, murder hornets, heightened racial tensions, polarized politics and more, this year has been challenging in many ways. As the year draws toward a close, our friends and colleagues in agriculture are reaping the harvest once again. For providing over 400 commodities in California alone for human consumption, especially this year, we are grateful. We are grateful for the freshest, safest, locally grown produce in the world. Thank you!

Several years ago, I wrote about what harvest means to me, growing up in California’s Central Valley. In my small town of Lodi, California, harvest was a time of measuring performance. In some ways, a time of reckoning: Had we sown the crops and tended the soil properly? Had weather conditions been favorable? Had we sufficient water for irrigation? In organizational terms, we might reframe the questions to ask: Had we been strategic in our planning and execution? How had the market and other external factors contributed? How did we manage our resources – human, natural, material – to deliver on the promises we made?

In times of crisis, many of these factors are out of our control. It is human nature to desire control over that which is in our power to control. For this reason, we have seen increased depression, suicide and emotional duress in recent months. Before we fast-forward into 2021, let’s pause to highlight a few blessings that have emerged in this time. In coaching conversations with clients, I have seen goal setting in coaching engagements, in these 5 Key Focus Areas:

Focus on Wellness.

Whether it’s a mindfulness practice, an exercise routine, a coastal walk with a Blue Health Coach, or other mental health breaks, many people have not only expressed an increased interest in focusing on some aspect of self-care, but also integrated new kind of new routine to support this focus. Although this may be balanced by the increase in consumption of alcohol and comfort foods, these indulgences may play a role, as well. After all, sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. Long story short, leadership begins with self-care. One of the first lessons we teach Rescue Divers is, “You cannot rescue someone else by putting yourself in harm’s way.” The same is true for leaders. Leaders who are drowning in their own sea of uncertainty or inexperience are not in a position to help, direct or lead others. In fact, the very first module of our new Inspired Leadership offering begins with “Leading Self.” May we remember to continue caring for our own well-being in service to others, even when life returns to “normal.”

Focus on Family.

With many parents working from home, and children engaged in a hybrid approach to online learning and home-schooling, more clients are reporting a return to family dinners, family walks, and other activities that are often squeezed out of our fast-paced lives. However you define “family”, more people are choosing to foster more meaningful interpersonal relationships, not only with loved ones, but also with long lost friends and family. The ways families have been engaging in celebration, whether it’s weddings, memorials, graduations, birthdays, are so creative! We are already beginning to hear the term, “COVID Baby” used to describe new additions to families during this time. It will be interesting to see how this return to family relationships impacts social and community issues in the months to come.

Focus on Community.

In the absence of large scale public gatherings and events, people are finding creative ways to connect socially, while remaining physically distanced. A greater sense of community and compassion for our neighbors has emerged, such as deliveries of cookies on doorsteps, grocery and errand runs for the elderly, intentional efforts to support local businesses and restaurants. One of my favorite examples of this is local photographer, Lara George, who creatively began her “Front Steps Project,” as a means of reaching out, connecting with people, offering her services and simply bringing joy to surrounding communities. She posts on social media when she will be driving through a neighborhood, so families can come outside on their front porch, just as they are, and be photographed by her from the street for physical distancing. Be sure to check out Lara’s project, and show her some love.

Focus on Purpose.

At least half of the coaching conversations since March 2020 have involved some discussion about re-evaluating one’s career or life path. While some are exploring retirement, others are considering a completely different type of work or field of discipline. Arguably, in some cases, this may be related to that normal stage of adult development we call “midlife.” In nearly all cases, the client is seeking something more satisfying, fulfilling or meaningful. Now, I thrive on these conversations, having experienced a bit of my own career re-evaluation not too long ago. More importantly, my clients are seeking a deeper sense of purpose, and choosing to leave a legacy for future generations on purpose.

Focus on Perspective.

Related to purpose, many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to press pause, take a deep breath, and consider their situations from a different perspective. They are wanting to see the “bigger picture,” and make sense of how it all fits together. We have seen more interest in Blue Health Coaching™ than ever before, as people discover their desire to have a deeper connection with their own lives and with the planet, specifically our marine ecosystems. If you are curious about Blue Health Coaching,™ try one of our “Toe in the Water” sessions to have an experience, learn about the science of blue health benefits, and meet some cool people in the process.

May we preserve some of these positive lessons gleaned from this season of uncertainty. Take heart in knowing this too shall pass; and hopefully, we will have learned through the challenges into wiser and more compassionate human beings, more patient leaders and more purposefully leave a legacy for future generations.

What are you harvesting?

Seeds of Contemplation: Reflecting on What Matters Most

On Sunday, August 16, 2020, early morning thunder and lightning storms across Northern California sparked a series of wildfires, which burned approximately 1.2 million acres in the week that followed. This acreage is estimated to be 25 times larger than the wildfire event of the preceding year1

Seeds of Sequoia sempervirens germinate by fire, fostering new growth in the wake of devastation.

Like many others, I found myself preparing for a possible evacuation, and considering what matters most in a time of emergent crisis such as this.  Although we were not in immediate danger, we chose to take advantage of the advanced warning, especially knowing how quickly these fires can turn, becoming entrapment hazards and devastation.  As my family discussed our evacuation plans, routes and destinations, we began making the important decisions about what to take and what could be left behind.  Naturally, we started with the most urgent and critical physiological needs: what would we take for sustaining life?  What items would we need for food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth and sleep?  Then we added the emergency first aid kit and other items for responding to medical needs we may encounter on our journey.  Once packed, we considered what would we need for the safety and security of ourselves and loved ones. We withdrew cash to have on hand, we pulled all of the relevant documents for the mortgage, vehicle titles, insurance papers, checkbooks, birth records and passports. We packed items for protection and preservation.  We prepared the computers, hard drives and charging cables we would need for communication and connection with the outside world, including employers.  These were the easy steps, and if the need to evacuate were accelerated, we knew we could survive with just these items.

In retrospect, it was a fascinating exercise to walk through each room of my home, considering each item and reflecting on the inherent value, including whether or not it could be replaced. I reflected on the memories and stories of a lifetime, evaluating what went into the box to take with me, and what could have been left behind.  The process of prioritizing what was irreplaceable and justifying every inch of cargo was overwhelming. It wasn’t the furniture and decorations or the “stuff,” but the photo albums, the images of sentiment, the special gifts from loved ones, and symbols of gratitude from teammates. I am grateful for the time and opportunity to reflect through what matters most to me in terms of the very human need of love and belonging.  In reflecting on the experience through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs2, I realize now that the items associated with achievement and success, such as the degrees and plaques on the walls of my office, were quickly dismissed. I realized their value is not in the item itself, but rather carried inside me.  If needed, I can have them printed again.  They are but mere symbols of attainment, confidence and esteem.  Lastly, the need for self-actualization is also carried within us.  The need for creativity, spontaneity, meaning and purpose cannot be contained within an object. It is the pure embodiment of what it means to be human.  We carry this within us wherever we go, whatever we face and however we move forward. 

Although we had ample time to prepare in advance, many people did not have the time or warning when these fires erupted. Many people did not have the luxury of strolling through to choose what could be salvaged. Even for those who were able to evacuate safely, many lost everything. After the evacuation warning was lifted for our area, I was both relieved and pensive, reflecting and grieving without words, only a quiet heaviness in my heart. My heart was grieving for the tremendous loss.  I began reaching out to those friends and colleagues, whom I knew were potentially impacted. One colleague lost the home where he and his wife raised their children. Another had structural damage at their place of business, yet most everyone remarked that their family, livestock and pets were evacuated safely. All expressed some version of the sentiment, “We were able to save what mattered most – our family.”

In the wake of such tragic loss and devastation, may we be encouraged knowing at the heart of the human spirit, we are resilient. Like our beloved Sequoia sempervirens, we carry within us the capacity, the creativity, the inspiration, and the power to rise up from the ashes and foster new growth. More than the sum of our “stuff,” our legacy is that which we choose to create in moments like these. May we work together collectively to learn, lead and leave a legacy together for future generations.

1 Kim, S. (2020). California wildfires 25 times bigger than this time last year as 1.4 million acres burned. Newsweek, retrieved on August 30, 2020 from https://www.newsweek.com/california-wildfires-update-gavin-newsom-fires-25-times-bigger-this-year-1527431.

2 Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, (50) 370-396.