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Energy as a Way of Life: A Personal Journey

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This is my personal journey, how I came from seeing organizations as static objects, to seeing them as interacting energy fields.  It began six years ago, when I was the owner of a 16-person organization development and training firm.  We helped companies with strategic visioning, culture change projects, coaching programs, and project effectiveness.  I built the business from a $25.00 a day practice in 1969 to over $2.5 million in annual revenues in 1993, with the promise of continued doubling in growth.

I didn’t sleep very well during those years. My company had several very talented, star-quality people whose view of what the business should be doing was not the same as mine.  I would sell something for one million dollars, design it, do the first piece of work, and it would be very successful in my own terms. Then others would take over, supposedly to extend what had been started and bring it to fulfillment throughout a client company. But that isn’t what happened.  My intention was that everything we did would be brilliant, meaning that clients would come away from working with us cooperating and working together toward the same future.  And while a lot of what went on was great, it did not meet my own standards of brilliance.  Some clients were very satisfied; others were satisfied some of the time.  But the experience over time was too harsh and divisive for me.

I had also hired people to run the company that had their own agenda and actually undermined my relationships with many of the key employees. They wanted to turn it into the kind of company they wanted, rather than what I wanted.  So, the company was going in many different directions and there were lots of disputes and talking behind people’s backs.  I became increasingly deflated and didn’t have either the presence of mind or the courage to make a radical change, to take the bull by the horns and make it into something that I really wanted.

As my energy and inspiration waned, the company was still successful, but became less and less effective.  I was the leader and without my inspiration, many things began to fall apart.  I began to get the idea that companies and people succeed when they have a lot of energy, assuming they know what they are doing, have talent, and have a good product or service to sell.  And they began to fail when they ran out of energy.  At the time, this wasn’t a clearly articulated thought, but a background awareness that things were good when you felt great, when your personal and team spirit was strong, and things didn’t work so well when team spirit and personal energy was down.

I was lucky at that time to meet a Native American Indian medicine man, Lorin Smith, on the Pomo Reservation in northern California.  He was a short, balding, chubby fellow, with a very pleasant expression on his face and very soft-spoken manner.  I met him in a “round house,” an enormous round building that he had built to do his work as the tribal healer.  I had no idea what that meant. I thought it had some remote association with medical doctors.

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