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Coming Down the Mountain

The Call of True Leadership

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Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Decades ago, (i.e., pre-cell phone) during a camping trip in the mountains of Colorado, I hiked away from my group of friends and got lost. Finding myself within a clearing of trees, I realized I had made it to the summit. I also saw that the sun was setting and noticed shadows encroaching around me. A single howl somewhere closeby brought the gravity of my situation into focus. I was not experienced enough to find my way back to camp, nor was I equipped with what I would need to stay safe in the woods overnight. What had started off as a lark, announced itself as reckless irony. I had been convinced of my invincible stance in the universe. I fancied myself a leader among my friends, the hub of the wheel that connected us. I thought I had the answers and could certainly handle anything reality could throw at me. When the full weight of my folly pressed in on me, I shouted out for help.

As the light began to fade, I continued to holler, fearing that I would, indeed, be facing the night alone. Then, the silhouette of my friend Paul Kane appeared. “Follow me,” he called with a slight tremor that told me he wasn’t sure we could make it back either. There was no time to waste. I ran to keep up with him as he bounded, for all he was worth, on a path over rocks and through trees. We both got cut repeatedly and the light died down to a candle flicker. The urgency in Paul’s stride told me what he had risked to come rescue me. The vulnerability of our situation humbled me as I followed Paul back to camp. I wasn’t sure that he was confident we would make it, but he didn’t slow down and I leaned on his leadership. When we finally entered the welcoming glow of the campfire, and our circle of tents, I was truly relieved and grateful.

I have held this memory as a reminder that true leadership goes out on a limb for the wellbeing of others. During this time of distanced unravelling, and what Shakespeare might have called, “the summer of our discontent,” it echoes back to me.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My wife, Julia has often reminded me of how important it is to reach out to the people who seem to pop into your mind spontaneously.  A single call from a beloved family member or friend can put us back on track or pull us out of the rabbit hole of despair.

There is no shame in vulnerability or acknowledging that it is necessary to ask, or even call out for help when you need it. We don’t have to act like we have it all together.

“I don’t know how to hold all this. Should I surrender or resist?

I’ve wandered out where the ice feels thin. Please, seek me out and reel me in.

Point to where, and I’ll know then. Thank you now, for knowing when. ”

The Levins

Drake Randolph Powe

In a recent post, (Breathing In Transition)  I mentioned my friend Drake PoweDrake has created a YouTube channel called, Touching the Edge, in which he not only discusses how racial hatred affected him growing up but encourages us to commit to our resilience, compassion, kindness, and joy.

A few weeks ago, Drake reached out to us. During a time of sincere struggle, with everything going on around him while being in the epicenter of the George Floyd aftermath, he felt he was reaching an impasse with Touching the Edge, and questioned its purpose. The call wasn’t about Julia and I bolstering Drake’s faith in this undertaking. It was his willingness to be able to lean on a friendship that he trusted to provide a mirror of clarity.

Drake never gave up, even for a day. He has just started a 40-day practice in which he will post a video and a blog post every day to bring us back to ourselves and the welcoming camp of our shared humanity.

What is so beautiful about this, is that it arrived as Julia and I were in need of a boost to strengthen our resolve so we can dare to carry on as full-time musicians.

“In this time, it’s incredibly important to have something that you are moving towards that’s not subject to the fluctuation of the outer world. Something that stabilizes your inner relationship to calm, confidence and hopefulness. Being open to intuition, we can find a way through this challenge and end up coming through this in a way that improves us. That improves us individually, as an American society and as a human society. Let’s do this.” –  Drake Randolph Powe

It seems to me, that as a nation, we are very much like I was on the top of that mountain in Colorado. Having reached a summit, we fancied ourselves a leader among the nations, the hub of the wheel that connected us. We thought we had the answers and could certainly handle anything reality could throw at the U.S. 

The truth is, we can handle this. Not by remaining aloof at the top of the summit, but by asking for guidance, being willing to receive it, coming down the mountain to help lead others when they are lost, and going out on a limb for each other’s wellbeing.

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

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