As summer begins to close here on the west coast of Canada, I’m starting to head back to work, digging into to 20 or so projects that will unfold in the next nine months, which will take me across Canada, the US, Hawaii, Estonia, Denmark and Australia. And as I look ahead to my work year that is restarting, I notice that this is the tenth time that I have done this.
Indeed ten years ago this day, as a precocious 31 year old fed up with travel (ironically) and the various despairs of working for the federal government, I quit my job and hung out a shingle. August 31 was my last day of employment. My first contract was a retainer with the BC Assembly of First Nations, working with Chris Robertson and the then vice-chief Satsan (Herb George). Chris and Herb were (and still are) both enamoured with Open Space Technology and were wondering how we could use it for various organizing around Aboriginial rights and title. That retainer – for which I will always be grateful – gave me a start in the freelance world that was all I needed to build a pretty solid little practice. Since then, I have facilitated literally hundreds of gatherings from two person retreats to international conferences using a variety of participatory methodologies.
In the ten years since I went out on my own, I have been anything but lonely. I have worked with people from various communities of practice, including Open Space, World Cafe, Genuine Contact and most deeply, the Art of Hosting. I have, in the words of song writer Dougie MacLean “moved and kept on moving, proved the points that needed proving, lost the friends that needed losing and found others on the way.” It has mostly been an incredibly rich journey,working with tiny communities and huge coporations, young and radical youth and wise Elders. I have friends and colleagues in dozens of countries on every continent, and count myself lucky to be in their embrace.
There is no way there was a strategic plan in place when I left my job ten years agao. I have mostly survived by holding questions, opening myself to learning, and reminding myself that I don’t have to be the expert all the time. I could never have said that where I started ten years ago would leave me here, typing a blog post outside my favourite cafe on my home island.
I have met and worked with literally tens of thousands of people over the past ten years and as I sit here and picture many of them, I feel immense gratitude for their patience, trust, support and deep friendship. Thank you to you all (and please leave a comment here saying “you’re welcome!”). My partner Caitlin and our two kids are foremost among them, for it was to spend more time with them that I originally left my job, and if there is to be one regret, it’s that travel takes me away from them too much these days. So that’s my edge to work on for the future.
And who can know what I’ll be writing about on August 31, 2019, in my 51st year, as I catch myself surprised at all that has happened.