Consulting vs Coaching

Years ago when I was in high school considering college options and thinking about career choices, I knew I wanted to do work that benefited people and the planet. I was good at math, science and art. I was more attracted to being outside than spending time indoors. And, I seemed to enjoy figuring things out on my own. My dad was an engineer. My neighbor told me about civil engineering (engineers solving people’s civilization problems). So for me, it was a decision between architecture and engineering. Within 4 years of graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in engineering (civil/structural), I was a professional engineer working with architects on building design projects. Within a few years, I was an associate and by the time I was 30 years old, a principal (part owner) in a top-ranked structural engineering firm in New York State. I was on a fast-track for sure.

My work gravitated to project management, client relations, and more and more, human resources and staff leadership. I enjoyed being a mentor. I enjoyed exploring personality styles to consider ways to improve office communications. I enjoyed building a sense of team and improving the quality of our services by taking advantage of multiple talents and areas of expertise.

All during these years, from the time I was a sophomore in high school, I taught skiing on weekends. I became full-certified as an instructor while still in college. My spirit has always soared outside, in nature, in the mountains, in the trees… skiing, riding, hiking, biking, camping…

After more than a dozen very successful years doing engineering work, I decided to take a year away. I felt the desire to take a time-out. I had never really taken an extended vacation before. Things in my personal life were in a bit of an upheaval as I went through a divorce, and I just knew inside that there was something more that I was destined to do.

During these years of renewed career decision-making, I rode my bicycle around the south island of New Zealand; I competed in triathlons and bicycle endurance events; I took a month-long NOLS course in the Washington Cascade Mountains; I led mountain bike tours. I was offered full-time employment in a ski school as a manager. I met Jo and Alex and Natalie. I moved to Vermont.

Since that time, my life has been in a continuous state of change and exploration, exploring consulting engineering work and outdoor education work, being a step-father, and learning more and more about myself as I was thrust back towards my original childhood vision… helping people.

My consulting work in Vermont is a little bit more hands-on and directed more towards earth-friendly pursuits- timber framing, sustainable design, community revitalization projects, home design. In Southern Vermont, however, people don’t often value the services of structural / architectural engineers; the people of Vermont are little bit more hands-on and self-empowered to do their own design and construction work.

My coaching work seemed to build more and more upon my strengths-based perspective learned first during my engineering work, later magnified when leading a snow sports program founded on strengths-based principles, then ultimately coming to fruition while coaching adaptive sports later on.

I’ve learned also that if we want to ultimately live in a more sustainable and earth-friendly way as a society, it is going to start with an aware and motivated society. It seems to me that I may be of more value to society (and the earth) helping coach people to be more aware and motivated to take care of themselves (which in turn necessitates taking care of others and the world they live in) than waiting for the aware and motivated client to look my way for sustainable design services.

So, more and more, I try to limit the consulting time I spend on design projects that are not complimenting my idea of a healthier society, and more and more time coaching people towards a healthier state-of-being. For me, it’s similar work in that I try to “connect the dots” (figure out solutions to client goals), whether for people-coaching-type work or for building-consulting-type work. For me, it’s also interesting to reflect back on the choices I made, and the paths I followed, and how they all tend to fit together. Original childhood dreams and talents… discovered strengths and abilities learned through many career paths and personal explorations… tough times and more joyful times… logical choices and intuitive choices… all have unfolded in mysterious and magical ways. There has been something learned, something valuable, from each step of my life.

The NOLS educational experience was a game-changer for me; people having heartfelt, team-building experiences in nature, then going back to their own real worlds inspired to make positive nature-sensitive and people-helping-people changes in their local communities. It seemed like a good model to me! I feel like since that time, I’ve been pulled towards creating similar-type educational experiences for people.

Maybe my consulting will be more and more about coaching. Hmmm.

Time for another time-out? After all, the learning is in the reflecting…

One Perspective. One Poem. 2014-10-18

I wrote this while spending a week of Yin Yoga, poetry, and music with Biff Mithoefer and Prema Mayi. It comes from a place of personal vision that, with mindful perspective and feelings of loving-kindness and connectedness, I am my natural me. It also comes from a place of tribute to my father, and all of the spirit-guides that help me find my way.

Soaring up high, I see my way;

Caring for others, living each day;

Walking my path with all things as One:

I share my heart freely, for I am your son.


Bodybuilding and Yoga

I started lifting weights in my adult life primarily as a means, I told myself and others, to maintain an athletic lifestyle late into life… to be able to ski and ride well for as long as possible.

Inside, however, I think I knew it just made me feel good… it was easier to maintain positive energy, I became more active, I became more aware of my whole body (the union of body-mind-spirit), and I liked how I looked.

So, here was my dilemma: I believe my natural self to be relatively ego-less… or perhaps said differently, more comfortable in a non-attention-getting environment; I thrive when I feel like I’m helping things function better or people live happier in a behind-the-scenes way. My perception of the term “bodybuilding” seemed to be in conflict with my natural tendencies to not draw attention to myself. After all, weren’t bodybuilders just bringing attention from others to themselves? Wasn’t I just bringing attention to myself?

But as my strength training regimen continued, and my interest in understanding my whole body grew, I realized more and more that I was building my whole body. As my body adapted to how I trained and practiced living, my mind adapted, my emotions adapted, and my sense of self adapted. I knew my (whole) body better.

And as I knew my body better, I listened to my body better. I came to realize both from my expanding yoga practice and my expanding bodybuilding lifestyle, that my body, my whole body, knows innately how to be healthy and happy. I just have to listen and understand it.

I now know that modern Hatha yoga asana and bodybuilding grew together in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the rise of an international “physical culture” and a growing interest in fitness and body-mind-soul health. (1) Many of these Western-influenced, posture-focused yogis were indeed also bodybuilders and gymnasts.


Push-Up or Chaturunga-Dandasana?

Come to think of it, when I lift (bodybuilding) I am present-moment focused, I am aware of my breath, and I am moving with my breath. That’s yoga, eh? When I practice yoga asana, I am flexing and extending my joints, I am working on body strength (stability) and flexibility (mobility), and I am focused on being my naturally awesome self… accepting how I am, yet putting in the dedicated daily work required to bring out my best. That’s bodybuilding, yes?

I also wonder now if bodybuilding, when viewed from the perspective of whole-body building, is a way for us to view a sustainable world. It seems to me that when I pay attention to my whole body, I eat more naturally and am healthier, I care more about the survival and happiness of our interconnected communities, and I maintain a long-term perspective of my life and our world. I am more resilient. I live, I learn, and I adapt. I value everything more, because I know what my body desires… and it desires whole health (for survival)… and it desires interdependent, supportive relationships with all (also for survival).

Through whole-body building and yoga-practicing, I know my bodyAnd now I know that my body knows the way to be healthy and happy.

And yes, my body knows that being outside with others… skiing and riding, hiking and biking… connected… is where it feels alive!

(1) Singleton, Mark: Yoga Body – The Origins of Modern Posture Practice; Oxford University Press (2010).


One Perspective: Daily Intentions + Long-Term Vision

Health and happiness can be found living in the present moment.

Yet, we often find our minds wandering into the future or stuck in the past.

I am a very big-picture person; I have an innate desire to understand, Why? That is, how does what-I-do-today relate to who-I-am and my understanding of myself and my life, or how do my daily actions relate to my life’s goals?

For me, once I understand my long-term vision of my life, it becomes easier for me to find ways each day to manifest that vision.

It all starts with a continued practice of understanding who I am, much of which is just learned by living life each day, taking the next step, and paying attention… being open to change and different perspectives.

It is reinforced by a mindful intention to be aware, to accept what is happening around me, and to adapt with ease and mindful intention to learn and proceed accordingly.

It is heightened by my realization that I can’t control the future and that becoming attached to an outcome might only cause suffering.

It is solidified in the inner-knowing that I am a child of the Universe, alone on the one hand doing the best I can, but intimately connected to, and supported by, everyone and everything around me.

All I can do each day is to act in alignment with my long-term vision of who I am… and intentionally bring my presence back to that mindful intention whenever my life’s experience takes me on a different path.

“Take a mindful step forward each day in an intentional direction, letting go of the last step, and having faith in the next step. Walk today towards your dreams of tomorrow… realizing everything could change tomorrow when you will step again. Act out your intentions today, and your dreams for tomorrow will live today.”

If you want to be good, walk with goodness. If you want to be at peace, walk with a peaceful presence. If you want to feel love, walk with loving-kindness in your heart. If you want to feel inner power, walk with a sense of inner knowing.

Walk your walk. Today.

Bobopelli in VC City 2014

One Perspective: 2014-10-03

Wolf Eyes... Wise Eyes...

Know Your Body… Your Body Knows

If we are each comprised of the same celestial matter,

Then we are each inextricably connected;

If we are each comprised of genetic systems, imprinted with what we experience and what we are fed,

Then we have the ability to adapt and reprogram ourselves;

If we accept our true nature and are deeply aware, living in own bodies,

Then we have the internal power to change and affect all bodies;

If we desire peace,

Then we can have it, by feeling at peace and sharing feelings of peace.