5 Lessons I’ve Learned Walking in the Woods
What going outside, slowing down, and observing nature has taught me about life, work, and everything in between
A few years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to do some work for The Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit that I had always been interested in collaborating with. It was a dream come true. During that time, I read the groundbreaking book by Janine Benyus, Biomimicry. Studying Biomimicry Principles, which adapt nature’s most successful ideas for human use, opened my eyes to the possibilities of applying natural learning across all disciplines. Not only has nature taught me a lot about myself over the years, but also about the world and how (through patient observation) we can live in a better one if we just watch, truly listen, and humbly learn. As biomimics say, nature knows best. After all, life has been doing endless research and development for billions of years.
Nature knows best
So whenever I go out in nature, whether on a stroll from my house or a long hike, I always take the opportunity to stop, watch, listen, and keenly observe my surroundings and see what I can see. Here are a few key takeaways that I’ve brought home with me, that helps me put work in perspective.
Balance is inevitable
There can’t be light without darkness, and vice versa. Balance is an important part of life, work, and beyond. When ecosystems get knocked out of balance, nature eventually tries to compensate to rebalance as best as possible. If the pendulum swings and things get too unbalanced, that’s when the trouble starts. As humans we often interfere with these natural rebalancing acts, only to realize we’ve thrown another wrench in things. Sometimes we have to blindly trust that things will eventually find equilibrium with patience, instead of assuming that we should throw everything we have at it to rebalance it ourselves.
Diversity is a gift
Without the diverse mixture of ideas, perspectives, and more, where would we be? Diversity is a pillar of life itself, and it’s so important that we embrace it in all of its forms, because the beauty of our planet lies largely in the great range of uniqueness. The most amazing things have happened over billions of years, producing almost innumerable life forms. Taking the time to appreciate difference, uniqueness, outliers, “weirdness” is so important and I’m working on getting better at this every single day.
Stop and smell the flowers
Good things in nature tend to happen really slowly. Nature takes its time, and the pay-offs can be astounding. The Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, the lush rainforest, and the list goes on: all of these wonders of nature developed over millennia. Sometimes, we work so quickly and so fast, we barely have time to appreciate our work or the work of others. Stopping to appreciate that simple fact, pausing to take stock of the world and its wonders, is such an important part of living (and working too!).
There will always be unknowns
While the unknown can sometimes feel scary, like when you can’t quite find an explanation for an event or a natural phenomenon, there’s also some power in it. Claiming that unknown, and resting in the magic of it, can be a really powerful tool. Resting in the simple fact that as humans, we don’t have all the answers, can be comforting both in life and in the professional world.
Sometimes it’s okay to burn
Have you ever walked through a newly burned landscape, marred by wildfire? There’s a haunting feeling to it, and my first reaction is usually shock and sadness. But then maybe I see that tiny little bud, stretching out of the soil towards the sky; a brilliant green shoot surrounded by charred black earth. If you need the inspiration to find resilience, nature always has it. Life finds a way. And sometimes, both in work and life, we have to get burned and start over. And that’s just life sometimes.
Life finds a way.