I’ve a friend who, several years ago, wrote a book the basic premise of which I disagreed with profoundly. His notion was that life, especially in business, has sped up to such a degree that the older ways of doing things no longer applied. The book, in essence, was a paean to multi-tasking. Sure, he dressed it up as otherwise: raiment of “new economy,” “conversations with customers,” and “social media.”
But it was really about that very human tendency to, when faced with fear or stress, speed up.
Driving up to Vermont on my way to a retreat the other day, zipping along I-91, listening to David Whyte speak of the ways we speed up, lose our presence, I remembered my friend’s book. And then David shared a poem.
The poem, said Whyte, is a translation of the wisdom elders gave young men and women of the Pacific Northwest who, in preparing to wander into the redwood forests to find their adult selves, would ask what to do when lost.
By David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
And I thought, “That’s also great advice for what to do when your hair is on fire.”
Hair on Fire |he(ə)r ôn fīr|
1 a state of mind where everything and/or everyone makes you crazy and where nothing is working.
2 informal: every day life at a startup
I love that first line: “Stand still.” For me it evokes the image of the kindergarten teacher, walking into a room filled with screaming five-year olds. “What’s the best way to get the five year olds to calm down?” I’d ask. “Should you scream louder?”
Of course not; the right thing to do is to shut the lights. And, if they’re especially rambunctious, make them put their heads down on the desk for a nap. It works for five year olds. It works for your employees. And, most importantly, it works for the crazy thoughts in your head.
PS…my China trip is on. Thanks to all those who gave. Between us, we’ve raised nearly $40,000. We’ve also managed to get a discount on the tents, so with some luck, we’ll be distributing 150 tents and food, water, and clothing. I leave New York on August 30 and back after September 15. I’m blessed to be able to do this. Blessed, grateful, and humbled.