What Wants to Happen?

The idea was, we would fly up Monday and on Tuesday early, after a client call, we would leave Calgary and drive up to Banff for a hike before David Irvine’s Authentic Leadership Academy. It was important to be there, we felt, for two reasons. One, we wanted to learn as much as we could from how David ran the workshop so we could apply the best practices to our own upcoming leadership retreat at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

The second reason was that we were in an important ‘watershed moment’ in Reservoir, and we knew that stepping out of the routine for a week would stimulate personal growth. A high-altitude hike would let us get ‘above the battleground’ and see the big picture of the work we are doing. It was going to be great. This was our week.

In Being Essential: Seven Questions for Living and Leading with Radical Self-Awareness, one of my favorite chapters is titled “What Wants to Happen?” The idea is that we as humans have many things we would like to have and to see, many things we want to make happen. But does the world around us support them? And what do we do if things don’t want to go the way we want them to go?

Do we fight against reality, rage against the machine, try to enforce alternative agendas? Or do we give up and watch our dreams fade away? Do we fight or do we slink away defeated? It’s a question as old as human time.

We never got to Calgary. Our plane was delayed, and we missed our connecting flight in Dallas. A talk with an agent revealed the astonishing information that, from where we stood, there were two available options. The first was a late flight to San Francisco, waiting in the airport for five pre-dawn hours and then flying to our destination. The second option was to wait three days in Dallas for the next seats to Alberta. Neither option seemed to make sense, so we declined both and decided to have dinner while we decided what to do next.

Eckhart Tolle calls it “The Gateway of Acceptance,” the ability to read the flow of the river and go with it instead of fighting against it. Unless we can accept what happens, both externally and internally, we are victims of circumstance. We could have tried to fight the circumstance. We could have tried to paddle furiously upstream. But we chose a different operating plan.

We chose “The Gateway of Appreciation.”

“I’ve never been to Dallas before,” my traveling companion Inna Ulanova said. Inna is our head of strategy at Reservoir. Her title is Chief Play Officer. “I’ve always wanted to see it.”

“OK,” I replied. “And we designed this week as a way to get perspective on our work and a long-term vision on our journey. We don’t need to go to Canada to do that.”

The next morning at dawn we met in the hotel lobby and got a ride to the car rental center. The people we interacted with were filled with sweetness and positive energy. I drove Inna on a tour of Dallas, where Jean and I had lived for many years. In the light of the soft May morning, the streets of Old East Dallas were magical. On Victor Street, pulled up in front of my old house, the street shaded with oaks and the from porches of the 100-year-old houses all aligned perfectly so that, if you sat on your porch, you could see all the way up and down the block, a tunnel of places for friends to gather. 

As we drove back to Austin, we planned our week. We had the workbook from David’s workshop. We would follow the topics in order and work through them in the days ahead.

The first day focused on Presence. We arranged to meet at Enchanted Rock, a spectacular granite dome that rises out of the hills a couple of hours west of Austin. It had been a holy place to indigenous people and continued to be to anyone with the heart to feel it today.

We took our dogs and hiked the Loop Trail around the base of the Rock, following the trail across creeks and through glorious celebrations of wildflowers everywhere. After a few hours, we returned to the base and sat at a table in the shade with cool drinks for us and the dogs.

“Where are we?” Inna asked.

It wasn’t a geographical question; it was an ontological inquiry. Where were we in our internal and external experience of this moment?

I told her about my drive over. I decided to take roads I didn’t travel much and had seen a route I had never taken. I started out nicely and I was enjoying the drive. But then the nav system didn’t agree with my route and I decided not to fight it. I let it take me down to the main highway, where I promptly got caught behind a caravan of house sections that took up both lanes of the westbound highway. Thwarted! But what could I do except slow down and flow with the traffic?

And then, when I picked up the trail again and got on the country road that had been the second half of the planned route, it turned out to be one of the most spectacular drives I’d ever taken, with wildflowers exploding with color as far as the eye could see. It was a moment of grace, what Meister Eckhart called Istigkeit, by which he meant Isness, the art of ‘being there.’ And we were there because we had accepted and appreciated what wanted to happen and felt the joy of it.

“The thing is,” I said, “this is where we were supposed to be. This is our ‘medicine moment’ and we can take the power of this experience and use it to shape, as SG Goodman would say, ‘our space and time.’ And shape our hearts.”

“What I feel,” Inna said, “is presence. And the joy of it, the joy of being present to the moment in which we live and work and share what we do with others. I’m so grateful for where I am and the work I get to do.”

Acceptance and appreciation. It’s not about surrendering to what happens to you, like it or not. It’s about entering a state of being that is in harmony with what wants to happen. There lies joy in being alive. And, ironically, more doors that want to open.

We’ll return to our work energized and with clarity. And we’ll go to Calgary in the fall for David’s next workshop. If that’s what wants to happen.

Let’s build something awesome together.

You have a vision.
We have a way to get you there.