Lost Horizon - New Frontier

Mt Holmes - YNP

During the 19th century as pioneers moved West, they went with a purpose in mind. They had a vision for a better life on the frontier. The open spaces and freedom of the frontier were a place of opportunity.

Near the close of the century, historian Frederick Jackson Turner in his famous essay, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, noted that the 1890 Census claimed that the free and open land in the country had been sufficiently settled that there was no longer an identifiable "frontier line."  Turner wrote,

"This brief official statement marks the closing of a great history movement. Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.

Behind institutions, behind constitutional forms and modifications, lie the vital forces that call these organs into life and shape to meet changing conditions. The peculiarity of American institutions is, the fact that they have been compelled  to adapt themselves to changes of an expanding people - to the changes involved in crossing a continent, in winning a wilderness, and in developing at each areas of this progress out of the primitive economic and political conditions of the frontier into the complexity of city life."

Just as Turner evoked, over a century ago, a belief in the American people to meet changing conditions, so today we are confronted with a world of changing conditions that demand that we change. One of the questions that rises from this perspective is ...

"Whether American institutions are still able "to adapt themselves to changes of an expanding people?".

If the 19th century was the century where the frontier of free land was eclipsed, then the 20th century was the century where the frontier of economic opportunity was eclipsed in favor of the institutions of government and business. In both cases, these institutions created a type of dependency that required individuals to turn over their own individualism to become, essentially, wards of the institution. The egregious of this system were those men and their families that worked the mines and "owed their soul to the company store."

The consequences of reaching a mature state, for both the institutions and the people within their social and organizational contexts, is the loss of a horizon that that marks the frontier that is our future.  As we look at the institutions of society, it is difficult to look beyond them to see what might be in the future. Is our present state of government and business our future, or are they a picture of the past that obscures our vision for the future?

The Necessity of the Frontier

Human beings need frontiers. We need them for we are seekers, discoverers, creators, innovators, and movers-and-shakers.We do not stand still. We seek to acquire, exchange, settle, resettle, destroy, restore, and expand that which is in our reach. For these human behaviors, we need a frontier to give us purpose and a horizon to reach after.

Stand at the edge of the frontier and we see ourselves better than at any point. We find that we are both great and small.  We see beyond our reach. We discover that life is not yet complete, settled and fixed. We realize that change is natural and healthy, as long as it leads towards the horizon of the frontier.

Grant Tetons 2

Without a horizon for our lives, with no frontier, we lose perspective, we retreat into the comfort of what is known and owned.  Our smallness before the frontier becomes diminished within the confines of what we can control. Without a frontier, we lose the better part of ourselves. Instead of initiating to create the future, we react to preserve a treasured, often nostalgic past.

 A generation after his essay on the frontier, Turner published a follow up essay on The Significance of the Section in American History. In it he compares the West of the frontier to the settled civilization of the East.

"The East feared an unchecked democracy, which overturn minority rights, destroy established institutions, and attack vested interests. The buoyant, optimistic, and sometimes reckless and extravagant spirit of innovation was the very life of the West.  In the East innovation was a term of reproach. It always "stalked" like an evil spirit. The East represented accumulated experience, the traditions of the family living generation after generation in a single location and under a similar environment, as President Thwing, of Western Reserve University, has aptly put it. But out in the newer West through most of its history men lived in at least two or three states in the course of their migrations."

These basic human differences become regional, or sectional, cultures. These differences exist today, and mark the tension that makes social change so difficult now.  They are so difficult because once the frontier has been settled, a shift takes place from the freedom and openness that is the frontier to the confines of institutionalization.

The American experience of the frontier is unique for the American West was not first colonized by institutions of government and business, and then the people came. No, the people came, and then their institutions followed. As a result, the Western United States, were not colonies of the East, but their own unique sectional creation.

The New Frontier

The frontier today is still geographic and economic, even more so now, technological and social. The geographic frontier is local, "How can our community thrive in the midst of the chaos of global change?"  The economic frontier line is discovering alternative and complementary resources for communities and their business and organizations.  

The advance of technology is where innovation and creativity is most broadly nurtured as the landscape of the frontier. It is free and open space, its virtual geography is in human ingenuity, relationship and the networks that provide the structure for our interaction. From those networks, the frontiers of science and human knowledge present horizons that are only now coming into view.

Today's line of the frontier is more personal than ever before. If technology and its application in social networks are making a difference that matters, it will because it is utilized for a clear purpose. That purpose is an identified frontier that marks a horizon for us to venture toward. Whatever unexplored, under-achieved, far off goal or aspiration that we have is the frontier of our lives.

It is personal because the social and organizational institutions that defined the parameters of society in the 19th. and 20th. centuries are disintegrating, proving to have run their historic course. It is doubtful that a person graduating from high school or college next spring will spend their entire career with the same company. It is as Frederick Jackson Turner identified above in his essay on sectionalism in American history.  When the frontier is sought, people move to where the opportunities are that mark the horizon.

The challenge of this new frontier, for most of us, is not how to master the latest Facebook social media app or decide which smartphone to purchase. Rather, it is knowing for what purpose do these technological innovations exist.

Activity or Achievement

The evidence to me that we have lost our horizon is how purpose is generally understood.

Here's an example of what I mean.

I take a trip to Florence, Italy, one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Europe. I go to art galleries, eat fantastic food and drink wonderful wine, climb to the top of the Duomo, and return home to tell the tale of my trip.

In describing the trip, I tell of my flight, the hotel where I stayed, the museums and outlying towns I visited, the meals I had, and show the souvenirs that I purchased. And if you are really interested, I could take you through my credit card statement to show you what it cost me.

What does this description of a great trip tell you?

It is a listing of activities, of what I did. It is an accounting of the energy expended. It doesn't tell you the impact that the trip had upon me. It doesn't tell you how seeing Michangelo's David or the Chapel of San Lorenzo had a transformative effect upon me. It doesn't tell you how I am now different for having gone to the seat of the European Renaissance.

A statement of purpose, which is only a description of doing, is a purpose that has lost its horizon. It is a statement of institutionalized identity. It doesn't tell what it is that I seek to achieve or to become or to create or the impact that I wish to have. It doesn't say what I hope to change or the difference that we seek to make that matters.

The Journey is to Change Us

I use the journey illustration intentionally because to venture towards our horizons is to journey into the future.  And it should change us and the people around us and the organizations where we spend our lives. 018_18

Over a decade ago, I became inspired by the story of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. In that tale, I saw a picture of "the first 21st century leadership team."  I was so inspired, that I persuaded my family to travel parts of the Lewis & Clark Trail with me. On one of our trips, we traveled by train from Chicago to Montana, to reach the portion of the trail that we were to visit.Over the course of 36 hours, we passed through very different geographic landscapes, from green regions of lakes and rivers, to flat, wide expanses of golden prairie to the “purple mountain majesty” of the northern Rockies.

Seeing those same horizons that Lewis & Clark crossed, floating down the Upper Missouri in a replica keel boat, camping where the Corps camped, reading their journals in the geographic setting where they were written, I began to see why their Journey of Discovery impressed me so. It changed the way I perceived the nature and character of leadership.

It changed the way I perceived the nature and character of leadership. I realized that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark understood something two hundred years ago, that we are just now rediscovering about leadership. That personal initiative and mutually respectful, collaborative relationships are the key to organizational leadership in our time. (Read my, now dormant, blog on the expedition, Lewis & Clark for the 21st century to learn more.)

The experience of the trip changed our family. We were no longer a collection of genetically-linked individuals, each pursuing our own individualized personal mandates, in some zero-sum game of parent / sibling rivalry. We had a set of shared experiences that created a bond that is not only still with us a decade later, but the values derived from those experiences define who we are as both individuals and family.

If the journey of our lives or our businesses is only an activity, only an amusement, or only a utilitarian means to provide income for that which we really want to do, then its purpose is passive and limiting.  It can be the source of the short-term thinking and immediate gratification that limits what we can do. For if our purpose does not provide a far enough horizon, that we will not be willing to do the hard work and make the serious sacrifices to achieve what we seek. If so, then that horizon is too close.

However, if we approach our lives and the development of our organizations from the perspective of seeking to identify a lost horizon that sets a new frontier line, then immediately we are invigorated for a journey of self-discovery and future impact.

The New Frontier

We each must find the new frontier. Its far horizon calls us to think long term, to delay gratification, to build social networks of collaborative endeavors, to take responsibility for making a difference beyond our own interests, and to create new institutional structures for the future.

Yet, in the midst of a persistent global recession, these words may ring hallow and seem to lack reality. Surely, to seek for new frontiers when jobs are scarce and money hard to come by, to do this is unrealistic. This is why the frontier exists, to show us that whatever is our experience today, tomorrow presents us with a new horizon.

For me, this perspective about the frontier, and how we as human beings relate to it, may best be described in a poem that Western poet Waddie Mitchell wrote for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I find it a testimony to the truth that a horizon exists for each on of us if we'd only look up and see. I end with That No Quit Attitude, my favorite of his poems, which celebrates the spirit of the frontier.

THAT NO QUIT ATTITUDE  - Waddie Mitchell

Parker Homestead near Three Forks

While gathering cattle near the ruins of a long abandoned homestead in the shadows of the mountains, questions swarmed around my mind of the people who had claimed there, most forgotten now, and long dead still.

I wonder what had prompted them to leave their worlds behind searching for a life uncertain, in a vast and rugged region up and leave their home and kin for opportunity to find.

Taking little more to start with than an idea, and a reason and a dream of their succeeding in a future yet defined.

Soon these queries led to more like …

Why it is that some folks always need to push their borders out beyond the furthest milestone on a never-ending quest to find new ways and trails to blaze and in the process stretch that realm of what is built and done and known?

From the little draw above me and my pard’s ride with his fine’ns, throwing his bunch with mine now shaded up and settled down.

I could see that he had gone through battle for his pony sporting lather but his smile claimed that he had made it in with everything he’d found.

The sweat and dust and brush streaks on that pair done heaps of speaking as he pulled up near, dismounted and loosen latigo a bit.

He said, “We jumped them in the rough, and would have lost them had we weakened but I swear, this here caballo ain’t got one half ounce of quit.

And that no quit phrase speaks volumes on one’s character and makin’s to a cowboy drawing wages riding ranges of the West.

Them who have it you’ll find usually conquer most their undertakings for the best in them is drawn out when their spirits put to test.

Then I spot my cow dogs bushed up staying well hid from the cattle knowin’ with a cue they’d give all to do anything need done.

I thought then how the most of us will opt to shun that battle never knowin’ fully what we could accomplish or become.

Still, I believe like dogs and horses we’re all born with resolution.

Like muscles and good habits it needs use and exercise, if left dormant, its in jeopardy of lost evolution for eventually it shrivels ups and atrophy and dies.

But when flexed, it blossoms heroes in a source of inspiration for we all recognize that virtue and a no quit attitude.

And it proves its attributes in competition and vocation that evokes appreciation and a show of gratitude.

And since mankind started walking, it has been swifter, higher, stronger, as if pushed by some deep need to keep their limits unconfined,

Almost thriving, always striving for things bigger, better, longer in an unrelenting pursuit of perfection, redefined.

And in this world that is soft complacence there are still a few among the masses who will readily give all to see a job or dream fulfilled.

It’s a trait that’s void of prejudice toward races, sex or classes just demanding its possessor be of valor and strong will.

 Then as we start our cattle homeward lettin’ the dogs bring up the rear, and we leave what’s left of once somebody’s hopes and dreams behind.

I’m convinced that no quit attitude will always persevere. Now its the essence and the promise and the crown of human kind.

A Fine Line

On top of Max Patch

A fine line marks our lives.

Its a fine line that separates us from who we are today and our better selves, 

     between what we think and what we know,

          between what we desire and what we seek,

               between what we believe and what we do.

A fine line between what we are willing to try and what we will sacrifice.

A fine line between making a difference, and wasting our lives.

A fine line between fear and determination.

A fine line between failure and success.

A fine line between good and evil,

     between altruism and narcissism,

          between nobility and inhumanity.

A fine line between who we are and how people perceive us.

A fine line between who others are and how we perceive them.

A fine line between us and people who are different than us.

A fine line between what is normal and what is abnormal.

A fine line between what is acceptable and and what is not.

A fine line between comedy and tragedy,

     between humor and horror,

          between the fullness of life and the loss of it.

Yet, we live in a world where all these fine lines are portrayed as wide gulfs that we are unable to cross.

These gulfs represent the worst of ourselves. They are what divide us. They treat life as a dichotomy between one thing and another. As a result, they rid us of the beauty of ambiguity.

The fine line is a moving line that forces us to pay attention, to be aware, and to appreciate the subtle nuances that actually exist, so that we live as seekers, explorers and discoverers of what life offers.

To live with the fine line is to live with ambiguity. To do so means we break out of the ever narrowing boxes of perception that close us in, make us defensive, isolated, and out of touch with the world that exists on the other side.

The gulf of dichotomy is a fantasy world. It is not real. It is an illusion. It is a world of hermetically sealed categories that we embrace to avoid engagement what those people and arenas that we do not understand.

There is a fine line that most of us never cross. It is a line that breaks us out of the conformity of dichotomy, of the we-versus-them mindset that is a product of manipulation and control.

Are we afraid?

It is okay to say so.

Do we think for ourselves?

Or do we follow some conventional line of thought to fit in, to belong, to find some connection beyond ourselves. 

Do we lack personal initiative?

Do our actions defines us?

Actions of purpose and impact, not just calendars full of activities.  

Life's goodness and beauty doesn't come in a box from an online retailer. They aren't a commodity to acquire, to trade or to hedge against. It isn't one thing or another, it is embedded in the ambiguity that defines the fine line.

Recently, I wrote ...

Picture with me walking out to the edge of what you know and have experienced, and seeing a line. 

That line is the horizon of your life. It is way out there.

Or, it is right here, in front of you, close at hand, always marking the line that confronts you. Day by day, that line is getting closer and closer. Avoid it and you'll be boxed in, cornered, paralyzed by the ambiguity of the fine line.

The fine line is the horizon of our life. We live up against it everyday. Face up to it and find a life and work filled with goodness and beauty, meaning and fulfillment, and a difference that truly matters.

We have a choice. Accept the fine line, step across it, and embrace a world of ambiguity, goodness and beauty. Or, shrink back from it, embracing the gulf of dichotomy, and imprisoning ourselves in our own world of irreconcilable difference.

It's a fine line. Will you embrace it?

Stuck in Transition

Transition through Time

In many respects, we are all in transition from where we once were, to where we will be. As a result we see our lives and our work as filled with constant change or in a constant state of transition.

There are others who are stuck in a life or work situation where there are few options for transitioning to something better or different.

What does it mean to be stuck? Here are some reasons.

You are the best at what you do, in a very narrow field, with nowhere to go.

You are in a volume business that requires individualized attention to each customer / client who cannot pay for the value of the expertise and care you provide.

The local market for your services is limited, and your life situation does not allow for either moving or extensive business travel.

Your business does not translate well to the digital world.

Your indebtedness does not allow you to expand to meet the possible opportunities that you see.

I'm sure that there are many other causes for being stuck.

What do you do if you are stuck and unable to make a transition?

In some cases, you live with it. You cope, manage, and survive until some opportunity arises that provides a pathway to a new place.

You try to step back and begin to reflect upon your purpose, your values, and the legacy that you want to have at the end of your life.  You develop a plan for change.

In some cases, you quit and start over in a different situation.  But you don't do this without a plan, and one that is positive and directed toward the future.

Being stuck is a product of past decisions and actions.

Getting unstuck is a product of decisions and actions that we make today and in the future.

The greatest challenge in getting unstuck is not implementing a plan of change. It is building the emotional commitment that is needed to carry you through.

I am convinced that in order for this to happen, we need people who support us, who stand with us, as we go through the hard process of transition.

If you are stuck, you don't have to remain there.

The choices may not be attractive or easy, but necessary for making a transition to a better place.

If you are stuck, and know that you need to change, then ask for help.

If you don't know who to ask, contact me, I'll help you find the right person or group.

No one changes voluntarily until the beneficial prospects of changing out weighs the resistance that keeps us stuck in a place that we don't want to be. Making a life or work transition is not just an analytical process, but a personal one. Address it and a path forward can be found.

The Journey and The Guide

Chitral-Gilgit district border

Almost 30 years ago, I spent a summer with other students traveling the back roads of the NorthWest Frontier Province of Pakistan working with a refugee relief agency. The best times for our journey came with the interaction with people when we were on foot, walking, where time and proximity brought us together. Sometimes it was to share a meal, sometimes just a chat over a cup of tea, sometimes just to ask directions.  Especially along roads like the one here, we asked, what's up ahead? How far to Mastuj?  Where's a good place for a meal in Chitral?

I share this because it informs me about what we mean when we talk about life and work being a journey. 

It is a common thought that life is a journey, not a destination.

We say this because life has ceased to be predictable, certain and secure. It is much more a process of discovering what we need to know right now, every day.

Everyday, traveling along an unknown trail, means that the skills and knowledge we need are quite different than if we never left our home and ventured into the unknown.

As my work has developed over the years, I've come to realize that while my work falls into the broad category of consulting and coaching, my real service to people and organizations as been as a guide along an unknown trail of life and work.

What does a guide do?

If life and work is a journey, then the guide ...

1. Establishes a plan for how to travel on this journey.

2. Provides tools and skills training to manage the challenges and meet the opportunities that come along.

3. Trains the team that travels together to be a group marked by a high level of collaboration, communication and coordination.

4. Travels along side as a guide along the unknown path to the future to celebrate success and stand with people during times of set back and confusion.

The journey to the future is an unknown one for most of us. We should not travel it alone.  

If you've been around me for the past decade, you'll know that the story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition became a way for me to understand what is required of us as we approached an unknown future.  I saw in their story of friendship, collaboration, discipline and courage, a way of understanding what we all need. During the Expedition's Bicentennial years, I wrote about their leadership in my blog, Lewis & Clark for 21st Century Leaders.

Lemhi PC sign

To treat our lives and work as a journey means we make some choices about how we live and work. We look to discover who we are and what our potential is. We recognize that the people we encounter on our journey matter a great deal. These people matter because they bring wisdom and insight to what might just be ahead of us around the next bend. And it means that we travel lighter, with less baggage, both physical and emotional, so that we are freer to follow trails less traveled, yet with greater prospects for discovery.

In Stephen Ambrose's wonderful history of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Undaunted Courage, he writes about Meriwether Lewis growing up in colonial era Charlottesville, Virgina.

From the west-facing window of the room in which Meriwether Lewis was born ... one could look out at Rockfish Gap, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an opening to the West that invited exploration. The Virginia Piedmont of 1774 was not the frontier ... but it wasn't far removed.

I don't think the idea of a journey is simply a literary device to describe an experience we may be having. Based on what I've experience during my life time, life is a journey. It is only a metaphor if you never walk out your back door to explore an unknown world beyond your back yard.

Today the frontier isn't geographic as in Lewis day. It is much more complex and unknown. It is still personal, social, organizational and cross-cultural. Judgment and clear-sightedness are still needed as decisions are made, and actions taken that test our ability to achieve what we envision.

It is here as a guide that I've found my clearest sense of value to people and their organizations.  If you find that the future, whether a month, a year or a lifetime, is unknown and daunting, then let us talk and see how we might travel the journey of life and work together.

After 15 years, this I've learned.

The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

Earlier this week, I quietly celebrated the 15th anniversary of the beginning my consulting business, Community of Leadership, LLC. There was no time for celebration or fanfare, just another day of trying to make a difference that matters.  However, a road trip this week gave me time to reflect on the past 15 years.

Here's some of what I've learned.

1. You don't know what you don't know, and if you did, you'd be so overwhelmed by it, you'd never act.

I was young and naive when I began my consulting practice in 1995. I started with a desire to help leaders develop their organizations and communities. That purpose still remains. What I didn't know then is just how ill-prepared I was to go into business on my own. If you remain open to learning, to trying new things and fixing what is broken, you can make it. But it isn't necessarily easy. The Five Questions That Everyone Must Ask that is a part of my Circle of Impact model developed from my experience and that of others, especially #5.

2. What you THINK you are doing, and what you ARE doing aren't always the same. The difference you think you are making, and the actual difference you are making are not always the same either.

Focus is a good thing. However, if it is practiced too rigidly, you can miss what is right in front of you. While relationships have always been important and central to what I do, I'm not really selling a relationship. Instead it is a process of discovery and development where the relationship is integral to that process. At the end of the day, real progress often comes from the conversation that takes place within relationship.

The actual project, while beneficial, is often a secondary benefit compared to what happens in the relationship. The project deals with an immediate or current need. The development of the relationship prepares us for the future. The lesson, therefore, is to realize that nothing is ever exactly like you think it is or want it to be. The task for us is to be aware of the peripheral or ancillary processes that are taking place, recognize their value and give them attention.

3. Work is a context for personal growth. As a result, everyday we can afflict ourselves on our loved ones because we are not the person whom we or they think we are, not always living up to what we say we believe or are committed to doing.

My family has lived through my many personal transitions over the past 25 years. It has not always been easy for them. The old joke of asking "... when is Dad going to grow up and get a real job" is a familiar refrain in many homes. There are two sides to this situation which are important to address with our loved ones.

If you remain the same person over the course of your lifetime, you may never reach your potential. Growth has it price, and often that price is in our relationships. If your family expects you to remain the same person you were when you married or before you began a dramatic growth curve, then there can be conflict.

What I've seen in too many situations are families where the structure of the family is what is important, and not the actual relationships. And when Dad or Mom begins to change, it creates conflict, because what we are used to, what is comfortable, secure and predictable, is no longer there. Ambiguity and change get thrust into an already volatile cultural social environment.  As a result, families grow apart, members go looking for support and intimacy in other places. So, if you are growing into being a new person with a new focus and purpose for your life, then know that it has its effects upon your loved ones and you need to address it openly and with genuine humility.

One of the ways that I've seen these situations addressed is an appeal to balance between life and work. I'm not sure that balance is achievable. It assumes that we can compartmentalize our lives into the personal and public or work and measure out our time and attention in proportion to our priorities. I've concluded that alignment is a better approach. We create alignment by elevating the importance of living out our purpose and values, and allowing for the social settings and organizational environments where we live and work to adapt to our core beliefs. In other words, be willing to change what you do so that you can become the person you are destined to be.  Again, this is not necessarily an easy path to take.

If your life's trajectory is taking you through many stages of personal growth so that you are becoming a different person at 40 than you were at 25, or different person at 55 than you were at 40, then it is very important that your family grow with you, and you with them. If your growth happens too dramatically, too radically, over too short of time, without their input or support, you'll find yourself becoming estranged from them. The lesson is that every transition we go through in our lives is filled with opportunity and challenge. How we meet both determines what comes next. As you change, care for the people who matter most to you. Keep them close, so they understand and can support you as change happens. If they genuinely love you, then you'll make it through the hardships of change.

4. After 15 years, my original purpose and the values that sustain the vision for my work remain the same. The structure of my work has constantly changed.

This is not just a good lesson for personal growth. It is a lesson for businesses and organizations develop. I find the reverse to be often the case, where the social and organizational structures dictate to us what our purpose and values are. Purpose and values are internal strengths. Structure is an external form that provides a context for living out our purpose and values. People whose security is in the external world of things and order, often find themselves frustrated because it is impossible to control their social and organizational contexts. Those who rely on the internal world of their purpose, values and a vision for impact, find these ideas provide them the strength to manage the chaos of change in the external world. As a result, when your personal strength is internal, you can move into a wide variety of contexts and make a difference that matters. You remain the same person regardless of who you are with, and what you are doing. This is what we mean by integrity and authenticity. This is why it so important to know what you purpose is and what you value. They are foundation of sustainability and opportunity in life and work.

5. Opportunities may abound. However, not all opportunities are equal. We usually don't know this until we are half way into the project. Then, we realize that it isn't going to work out or there is something better that we didn't initially see.

While I'm not an advocate for quitting, I have learned that ending something sooner than later is usually better. Know what you want from life and work. Know what you are committed to giving to a particular situation, and don't forget it. Often the reason why these opportunities don't work is that there is not sufficient follow through and effective execution of the plan. In addition, I've learned that what someone says is the opportunity or the problem is probably only part of the story. You'll find it out soon enough, and that is when you'll know whether you should increase your participation or quit.

Life will teach you lessons that you can then turn into growth and benefit for yourself and others. If you let it. Personally, I'm looking to another 15 years of work before I retire. I feel that everything up to this point is just preparing me for the main act which is coming. In other words, if you have a plan for your whole life, make sure that you leave open the possibilities of changing your plan so that at the end of your life your legacy is clear and secure. Your legacy may come in the last half of the last chapter. So, be committed to staying true to your purpose and values through the end of your life.

I look forward to collaborating with many of you in the future. All the best.  Thank you very much.

What We Know

Picture yourself walking out to the edge of what you know and have experienced, and seeing a line. 

Over Graveyard Fields - Sepia

That line is the horizon of your life. It is way out there.

How did that horizon line come to be set there?

Who sets the horizon of our life?

Is there also a horizon for our work, our businesses, our families, even the communities where we live?

Picture yourself standing by that line.

On the other side, we see nothing, just a blank scene, like a bank of fog.

Then, we step over the line, and all of a sudden a new horizon appears, far out in the distance, beyond our reach.

What do you do when you realize that the horizon that you set for yourself is too near?

How do we come to understand what the limits of our lives are?

How do we live and work everyday walking out to that line which marks the horizon of everything we do, and stepping across it?

More than any time in human history, this is how we should be spending our days.

We should not think that because there is so much chaos and crisis in the world that we need to retreat into what we know works. The disruptiveness of change is that what once was certain, stable and predictable is no longer. The known world is becoming smaller, and the horizons of our life and work are moving closer to us.

Think of your life as a timeline filled with people and events.

Now consider the people and events that you knew and experienced in high school. Would you now, at the age of 30, 42, or 55 prefer the relationships you had in high school, and the experiences that you had then. Would you prefer to have never advanced in your life beyond the age of 16?

I've know people who were proud to tell me that they had never read a book after graduating from college. All they know is what they see and hear on television and from the newspaper. Their life has no horizon. No place to go to, just a place to stay.

What We Don't Know

What we know is right here where we stand.

What we don't know is where the horizon of our life and work is.

What we don't know is what our potential is.

What we don't know is what is going to work in the future.

What we don't know is why what worked in the past did work.

What we know is that there is more life to live.

How do you find the horizon?

You walk toward the unknown.

It is a walk, a journey. It isn't a project.  It is an approach to living.

Think of it as if you are living inside of a large balloon that needs air. You push on the wall of the balloon to fill it with air. As you push, the balloon expands, fills with air, and the space inside of the balloon grows.

This is what walking out to your horizon is like.

It is living to expand your perception of who you are and more importantly what you can do. It expands when we learn what is possible that can be transformed into what is probable.

What does it take personally to walk out to your horizon and step over it?

The obvious things are courage, commitment, and resilience. But those really follow after something else.

It is belief.

Not belief in yourself that you can do it. Because you don't know if you can. That is the point. You don't know what your horizon is, or whether you can go out to the farthest reach of your abilities, your emotions or your physical endurance. You just don't know. And not knowing either fills you with fear and dread, or desire and ambition.  If desire and amibition, then you believe that you MUST go out there and find your horizon.

I remember watching the world greatest long distance swimmer Diana Nyad talk with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show about her experience of failing to swim from Cuba to Florida. (A couple years later she would succeed in swimming the longest distance that any man or woman has ever done. In 1979, she swam 102.5 miles from the island of Bimini to Florida.)  She told him that she learned who she was and what she could do by pushing herself to find her limits, and that as a result, she had the self-understanding of a 50 year old.

Later, she said, “I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often-painful process.”

Walking out to the horizon of your life is a journey of self discovery and self-mastery.  Every time we find our horizon and step over, the line moves further out.

A last thought ...

Most of us never find our horizons because we think we must go alone. What I've found is that others desire to know where their horizon line is drawn as well. Find those people and take the journey together. Help each other. Encourage each other. Challenge each other.

The journey out to our horizon is possible because there is usually someone believes that we can. This has been my experience. I venture forth because I know there are people who believe I can. And in return, I do the same. I spend more of my days believing in people's capacity to change, to discover their horizons, and find the path to fulfilled potential. I do because that belief has been given to me.

Share the journey, live a life of discovery, move toward the horizon, and create a life that truly matters as a result.