Projects have lifecycles. I spent several tedious hours last week sorting through two filing cabinets of Foresight project archives. The exercise was a nostalgic reminder of the scope of Foresight’s activities since its founding in 2003, and of how far and in what directions it has evolved. Growth can require letting go and loss.
Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.
The Nature of My Ambition
I don’t covet the office. The expansive lobby on a high floor of a new, downtown high-rise with increasingly rare, unobstructed views of the city is impressive. The relevant contrast with Foresight’s third-floor space isn’t so much physical—our studio would fit in the aforementioned atrium—as economical. I’m not impressed so much by the glamorous office, as how the firm that occupies it generates its profits.
We’re going backward. Growth isn’t always about more. Foresight started its high school summer program for diverse sustainability-minded change makers with a single, two-week course. Over the subsequent four summers, we added additional seminars and recruited more students. While proud of the legacy we forged, my colleagues and I weren't content. Fostering more engaged, nimble, informed, resilient and dynamic leaders is essential to achieving greater social equity, environmental vibrancy and responsible economic prosperity.
Yoga challenges me. I rewrote that sentence 5 times in quick succession, and then several more times later, to make it fit. My self-prescribed boundaries dictate an opening sentence of no more than 6 words. That one started with 12. The right constructive constraints, however imposed, can foster impact, and a modicum of discontent. With historically abundant resources, Americans have lived with fewer limits than most other parts of the world. Just about every sustainability project on which I’ve worked has rubbed up against some manifestation of this pervasively ingrained gluttony.
My frustration resists containment. At peak intensity, it wants to free range, often alienating others. That said, navigating the often deep chasm between what is, and doesn’t want to change, and what could be, requires the sustained, dynamic energy of discontent. Being able to effectively channel a tsunami of intent is what distinguishes the effective change makers from the complainers. I aspire to be more of that former than latter, a pursuit that has yet to fully reach its goal.
Hello, Old Friend
Little had gone according to plan. My morning has been a series of detours as I try to execute a departure out of town. In addition to evolving logistics, I’m having to navigate my impatience: hello frustration, my old friend! I’ve gotten better at acknowledging and accepting, however begrudgingly, what is and isn’t within my influence to change.
I don’t savor working at home. The Deep Freeze this week, however, dictated staying ensconced. Along with others I know, I was able to identify the origin of about every draft in my apartment, and test the limits of our heating system. The Polar Vortex was a home efficiency stress test that many failed.
I Had No Idea
Hutson sleeps, except when he plays. Our 5-month old Boston Terrier is capable of waking and rambling at just about any hour of the day or night. I envy his spontaneity and ability to languidly snooze at a moment's notice. He bit me the other day, his small sharp puppy teeth puncturing the skin in two small places on either side of my finger. It was my fault. He’s recently learned to fetch, but not let go of the object upon its return. I had snatched it away from him. Understandably, he leapt at my hand in play, and caught my finger before I could pull it away. It hurt, but I didn’t blame him.
Success isn’t assured. Innovation carries risk, particularly when it’s focused on issues that are difficult to shift. Inherently curious, I find the process of discovery deeply satisfying. Rarely is the challenge Foresight is charged with addressing, whether by a client or ourselves, the one that fundamentally requires addressing. Our real conundrums are buried.
Considering Human Capital
People are essential. The statement sounds painfully obvious. Yet I’m continually amazed at how often the pivotal role people play in various sustainability-related initiatives is overlooked, particularly in the nonprofit realm. Rarely during an interview for a new undertaking or grant have my colleagues and I been earnestly questioned about our qualifications or perspectives. Generating the idea is often equated with the capability to execute it.
I should be working. Instead, I’m looking out the airplane window as we ascend from the runway, capturing a glimpse of the surrounding land, water and mountains before entering a thick bank of view-obscuring clouds. Last year had several notable experiences, including a few profound and unexpected losses. On the verge of this new year, the aircraft rising just above the top of cloud ceiling, I wonder at my relative equilibrium.
The Art of Obedience
The project has become unruly. Working on complex projects focused on topics like energy, water and agriculture, rarely goes as planned. Remaining focused yet nimble is essential. Developing a powerful idea is just the beginning, not the end of most projects. You still have to sell it. Meanwhile, Hutson, the Foresight-Wonder-Pup, has started training classes, an effort to refine his youthful instincts. His challenge is two-fold: keeping him focused, and practicing whatever skill the trainer has assigned.