A woodsman's axe at rest in a block of wood which is in front of a large pile of cut logs.

Chopping Wood

This week was fantastic, incredible and jump-for-joy great! But I will tell you one little secret, it had nothing to do with planning, power points or directing or controlling —it just happened.

Why did it happen? One simple reason… People showed up to discuss critical problems and issues. I love that all we had to do was show up, without an agenda or preconceived outcome. Just positive energy and contribution, to see if anything stuck. And if something stuck, could we build on it. This is the classic case of the ancient Zen saying:

Before Enlightenment Chop Wood, Carry Water 

After Enlightenment Chop Wood, Carry Water

Chopping wood means taking action towards your goals every day. Carrying water is doing something for someone else every day. In this particular week, we where gathered to solve a specific global problem that centered around a material that is toxic to us and used in over 50,000 products. Yes, 50,000 products that we use every day.

I think we all had some inkling of things that could be done. But the first and most important step was just getting everyone in the same room. The CEO of the sponsor company pulled everyone together, which included a diverse group of people — everyone from a medical doctor, a land developer, a polymer expert, and a medical clinic operator, all in all nine people — all coming from different perspectives on how this could problem be solved and done in a sustainable, long term way.

The discussion was interesting to observe. I was trying to read the room as best I could, for energy hints on how things where going. The CEO was trying to make sure everyone had a chance to speak, which was great. Then, after all of the discussion, we had to get to work— or start chopping more wood — because we needed a bigger wood pile.

One of the team members grabbed a marker, went to the white board and started laying out a path forward in a way no one had really considered. I looked around the room, everyone was positive and the energy was building. Smiles where coming to faces and heads where nodding and I said to myself, OMG, you can’t write the script! I thought, this could really happen. I take that back, I thought, this is going to happen! YEAH!

On the flight home, sitting with a colleague, I couldn’t help but reflect on just showing up and the fact that chopping wood works. Yes, it always works!  The key is that you have to be open to any outcome, but always be positive that there is going to be an outcome. And make sure you always carry water which means, have people’s back and support the individuals and the collective group.

So, what problems are you looking to solve? If you could put a group together that would come up with solutions to the problem, who would they be?

On the first concentric circle — or the base industry where the problem resides — who would you choose to bring major outlying thought processes? Now, take it one level further out…Maybe a psychiatrist, a phd or a painter. Maybe a musician (anyone for the cello? Yes, HRH Prince Charles always loved the vibration of the cello to help people think!)

Ok, now you have the thought, which is the critical first step. So start chopping wood by putting a date on the calendar and see if you can start rallying a group to sit down and start the discussion on that date. Make sure that you set the ground rules: Anything goes, everyone is positive and you are all open to any outcome.

Get on it, now! Start chopping wood and start carrying water by making all the people you invite feel how important to the process they are. Then make sure you carry water by having their back through the process. And remember, you can’t write the script —so don’t try! Let it flow! You are more than capable of solving every major social or environmental problem we have on this planet. You just have to know you can and get a group together to pave the path forward. Yes, you’ve already started, YEAH!


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