65 Years Ago

65 years ago today my parents were married in Rockport, Massachusetts.

51 weeks ago today my father passed away near is home in Burnt Hills, NY.

They had beautiful times together. I am blessed to be their child.

Memories help form the foundation of my identity and remind me who I am. Who I am is what I do for others today. They both taught me that this is my way… not by their words… but by the example of their way.

A community member wrote this about my dad after his passing:

“History is the story of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.” My dad was “the best extraordinary example” he knew. “His passion, energy, and willingness to do what was good for children created a leadership style that was positive and infectious, causing people to be willing to follow his lead.”

As my father’s son, I am reminded of what I said at his service:

“I am Bob Speck Jr, son of Bob Speck Sr. I come from the green hills of New England, the blue shores of the Atlantic, the golden fields of New York, and have found my spirit in the white peaks of the Wasatch. I serve my villages, and plant seeds of learning and joy, with wisdom and integrity, with humility and humor. I spend my days in this world of dreams; my father walks in the land of strawberries. And it is all SO BEAUTIFUL.”

I spent the day yesterday with my mom. It was beautiful. We had strawberries for lunch.

Today, I spend my day with both of my parents. And it is beautiful.

Tetons- Maggie's Pictures 143


Structural Engineering

“Structural Engineering is the Art of molding materials we do not wholly understand into shapes we cannot precisely analyze, so as to withstand forces we cannot really assess, in such a way that the community at large has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.”

The origin of the quote is not known, though it is often attributed to Dr. A.R. Dykes (1976… the year I graduated from high school) and thought to have been popularized in the U.S. by James E. Amrhein.

Structural engineering is one of the things I am trained to do, and one of the things I do in my professional life. Many people ask me what I do in my work… imagining that it is a profession involving many hours analyzing mathematical output and staring at computer-generated structural models.

Engen CT

I must say, there are many paths to follow in a structural engineering career, and some of them do indeed involve many hours analyzing computer-generated mathematical models. Many years ago, I chose a different career path… or you might say, many different career paths!

Looking back, I believe I understand a few things more about myself and the world I live in as a result of these multiple career pursuits and experiences. I have a different perspective on what I do as a structural (and architectural) engineer. I like that the definition above starts with “… the Art…”.

Engineering is problem-solving. Civil (structural) engineering is solving people’s problems for the benefit and safety of the general public. For me, it’s connecting the dots: take the information I know (or what is available), look at the goals (or what is possible), and use my judgment to create solutions. Judgement includes knowledge, intuition, integrity, foresight, confidence, and the ability to draw upon many sources of information. Creating solutions includes creativity, artistic mindset, logical thinking, decision making, and the ability to work with others to communicate solutions in a manner that are clear and synergistic. Basically, I see structure and clarity within the multitudes of information and options… and try to form an educated opinion or recommend a possible solution accordingly.

Personally, I succeed when I am in a position to understand my clients, help them determine their goals, and work with them to create clear, understandable, achievable, and sustainable processes (or solutions) to satisfy their goals. I thrive when these goals relate to a vision for a better world and when I am engaged in the creative solution-finding process. (Sounds a lot like my other work in coaching, training, outdoor education and adventure, and therapeutic yoga and wellness mentoring.)

In my work as a structural engineer in Vermont, a typical week includes: working with builders and architects to figure out ways to re-frame or reinforce old building structures for new uses (then performing calculations or doing research, recommending- and then drawing- solutions); reviewing construction work in progress to analyze challenges and determine economical, durable, and safe solutions; working with architects and designers to recommend efficient building systems (structurally, sustainability, economically, aesthetically, functionally, adaptability, etc.); working with timber framers and owners to design people’s homes and to integrate framing; working with in-house architects on downtown and community revitalization projects; performing and writing structural assessments; designing new structures for new buildings; and coordinating payment for my services.

Most of my time is building working relationships with people. Most of my work requires a keen sense of responsibility and deep knowledge of mathematics, materials behavior and engineering mechanics. Most of my success depends on timely, reliable, and innovative solutions that make sense. Most of my reputation depends on my integrity and my ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and with a sense of respect for everyone (and everything) involved. Most of my motivation is driven by a desire for a healthier planet.

My experiences teaching snow sports have broadened my interpersonal communication skills. My experiences leading backcountry trips have broadened my teamwork skills. My experiences competing in endurance races have broadened my abilities to persevere. My adventure experiences (bicycle touring, tandem hang-gliding and para-sailing, mountaineering and canyoneering, skiing and snowboarding, snorkeling and scuba-diving, third-world travel) have broadened my perspective. My experiences facilitating therapeutic recreational workshops have broadened my abilities to understand people of various abilities and backgrounds. My experiences as a business manager and program director have broadened my sense of self and leadership. My experiences as a yoga teacher and wellness coach have helped me understand holistic health and the importance of positiveness, supportive human relationships, and community. My experiences participating in research work and continuing education workshops have broadened my desire to learn more. My experiences working with combat veterans have broadened my understanding of trust, brotherhood, common good, and dedicated service. My experiences in nature have broadened my sense of awe, spirituality, and my connection between whatever choices I make each day, professional and personal, and the health of our planet.

With Jo near Escalante

I am defined by who I am, and how I do what I do… and the decisions I make. And how I persevere through the challenges of living. And how I help and support others. As an engineer. As a coach. As a mentor. As a person engaged in whatever career role I’ve chosen .

Structural Engineering is the Art… of molding materials we do not wholly understand… into shapes we cannot precisely analyze…

By the way, I first read the quote above in the early 1990’s, when a young engineer who I had been mentoring gave me- as a gift- a photo he had taken of the Manhattan skyline taken from the Brooklyn Bridge. It had the quote inscribed on the photo. At the center of the photo were the World Trade Center’s (and structural engineer Leslie Robertson’s) Twin Towers.

…so as to withstand forces we cannot really assess….

It seems that my life is inspired by understanding these forces... by weaving lifetime experiences together… by working with people to find synergistic solutions… by being inquisitive, creative and idealistic… and by being positively inspiring… for a healthier and more sustainable world.

…in such a way that the community at large has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.

Long ago, I let go of the idea that there is one right answer. Computer models are only tools for engineers working on projects for real people. There are many answers. Life is hard. We only know what we have learned (and what we KNOW already). And life goes on. With each answer comes a new question. For me, living a full life (as a structural engineer or as a wellness coach or as a spiritual leader) is about asking questions… and learning from as many experiences as possible!



Once you’ve seen the face of god,

You see that same face on everyone you meet.

I wrote yesterday about having feelings of authentic acceptance of others and their individual uniqueness as a foundation of building relationships. Upon reflection, I wonder if having compassion for others is what I meant by feeling authentic acceptance of others. I’ve reminded myself that it is one of my core beliefs that living in a better world starts with an appreciation of the connectedness or oneness of all things, it builds with feelings of compassion for all things, and it is renewed through awareness, mindful practice, and being in nature. Self-cultivation is a continuing upward journey that begins with a decision to embark on the journey. By reflecting on these topics, I self-cultivate! I look for clarity through reflection and meditation… in nature. So today, a new day to begin again, I’ve included a three insightful morning meditations (one listed above) from Deng Ming-Dao’s “365 Tao – Daily Meditations”.


This is the moment of embarking.

All auspicious signs are in place.

To connect strongly with our inner selves, we must first decide to commit to daily self-cultivation. In order to start, we must first decide.

Once we decide, all things come to us. Auspicious signs are not a superstition, but a confirmation. They are a response. Even the mountains and valleys will reverberate to the sound of our purpose.


City on a hill,

Untouched land beyond.

A fallow field is

The secret of fertility.

In nature, we find the nurturing quality of freedom… new possibilities without social impositions. We need time to fallow. None of us can maintain the fertility of our beings without renewal. Our survival depends on the preservation of the wilds.


The ABC’s of Building Relationships

For me, writing helps me reflect on what’s going on NOW in my life. It also helps me reflect on what I’ve learned RECENTLY in my life. The reflection helps me be a part of the change that is happening; it helps me re-connect with my authentic inner-self and my inter-connectedness with all that is going on around me; and (in this blog) it helps me document my “Learning from Living…Living by Learning” vision.

I’ve been writing in this blog for about 2 years now. Looking back and reading many of the posts, I am reminded of the change, the learning, and the desire to live my “vision” in whatever I do. I am reminded of my path… and my way of being.


A year ago, I was working to bring my values-based vision for success to the place I worked. I tried to create a systematic approach to implementing a new vision for a “mountain sports” school at a large ski resort here in Vermont. As I look back on my notes, and as I look back on my blog articles, I am reminded again of a set of personal values that seem to be consistent…

For kicks, here is an outline of the “systematic approach” I started to work on last year. I think the ABC’s listed at the bottom of the outline may provide a good foundation for any relationship-building process. What do you think?

Lately, I have been focusing on acceptance. I find that a person’s tendency to compare their own personal experience (and perspective) when listening to another person often forms the basis of judgment, a roadblock to authentic acceptance of the other person’s uniqueness and a potential barrier for heartfelt, trusting and empowering relationships. Do supportive relationships and communities start with feelings of authentic acceptance of others (in addition to ourselves)?

As I look to enhance my coaching and teaching careers and enhance the relationships I build with others, I remind myself that practicing these ABC’s are a good place to start. Accepting each person for who they are, with their own special uniqueness and talents, and having an understanding of their perspective, personal experience and vision, forms the basis any supportive relationship… especially if it’s as a coach, teacher, or mentor. Yes?


The New Way: A Systematic Program Approach to Creating Enriching Educational Experiences

(March 2013 notes: Goal- To create a vision for a program identity, to create program consistency; to provide a basis for program training, success, and measurable improvement.)


People come to our resort to find health and happiness in a Vermont mountain setting;

Reducing the stresses of day-to-day living, and finding peace in the moment, is fundamental to health and happiness;

Having an attitude of learning, being open to trying new experiences (change happens), is fundamental to health and happiness;

Being in nature enhances feelings of health, happiness, and present-moment awareness;

Learning happens naturally when people feel safe, have fun, and are motivated to try new experiences;

Active experiential learning in non-judgmental setting facilitates present-moment awareness.

Key Components of Outdoor Educational Experiences:

Adventure-based: Create sense of excitement and fun, promoting mountain sports environment;

Strengths-based: Focus on positive attributes of individuals and group dynamics promoting positive learning environment;

Skills-based: Reflect on learning of specific skills that are relevant, practical, and transferable to everyday lives;

Stress-reducing: Create awareness of, and teach, mindfulness-based, stress-reducing skills and practices;

Relationship-building: Facilitate supportive atmosphere; develop sense of community & connections between people;

Experiential: Continuous learning cycles of brief (foreshadow); experience (do activity); debrief (reflection). Learning is facilitated and guided, not judged, and is based on group goals, relevancy, and activity outcomes;

Outdoors in Nature: Take advantage of natural beauty and Vermont mountain setting;

Holistic: Recognize connections of total body and mind and integrate programs accordingly;

Life-changing: Strive for health and happiness experiences that change perspectives, build knowledge and abilities, develop sense of purpose and achievement, and encourage on-going learning, transferable skills, and loyal guests.

Relationship-Building Process:

A-           Acceptance: Have friendly attitude of authentic acceptance- all are welcome without judgment or comparison!

B-           Belonging: Make guests feel like they belong there- get to know them; make them feel safe and welcome;

C-           Community: Facilitate guests getting to know one another, building a trusting and supportive atmosphere;

D-           Dignity: Create community of mutual respect and understanding, inter-dependence and accountability, and recognize with praise (and a sense of gratitude) the strengths and contributions of each individual;

E-            Empowerment: Empower guests to improve their lives (health and happiness), to learn, to achieve, to just be!