There’s a thread you follow, that goes among things that change, but it doesn’t change. . .
From William Stafford’s poem: “The Way It Is”
while you hold it you can’t get lost.
I’ve been following a thread, searching for “something else” all my life. Like many, I had a hunch that I was missing a piece of life, and that hunch kept me alert and looking. I can’t tell you the number of “rabbit holes” I’ve gone down in my quest for a community, or core belief, that resonated with the experiences of my own life. It seemed that there were more “dead ends” than promising leads.
I chose a career path that allowed me to follow my thread—and it often broke or I lost it. I tried unsuccessfully, to contain my wanderlust by trading corporate security for a steady paycheck. But, after college, six years in the Air Force—and the Vietnam War—I attended Stanford Business School and did a 3-year apprenticeship in a national accounting firm. Finally, I went out on my own as a CPA—making a living for my family while following my own path.
I was intrigued by the “magic of creating value,” that a few of my clients seemed to have, but others did not. I stayed small, making a modest living while my real concern was following that thread. From my creative small business clients, I learned insights that allowed them to make a living, while following their own thread—exploring their own rabbit holes.
To promote my business, I put these insights into a financial workshop—“The 3-Day MBA” for CEO-owners. That morphed into a series of workshops that I presented to client teams under the banner “The Profit Process.” Out of the workshops came tales of both success and failure. An editor friend found these stories a home as a column in the Sacramento Business Journal. These columns had the desired effect of getting me consulting and accounting clients.
By midlife though, I was burned out by accounting and consulting. It was then that I discovered poetry; it lifted my spirits and opened my eyes to new perspectives. I slowly saw the possibility of connection to an imaginal “other world,” and a “second life conversation” with what I call my “Ally,” an inner friend that is a source of inspiration.
I took this idea of the Ally and a “second life conversation” from, poetry and writing into Folsom Prison. For 20 years I taught and recited poetry with groups of inmates. They too, were looking for “something else” in their writing and poetry. The Inside Circle Foundation, a not-for-profit, still carries those conversations forward.
I continued to write and think about that “magic of creating value” in a small business
Following a parallel thread, I continued to write and think about that “magic of creating value” in a small business and to the source of creativity from the Ally. I saw that these ideas had weight and “landed” with my CEO clients. While effective in person-to-person dialogues as a coach, my efforts were limited by time and geography. To reach a wider audience I tried delivering the workshops over the internet; with scant success.
Now I’m putting these insights into a book, a manual for the small business owners who live by their wits. It’s a resource for both owners, coaches and advisors.
In retrospect, I have taken the “low road of mistakes and hard experience” in pursuit of a livelihood and my own destiny. In retirement I can and look back with empathy on that young ambitious accountant, knowing that what he considered “mistakes”, were part of a larger pattern—following an emerging thread into the future.