The Force Of Nature

Feb 14 2022

Credit: Mandy Choi - Unsplash

Credit: Mandy Choi - Unsplash

A year ago today, my team and I (very intentionally) launched my first book, Leadering: The Ways Visionary Leaders Play Bigger, as a valentine to the future. This year I offer a valentine to the very present, ever-resilient you! 🧡

February 14th, 2021 was also the day a record breaking winter storm hit Texas, knocking out our power grid and plunging many of us into a very scary week. Even more frightening was learning that cascading events meant we were only minutes away from a months-long energy collapse. In the US. In the state synonymous with energy independence. Unfathomable.

Having already lived through a year of pandemic shocks, this one hit us hard and created such a deep sense of vulnerability. While increasing weather volatility was something we had been warning about, it became harshly clear that the systems we had come to rely on to keep us safe and protected were much more fragile than we knew. All those who have lived through extreme floods, storms and fires feel it too. “The force of nature” has grabbed our attention… and hopefully earned our respect. The exciting news is that by changing the way we think (and lead), this force can work for us or against us. Which do you choose?

¡Pura Vida! (Pure Life)
I’m writing this on a flight back from my first visit to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, where the rainforest meets the sea. Led by an eco-entrepreneur/documentarian and accompanied by two well-known filmmakers and a prominent urban architect focused on regenerative systems, I spent a full week exploring, learning and witnessing the extraordinary resilience of nature and a population committed to protecting it.

Leadering is a call to fundamentally change the way we think – to move away from extractive, industrial mindsets and practices, to those that allow us to thrive in dynamic conditions and to direct technology advances to structures that hold us all much better. The book is filled with stories and examples of visionary leaders around the world who are dramatically changing the game with the decisions they are making at this very moment. And Costa Rica is teeming with them too.

Home to the happiest (and friendliest!) people on the planet, there is a reason so many are flocking here, eager to experience what it is like to be in a safe, stable, stunningly beautiful country that after a violent 1948 coup, boldly abolished its military and redirected this spending to education and healthcare. Decades of investing in people in these ways made it possible then to also shift the country away from the pains of exploitive farming and mining, and commit to systemic, country-wide sustainability practices that ensure that now 96% of Costa Ricans to live in harmony with nature. How fantastic is that?!

With only .007% of the world’s population, Costa Rica is blessed with 5% of all the biodiversity on the planet and has earned a high ranking on the Sustainable Development Goals Index through practices like this:

>  Appreciating that deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, Costa Rica now protects 27% of its land in National Parks, wildlife refuges and over 100 private reserves, and has become the first tropical country to radically reverse the process of deforestation, making it 98% deforestation-free (In comparison, the United States is only 34% deforestation-free).  

>   They generate 99% of their electricity from renewable sources, such as hydro, wind, and solar power. This is largely due to their heavy investment in hydroelectric power, which accounts for 80% of their renewable energy generation.

>  Costa Rica recycles 60% of its waste. This is largely due to their "pay as you throw" program, which charges residents by the weight of their trash.

>  They have a strong focus on sustainability education as all students in Costa Rica are required to take sustainability courses from elementary school through university. 

>  The government has also made sustainability a priority in its national development plan; from agriculture and tourism to manufacturing and finance, business is rooted in sustainable practices (vs as an add-on or afterthought).  Even their rural farm fences are made from live, carbon-capturing trees vs dead planks. 


The Tide is Turning
Encouragingly, leaders all over the globe are moving faster in this direction. Last year alone I was grateful to share this thinking/work with teams across the US, Kuwait, Serbia, Warsaw, South Africa, India, Iran, Australia, Poland, Malaysia, Canada, UK and across LATAM, with companies as diverse as Accenture, LinkedIn, A1 Telecom, Pepsico, Dell, JP Morgan, Red Hat, McDonalds and even the Great Lakes Women’s Council –  in industries ranging from ESG investors to AI-led dentistry.

After experiencing the destructive impact of the extractive systems we’ve relied on for decades, there is an increasing and urgent realization among leaders that only focusing on the financial bottom line does not ensure longevity. There is another important piece to the equation (often overlooked and without which survival will not be guaranteed): that taking care of people and building healthy systems is not a philanthropic action; it is a key driver of 21st century business success... and fundamental to Leadering.

There is much more I intend to write about all I learned about living systems and emerging economic structures on this extraordinary trip through mangrove forests, bird estuaries, a sea full of dancing dolphins, whales, and manta rays, and the majestic and astonishing “intelligence” of the rainforest in Corcodova National Park as we chatted with our thoughtful and highly knowledgeable guides, boat captains, gold miners and eco-lodge hosts. Reassuringly, this shift in attention and approach from winning to caring applies as much to us as individuals as it does to a nation. We all have the same opportunity to benefit from the forces of nature that nourish us, allowing us to "reforest" our inner worlds and live in our harmony with each other.

For now, please treat yourself to this Valentine moment of pure sea bliss; it's the gift of traveling with an extra-patient filmmaker! (thank you James V Hart!) 🧡

Making sure Leadering is available to Everyone.
A friend in Costa Rica mentioned that she had tried to buy the book there and wasn’t able. Others told us the same, so here is a reminder to all of our international friends, that we now have our own ecommerce platform where you’re able to purchase from anywhere in the world. Pass it on. And join us on for a growing collection of videos, interviews and more.

A heartfelt thanks to all who’ve supported the book by buying it, sharing your reviews, and writing some truly humbling testimonials. I am so grateful this thinking resonates with so many; this means we can get to better next a little faster. 

Here’s to a loving day and a fresh new year of learning, growing and connecting. Thank you for the heart you put into all you do and hope you are blessed with people in your world too who offer you support, love, care and community.

xo Nancy (Emma + Mida)