A Little Quiet Delivers Big Impact


To celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary my husband and I embarked on a couple’s wilderness quest through the organization Rites of Passage. While immersed in the wilderness of Northern California our guides, Mike and Renee, led us through a transformative experience in the both the internal and external sense. During our travel westward, and on numerous occasions at our final destination, I noticed my childlike wonder piqued and reminded of how pared down the essential moments of life are; pared down as in the simplest of experiences have the capacity to produce the greatest impact. I noticed this as I traced the shadow of our plane over the Rockies; as we traversed into the woods swallowed whole by the sights of giant Redwoods, and when I was gently held in moments of deafening quiet. These are all simple yet potent experiences yielding tremendous impact. 

Right now in society, being big is bigFill up the space. Go big or go home. It’s as if knowing how to pause is something we have completely forgotten. This reminds me of a coaching technique. It involves being quiet and resisting the temptation of filling up the pregnant pauses in the conversation. In my experience, it’s remarkable what unfolds when there is just the right amount of distance between the last word spoken and the next one said. The potency of silence produces an undeniable tension and has the capacity to release big impact. In these moments there is just enough space for insight and genius to occur.

With our recent trip I am also contemplating the value of how the giant Redwoods have clarity dialed in – yes, those colossal trees are big expressions of nature and they do it with undeniable precision and focus. A giant Redwood tree knows exactly who it is and it does it with clarity. My intent is not to make Redwoods anthropomorphic but to illustrate the clarity of nature. What a great metaphor for living – know who you are, why you’re here, and live from this place every day. This stance has simplistic elegance because when I know why I’m on the planet decision making gets crazy simple. I know exactly what to say yes and no to. It’s the difference between scattered efforts and laser precision. What an interesting paradox – big isn’t necessary better – it’s living from a place of clarity and focus that adds to the situation. I think the Redwoods would agree.

From a meta point-of-view, we have crossed the threshold of a new paradigm where humanities’ desire for collecting experiences is overshadowing the collection of things. I love this piece written by Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes Magazine. It’s titled The Age of Meaning. To paraphrase, Karlgaard is reflecting upon society’s transition from the collection of material things to acquiring a taste for meaning, purpose, and experiences concluding business’ will need to figure out this mystery in order to connect with their customers in a new way. 

He says:

“So what's left? Meaning. Purpose. Deep life experience. Use whatever word or phrase you like, but know that consumer desire for these qualities is on the rise. Remember your Abraham Maslow and your Viktor Frankl. Bet your business on it.”

Karlgaard is spot on and with thirteen years of hindsight since this article was written it begs a few follow up questions: are organizations prepared to lead from a place of meaning and purpose? How will we manifest the new coin of experience into workplace culture? What present challenges are organizations experiencing which could be viewed as the impetus for a new way forward?  

I believe part of the answer is asking these questions of ourselves: what level of clarity do I live from? What time have I given to discovering my why? How does my why interface with the why of my organization?  

Clearly, big questions. 

The prescription?

A dose of quiet.