2 min read

The Messiness of Nature

When life gets stressful and uncertain, I consistently find myself seeking context in nature.
The Messiness of Nature

Yesterday was a tough day at work. We learned early in the day that REI would lay off 357 people (roughly 2% of its total workforce). We then played the waiting game to learn about where – and upon whom – the hammer would fall. I'm grateful to have emerged with my job in tact. Others weren't so lucky and we said goodbye to a lot of smart, dedicated people.

My team was directly impacted. We lost a key member of our engineering arm and another program manager. I consider our team to be extremely high-functioning, but when a vital part of a well-oiled machine is removed without notice it naturally creates churn. Extend that out to a reduction in force of this magnitude, and it generates tidal waves across an organization.

Our short-term plans are now in flux and our long term plans are now extremely blurry. People are naturally confused and processing. Things are messy and they likely will be for a while.

I cannot claim to know what someone waking up jobless is experiencing today, but even for those who remain, there is a sense of disorientation and loss.

When life gets stressful and uncertain, I consistently find myself seeking context in nature. Let me explain through the metaphor of a trail run or hike.

It rained a lot the past few days, so the trails here in Western Pennsylvania are sloppy and the streams are high. The footing is tricky, but if I take my time, if I'm thoughtful about each footfall and if I'm open/responsive to the conditions, I will make forward progress on the path. I will likely slip. I may even fall. Forward progress, however, is the goal and it's achievable if I act with care.

When the rains come and the streams rise, they often cut the path, creating a disconnect and forcing either a water crossing or a retreat. Risk management comes into the picture here when I ask myself questions like, "Can I cross this safely without injuring myself or being swept by the current?" I bet we'll come upon several metaphorical stream crossings at work in the coming days.

But perhaps the most impactful lesson the natural world has taught me about life is that nature is inherently balanced. Water seeks its own level. It can't rain forever. The streams will not always be so high. Eventually the trail will dry out and the single track will return to its soft, traversable state.

We have to trust in the balance. We have to respect the power of nature and do what we can to keep moving forward. This is how I navigate complexity in all areas of my life.