1

#41 | IT’S WRITTEN IN THE SONGS

“Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds itself. To a certain extent, you become the carrier of something that has been given to you from what we call the Muses—or, in biblical language, ‘God.’ This is not fancy, it is fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious mind of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone.”

—Joseph Campbell

Each time I travel to the northern plains it’s for the purpose of spiritual and creative regeneration. After seeing all my friends on “the Rez” (Pine Ridge), I typically take off for a few days alone into “the land of Crazy Horse.” It’s a vast and remote territory stretching from the North Platte River in Nebraska to the Yellowstone in Montana. It includes landscapes filled with trees and those devoid of them. When there, I drive for days, hike for hours, and sleep not much at all.

As I drive I listen to music. Often the windows are down, regardless of the temperature, and the volume is turned up. On each trip, without fail, the collective musical soundtrack of the journey will bring forth a message or theme that feels as if it was written for me alone. On my most recent trip the following lyrics resonated deeply:

Something in the wind has learned my name, and it’s telling me that things are not the same.

—Karen Carpenter, “Top of the World”

The windswept grasslands of the northern plains have spoken to me in this same way and opened my eyes to the connectivity of all living things. When the wind swirls the grass, rattles the leaves, moves the clouds, and brushes my face, I no longer feel detached.

* * *

So if you think your life is complete confusion, because you never win the game, just remember that it’s a grand illusion, and deep inside we’re all the same.

—Styx, “The Grand Illusion”

The human constructs we use to measure ourselves in a commercialized, merchandized, and Internet-wired world can leave us all feeling like we’ve come up short—like someone else is winning. But that external noise is just a “grand illusion.”

* * *

So sing, sing at the top of your voice. Oh, love without fear in your heart. Can you feel, feel like you still have a choice? If we all light up we can scare away the dark.

—Passenger, “Scare Away the Dark”

This passage (to me) is all about coming into your own voice. It’s a call to self-actualize. To self-actualize is to light up. To light up is to scare away the dark.

* * *

No, his mind is not for rent to any god or government. Always hopeful, yet discontent. He knows changes aren’t permanent, but change is.

—Rush, “Tom Sawyer”

I first heard this song at the age of twenty while working for the summer in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve loved its call for a free mind and heart ever since. May your mind forever be NOT FOR SALE!

* * *

And we’re not broken, just bent. And we can learn to love again.

—Alanis Morissette, “Guardian”

None of us are broken. All of us are bent. Love is the cure, and it begins with love of self. We change the world within us, then beside us, then beyond us.

* * *

The songs that speak to you are real manifestations of your spirit, path, and purpose. They capture your attention for a reason. Don’t dismiss them. Don’t shake them off. Let them resonate.

The photographs and paintings that stop you in your tracks are also clues. The quotes you save and the poems you jot down are affirmations. Art is never abstract when it comes for you. It’s the Universe calling, disguised as human expression.

How do I hear and answer my callings? All who search ponder this question.

You answer your personal callings by resisting the temptation in those precious moments when the wind or the music speaks to you, to “shake it off” and go back to that which is tangible and logical.

That’s not to say your earthly responsibilities don’t matter; they do. But spirit—well, that’s the most important, because it’s come to guide your earthly work. When it stirs, you must let yourself be overtaken.

Trust me, you are being called. We are all being called. Somewhere out there is a song just for you, so go and hear the music . . .

 

You don’t become an artist unless you’ve got something missing somewhere.

—Bono

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the forty-first post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#40 | THE WATERMELON BUS

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

—Pablo Picasso

 

We were driving through rural, agricultural Florida just north of Lake Okeechobee when I saw it.

“What is that?” I said, removing my sunglasses for a second look.

Several vehicles ahead, on a four-way section of downtown road, was an old yellow school bus with the entire top cut off and the seats removed. Inside, filling the cavernous space, were watermelons . . . thousands of watermelons.

“Look! They’re off to watermelon school,” I said to my wife Alison. “It must be a private school. They’re all dressed alike.”

A couple of miles down the road I spotted another watermelon bus equally topless and fully loaded as a makeshift agricultural transport.

“Brilliant,” I said.  “I want one.”

Alison was driving (as usual when we road-trip), so I pulled out my phone, went on eBay, and typed in school bus. Sure enough, I could buy one with the tap of a finger. There was a 2005 Thomas Freightliner for $1,625, and a 2007 Blue Bird 84-passenger with 226,104 miles, for $699.99.

As it turns out, there are lots of used school buses available. They’re cheap, and you can own one in minutes.  Cutting the top off and growing enough watermelons to fill it however is a different matter.

* * *

As we reached I-95 near Vero Beach, I still had watermelon buses on my mind. How utilitarian, creative, resourceful, and quintessentially American-free-enterprise they were. Some original, creative soul has taken something of no further value to its original owner (a retired school bus) and then reimagined its potential for a completely different industry.

If someone had asked me yesterday what could be done with a used school bus, I certainly wouldn’t have come up with transporting watermelons as an option.

This is dispersed power in action. No two people see the world exactly the same way—and that’s a huge advantage in terms of the potential for local-level creativity and leadership.

From 1988 to 1991, right after graduating from college, I taught Russian and Soviet history at a prep school in Maine.  Flashing back to that place and era, I imagined all the old Soviet school buses being sent to a central scrap heap for processing and disposal. No creative reimagining in that system! No watermelon buses, to be sure.

Today, in America, old buses end up on eBay where buyers and sellers make their own choices about current value and future use. Only in this kind of dispersed power system can you find such creativity, and as I browse once again I’m still super tempted to buy one.

What would I turn it into?

It all makes me think: What’s your watermelon bus? Where in your life have you taken something of little or no value to others and reimagined and repurposed it as something valuable just for you?

My voice disorder (spasmodic dysphonia) is a watermelon bus. On the surface it’s nothing more than a literal pain in the neck, which for a long time made the simple act of speaking a difficult chore. But then I reinvented and reimagined SD into something different, something valuable. My voice condition was a symbolic invitation to disperse power, share leadership, and strengthen the voices of others. It was an opportunity to decentralize power and advocate for a corporate values system in which everyone felt trusted, respected, valued, heard, and safe. I turned an incurable neurological disorder into a watermelon bus.

All of that was invented in my head and that alone made it real – gave it life.

You’ve done this, too; I’m sure of it!

Reflect for a moment on the literal and symbolic watermelon buses you’ve created in your life—the places and situations where you’ve found value when others saw none.

That’s self-awareness. That’s dispersed power. It’s what the Sioux call the Seventh Power, which is the innate ability of the individual human spirit to manifest the divine light that lives within us all.

Be thankful and proud of the watermelon buses you’ve created and give all those around you the space and trust to do the same.

 

“This is a hard truth for some to accept; that a lack of resources may not be their true constraint, just a lack of resourcefulness.”

—David Burkus

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the fortieth post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#19 | INDIGENOUS WISDOM

“It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among those shadows men get lost.”

—Black Elk

I have dedicated the essays that I write this year to Black Elk, but I have not yet told you why.

The answer is that I see deep truth in indigenous wisdom and Black Elk is one of my favorite indigenous teachers.

Born in 1863, Black Elk lived until 1950.  As a small child he had never seen a white person yet his entire community’s fate would soon be transformed by them.  Black Elk, a cousin to Crazy Horse, was present at the Battle of Little Big Horn as well as the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.  He was born nomadic and free, following the buffalo and moving with the seasons.  He would die in a small square cabin at the apex of the reservation era. . I have visited that cabin in the tall summer grass on numerous occasions with Black Elk Speaks in hand, marveling at the eternal relevance of his messages.

At the foundation of Black Elk’s stories and Lakota spirituality is the concept of MITAKUYE OYASIN, which translated means “all things are one thing” or “we are all related”.  The Lakota understand, through their intimate connection to the natural world, that all that exists is connected by an invisible web of threads.

For me, Black Elk is a prophet when it comes to seeing the sacred that dwells within us all.  Late in his life Black Elk sat with his friend John Neihardt and told the stories of his people which Neihardt recorded and then wrote down.

Here is a cursory look at Black Elk’s life, learnings,
and spirituality in his own words.

“I am a Lakota of the Oglala band. My father’s name was Black Elk, and his father before him bore the name, and the father of his father, so that I am the fourth to bear it.”

We all come from a tribe. The time and place of our birth pulls on us all. We must learn to honor that heritage yet also see our shared humanity.

* * *

“I had never seen a Wasichu [white person] then [as a child], and did not know what one looked like; but everyone was saying that the Wasichus were coming and that they were going to take our country and rub us all out [kill us].”

Those with the most power often overreach. Ego emboldens us to go too far and take too much.

* * *

“Now and then the voices would come back when I was out alone, like someone calling me, but what they wanted me to do I did not know.”

This is Black Elk’s authentic voice awakening and interacting with the Great Spirit. Such awakenings always come from within.

* * *

“Your Grandfathers all over the world are having a council, and they have called you here to teach you.”

Thus began Black Elk’s great vision through which he saw his path as peacemaker and healer.

* * *

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

This is the culmination of his vision, in which seeing “in a sacred manner” allowed him to pierce the veil of tribalism and recognize our shared humanity.

* * *

“Black Elk said the mountain he stood upon in his vision was Harney Peak in the Black Hills. ‘But anywhere is the center of the world,’ he added.”

—John Neihardt

Anywhere is the center of the world. This one sentence capsulizes the sacredness of the human spirit. Wherever you are at this moment is the center.

You are the center.

* * *

“Nothing can live well except in a manner that is suited to the ways the sacred Power of the World lives and moves.”

True power comes from living in alignment with the nature’s vibration and flow.

* * *

In 2014 I carried a small piece of wood siding that had fallen to the ground beside Black Elk’s cabin and placed it in a tree on the same peak he had flown to in his sacred vision. Before placing it there I tore it in half. The outside of the wood was tired, gray, and worn, but the inside was bright, fresh, and representative of new life. As I nestled one half deep in the balsam tree filled with colorful Lakota flags, I said the following prayer:

“This piece of wood from your home is now broken open and fresh again with new life. This represents a new beginning for all the people of the sacred hoop of the world.”

While seeing in a sacred manner, Black Elk saw all the people of the world as one tribe.

We all possess the same capacity to see what Black Elk saw. The Lakota call this ability the Seventh Power, and it dwells within us all…

* * *

“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”

―Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

This is the tree where I placed half of the old piece of wood siding and said a prayer in Black Elk’s honor. It’s also the place Black Elk was flown to as a boy during his sacred vision in which he saw the single hoop of the world and all its people living within that hoop as one family.
To see, hear, and feel a bit more about my visits to Pine Ridge, the northern plains, and the ancestral homelands of Crazy Horse, click here to watch this short video (6 minutes).

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the nineteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



2021: JOIN ME ON AN IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE

Hello! In the spring of this year I am publishing my next book! 48 WHISPERS from Pine Ridge and the Northern Plains is a hybrid of sorts. First, it’s a photography book featuring full-page photos that I have taken at Pine Ridge, the Black Hills, and across the plains. Second, it’s a personal and organizational development journal of hope containing 48 thoughts which I describe as “whispers.” Each whisper is exactly 248 words in length and honors an idea meant to spark personal growth, organizational excellence, and social harmony. The book will be available for pre-order soon and I will let you know when that time comes!

In the meantime, I’m inviting you to join me on an idea-sharing adventure! In support of my upcoming book (48WHISPERS) I intend to write a series of short essays honoring the sanctity and potential of the individual human spirit. There is a divine light that dwells within us all and my inspiration in my work and writing is to help bring that ‘spark’ to the forefront of our lives.

I would like to share these essays with you. To receive them click the “Together” icon!

One click will link you to my sign-up form and ensure that you receive this series of writings designed to advance self-actualization and promote respect for all voices.

The organizational structure of human society was long ago designed to compel us to look EXTERNALLY for direction, solutions, leadership, and control. This has been an intentional exercise and has produced an empire-centric view of our world. Employees exist to serve their company, followers, their church, and citizens, their state. These institutions have done some good through their centralization of power but they have also done some bad. Regardless, in virtually all cases, the common denominator is that the individual is advertently made small before the capital, the kingdom, and the crown. True power, we’ve been taught, lives “out there,” beyond our reach.

I’m interested in flipping that script. The goal is not to eliminate human institutions but rather to refocus them on dispersing power, not collecting it. The salvation we seek requires looking inward. The real power source of humanity lives dispersed and WITHIN us all. Each of us is a spark of divine light, a never-to-be-repeated gift. Institutions should exist to celebrate and accelerate self-actualization at an individual level. A great company, therefore, should serve, honor, and ignite the talents of the people who work there.

The twenty-first century has the potential to mark the ascension of decentralized power, but for that to happen, the traditional model of leadership and followership must be reinvented. My upcoming book and supporting online essays are dedicated to pursuing this goal.

Here’s an early look at the back cover of the book, which contains the titles of each whisper. This will give you a sense of the ideas 48 WHISPERS contemplates and explores:

48 WHISPERS – Back Cover

My first essay will be released soon so click the “Together” link and join me in the conversation. To invite others, just pass the link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become!

My outreach to you is dedicated to the advancement of a single question:

What if everyone on Earth felt trusted, respected, valued, and heard?

What might change?

I think it could be everything.

Many blessings to you.

 

 

—Kevin Hancock

 

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.