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Here we are. And there is where we want to be. There’s a third player in this drama, of course: the obstacles—or at least gaps— that stand between here and there. Theories abound about what to do:

  • Meticulously plan how to get there from here, mapping each step of the way and taking every contingency into account.
  • Back-cast by imagining yourself standing in  the successful future and then reverse engineer the trajectory—from there to here, instead of from here to there. (A very useful strategy—thank you Bucky Fuller, Bill Perk and Karl-Henrik-Robert—when “there” seems impossible.)
  • Remove, go around or crush the obstacle. As though the problem was external.

In the realm of physical systems, of course, there are external obstacles—the fallen tree blocking the highway—that do need to be physically removed. But if one thing is clear to me from more than 20 years of helping companies build sustainability into their businesses, it’s that the physical, engineering, designing/making/moving stuff aspect of sustainability is the easy part. The real challenge is people. You and me. It’s getting—or, more accurately, enabling—human beings to show up differently, to think, feel and act differently. And to do it consistently, effectively creatively, generatively.

Again, theories abound:

  • Build on strengths, because that offers the greatest possibility of improvment.
  • Overcome weaknesses, since that will provide the biggest gain for a given effort.
  • Remove the internal obstacles to change, since there are, it seems, these things that hold us back, even when we most want to change.

I’m lately exploring a very different but extraordinarily powerful approach—what Eckhart Tolle calls the power of now, or what executive coaches Bryan Franklin and Jennifer Russell call “accepting the present state.” What happens when you fully accept who you are and how you are now, when you accept that the history and experiences that brought you to where you are now—however painful, disappointing, wish-it-were-otherwise they may be—are both what is so, as well as fully constitutive of who you are now, of the self and capacities you appreciate as well as those you would change? What happens when you take a deep breath, release the familiar story, accept yourself—and your organization, and your colleagues—just as you are, and move freely and powerfully from there?

(A company is not a person, of course, nor is it a collection of people; as Gregory Bateson observed, it’s a collection of parts of people. So this model, like any other, must be applied with care. To be continued…)

I was deeply honored last month when I was inducted as inaugural member of the Sustainability Hall of Fame by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals — both for the honor itself, and for the company I shared. Here’s what I said (as best as I can remember) as I accepted the award from Marsha Willard:

All of us stand on the shoulders of others, so it’s an exceptional honor for me to be recognized together with those on whose shoulders I’ve stood. The other inductees have been my teachers and my heroes, and I’m humbled and moved to share this award with them.
I’ve known Amory Lovins for more than 30 years — and learned from his physicist’s way of thinking, his rigor, and his bold reinventing of how we think about energy.
Karl-Henrik Robert and I have known each other only about 15 years, and I have been grateful each of those years for the unstoppable elegance of the Natural Step framework — still the most dependable tool in my toolkit.
Bob Willard, maybe only ten years, but speaking of toolkits, Bob has, probably more than anyone, been delivering the tools for making the sustainability business case.
And of course Ray Anderson, who we lost just a few weeks ago, who took all the things so many of us talk about and put them to work at the heart of a multi-billion dollar corporation — with humility, grace and effectiveness. A prince.
There are many other sets of shoulders to mention, but I’ll name just one. I began this work in 1972, when I spent a month at the World Game Workshop with Buckminster Fuller and his organization. In a month long design charrette for the planet, I learned — I demonstrated for myself, in big picture, whole systems design, and in nitty gritty, down in the weeds analysis — that there’s no necessary barrier to human success on this planet, only our will. I signed on, back then, to contribute whatever I could to (in Bucky’s words), “a world that works for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological defense, or the disadvantage of anyone.” That’s been my guide ever since.
And here we are today, working to transform the economy of an entire planet. This planet. In one generation. I’m honored to be in this work, and honored to be in it with you.

As you may know, 500 of our peers just named me a finalist for the Pinnacle Award of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), for contributions to the field of sustainability. The other nominees are Ray Anderson, Amory Lovins, Karl-Henrik Robert and Bob Willard, so as you can imagine I am deeply honored to be in the company of heros.
Would you help me deepen the meaning and impact of this award? I’m looking for five people to work with me in a personal coaching relationship, so I can bring my experience to them — to help them take their sustainability work, their effectiveness and their impact to the next level.
Is this something that could benefit you, or someone you work with? If so, please call or email me today so we can discuss whether you’re an appropriate candidate for this program. I’ll ask you about your goals, concerns. commitments and challenges; I’ll describe how the program works; and I’ll make clear my commitments to you. (In a nutshell: to be more committed to your commitments than you are!)
I suggest you call today, since I’m limiting this program to five people. (Be sure to ask me about the special discount available for people who sign on by Friday May 27.)