When Business Operations Fight Against Nature

Dear HRart Worker,

When you believe you’re separate from nature and have the ability to surpass your limits, it’s like spending your entire career swimming against the current in open water.

You might eventually reach your destination, but at what expense?

How exhausted, hungry, or unhappy will you feel?

Will you arrive at your destination able to fully experience and appreciate what you’ve accomplished?

For many, fighting against the current becomes too challenging and draining. Many give up and never reach their destination.

The ideas I’m sharing here involve releasing your preconceived path to the destination, even letting go of your definition of what the destination entails.

Allowing yourself to flow with the current, being in a state of flow that will ultimately lead you to an outcome beyond what we previously thought possible.

This thought process is what propels individuals toward self-care and healing, but I’m intrigued by what lies ahead when we apply this exact theory to business operations and people management.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

This famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote offers insight into a way of living and being, which I’ve come to understand as the Dao.

The Dao emphasizes harmony and balance, necessitating surrender and trust, ultimately leading to fulfillment and peace.

The following excerpt from the book “Kigo” by Lorie Eve Dechar explores how we can tap into this mystical way:

“For the ancient Daoist physicians and sages who developed many of the most important theories and practices of traditional Chinese medicine, nature is not only the physical matrix of our being but also the doorway through which the mystery of the Dao—the Divine path or Way of the Cosmos—manifests as a reality in our lives. Spirit is not ‘far away in Heaven’ but here, now, and visible in the world around us. It is only through devoted attention to the natural world, through a direct encounter with the wisdom of nature, that we can come anywhere closer to knowing the unknowable Dao and grasping the essence of an embodied spiritual experience.”

Purpose and passion are indeed embodied spiritual experiences in the business world. These are the aspects we desire and expect from employees—that they feel connected to and care about their work, possessing a desire to contribute.

Upon closer examination of how we operate in business in relation to nature, it becomes evident that we’re making demands that oppose an innate rhythm that permeates everything.

While the passage speaks to personal development, I’d like to delve into how nature, specifically its seasonal course throughout the year, serves as an undeniable force that may underlie many of the issues we currently face.

In my opinion, winter is when we experience the most pronounced dissonance. Take a moment to observe nature during the winter season. What do you see?

Nature slows down.

Days get shorter.

Nights become longer.

It gets colder.

What’s often labeled as the “winter blues” is actually nature’s innate rhythm urging us to slow down and embrace the season’s offerings.

Winter invites deep reflection, prompting us to turn inward and assess our journey and the wisdom acquired from past experiences.

It’s a time for profound introspection, where seeds of insight are sown, paving the way for spring’s emergence and growth.

This season emphasizes inner work over outer pursuits, encouraging us to confront our shadows, embrace vulnerability, and release fears.

However, despite the natural call for introspection, we tend to fill the winter season with action.

December is packed with year-end deadlines and Q4, which is typically the busiest time for retailers.

Employees face additional pressures from holiday cultural expectations, leaving little space for genuine reflection.

Then, come January 1, we’re expected to swiftly transition into planning and goal-setting for the new year. Yet, these goals often falter early on, whether they’re personal resolutions or business objectives that lose relevance or struggle to gain buy-in as the year progresses.

What if we honored this season as a time for profound reflection in our businesses? What if it became a period dedicated to addressing inner barriers that hinder our progress?

This season presents a golden opportunity for a Leadership Retreat, one that celebrates individuals and their unique contributions. It’s a chance to create a safe space where vulnerability is welcomed without judgment, allowing us to address what holds us back.

Can we resist the temptation to fill this space with strategic planning or on-the-job training?

Can we trust that deep reflection during this retreat could unearth business possibilities we’ve never imagined?

Could it significantly contribute to fostering a culture of engagement, connection, and well-being?

The resistance you might feel as you read these prompts reflects how deeply ingrained we are in pushing against the current rather than harnessing its momentum.

As we progress through the year, each season offers lessons tailored to that moment, guiding us toward a state of flow.

Let’s embrace the wisdom of the seasons and recognize the value of honoring each phase for its unique lessons and opportunities. By prioritizing deep reflection and creating space for vulnerability, we can tap into new levels of creativity, connection, and growth within ourselves and our organizations. Let’s journey together towards a state of flow, guided by the rhythm of nature and the transformative power of self-awareness.


Samm Smeltzer, DMQ

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