A childhood hero goes business
Stories and legends of Native Americans have intrigued most of us from a very young age. Squanto and the Pilgrims, the tales of Chingachgook and Hawkeye, Hiawatha and the Great Peacemaker, Sitting Bull. They were heroes, strong and courageous, defying danger and fighting the good fight – even giving their lives if necessary. Today we see the Indian chief as an embodiment of wisdom, experience, calm, clarity, pride and courage. A chief is a leader who guides his tribe safely on life’s journey. A man who has his people’s trust, no matter what. A man with natural authority and vision, who knows each and every member of his tribe with all their strengths and weaknesses. A man who possesses the very qualities we would like to see in our corporate business leaders. Native American culture is alive and growing in the US, and the traditions of the North American tribal nations are still a vital part of that culture. Native Americans today place the teachings of their elders into a new, modern context, drawing from them the strength and inspiration needed to face the challenges of life in the 21st century. I would like to open up that source of strength and inspiration to the readers of this book. I would like to build a bridge between Old and New, translate things into a contemporary context. I honor Native American wisdom and traditions. I am grateful that these traditions enrich our world to this day. And I know that not everybody in their native country sees it that way. I am sharing these things with you here in deepest gratitude and in the knowledge that the subject is much broader and deeper than I will be able to express in these pages. This book is a beginning. The beginning of a journey that I started by buying a teepee. Seven years ago, I fulfilled a childhood dream and bought an authentic teepee. The full-size tent became an important haven for me, a place where I was able to leave my hectic job as an IT consultant and coach behind to reflect and recharge. At that time, I began to learn all I could about Native Americans. I read countless books and travelled to their homelands in the US. Later, I participated in workshops in Europe and the US. I had the chance to learn from wonderful people, and I am still going on regular vision quests in the wilderness to get back in touch with myself and stay connected to the old teachings. I was fortunate enough to meet native medicine men and women, although I was never formally trained in their traditions. My greatest teacher is and has always been nature. The things I read and learned in the workshops did not really sink in until I spent time alone in wild places, untouched by man. More and more I felt that it was necessary to transfer the things I was learning to the modern business world. Today we need nothing more than naturalness. Native American teachings and IT? At first glance, these two things seem about as compatible as fire and water. And that was my problem in the last few years. How was I supposed to bring these two worlds together, both of which held so much fascination for me, yet were so fundamentally different? In many ways, writing this book was an act of courage. Just like my last vision quest in the summer of 2012, where I was confronted with the wind, cold, rain, dust and rattlesnakes of the Californian Inyo Mountains. Working on this book meant questioning my own business life and that of the people around me with whom I am dealing every day. And it also took courage to bring my truth into the world. That I needed to do it anyway was confirmed for me in a chance meeting on a hike at Point Reyes in California on New Year’s Even 2012. I still had a long way ahead of me and bought a map. I got talking to a Ranger, who told me that this was her last day on the job after twelve years. I asked her what she had learned, what her key take-away was after twelve years of service preserving nature. “Integration,” was her answer. “It’s not enough,” she said, “to lead people into nature. We need to integrate the rules of nature into our everyday life in order to create real change in the world.” Suddenly, I understood that her words were the essence of this book. That all my travels over the years, all my searching and finding had been leading me to this point – integrating the knowledge of the connectedness of nature, its rhythms and growth cycles as well as its protective mechanisms and power of survival into our lives. Not just into our personal life, but very strongly into our professional life that, for many people, has turned into a hamster wheel they can only escape through illness or inner resignation. What would an Indian chief of old have to say to us today? How would he behave in our business world? Where would his ways get him in trouble, which positive things would he bring to the table, what would he change? How do we recognize through the image of the Indian chief what our true objectives are, why we are here and how we can best serve? Based on these thoughts I wrote this book for you. Clearly, the Indian chief in these pages is an image, a composite character expressing the wisdom of nature and certain Native American traditions. He is certainly not a straight depiction of modern Native American life or Native business leaders – he is the Chief. My fervent hope is that the chief you are going to meet in the following pages will encourage you to think about some things and inspire you to be more mindful with yourself, your surroundings and nature. In business and in your personal life – ultimately, they are the same.