Open Road Coaching and Consulting is on temporary hiatus.

If you need to reach Jill directly, please email

Leadership lessons from nature

Burnout buster for social change agents

I took a walk today and was delighted to discover this teeny-tiny egg shell at my feet on the way home. Like a little piece of the sky. I made a nest from grass clippings to honor the creature that gave birth to it, and the creature that was birthed from it.

Before I took my walk, I was feeling discouraged and frustrated. Wondering whether my work made a difference. How I would keep going despite all the challenges. Crispy around the edges, if not quite burned-out.

A tiny soft voice that I could just barely make out whispered “get outside.” I’d been ignoring her for hours, but she’d made some sort of deal with my dog to guilt me out of the house. (One of the many things I like about dogs – they seem to be aligned with wise mind more often than not.)

What does your tiny soft voice say? If you’re feeling burned out, you’ve been ignoring her, or him, for a while now. Start listening. That voice will lead you to signs of new life, reasons to have faith and hope, and clear evidence that you’re making a difference.

Tell me what you hear and what you learned in the comments.

Where are you keeping your chestnuts?

That may sound like a personal question, intrusive even, and perhaps slightly dirty. 🙂

One cool morning last week as I walked out my front door to pick Japanese anemones for my altar, a very loud squirrel (unintentionally) offered a life lesson. Alarming and alarmed-sounding squeaks from the transformer across the street kinda’ killed my flower-buzz, but I didn’t think much of it; there’s a chestnut tree on the corner that they assault with military determination every fall.

However, as I walked back up my front steps, I saw the reason for the little guy’s freakout: he had “hidden” some of these treasured chestnuts right on top of my mailbox, which is right at the top of my front steps, which is right next to my front door. 

I laughed for a minute and felt bad for him and impressed at the same time – his brain is smaller than even one of these nuts, but his determination is much bigger. He had carried two golf-ball sized, attached prizes all the way down the tree and across the street, braving traffic and dog, scrambled up my glider, and carefully deposited his harvest…in a very un-strategic location.

Note to self, I thought: you shouldn’t tell just anyone about your chestnuts – especially the really big ones. If you you dream of a totally different career, plan to take up sky-diving or spend a year in Tanzania, play it close to the vest for a while. Humans have an unfortunate tendency to project all of our fears and worries onto the brave souls who stick their necks out.

The fastest way to kill your new idea is to have your Aunt Hazel remind you of what a dreamer you’ve always been.

What are your biggest chestnuts right now? And have you squirreled them away somewhere safe until you’re ready to eat ’em?

Get your own dang french fry!

Every year in August and early September, mournful kazoo-like sounds distract me from work in my home office. Without even looking up, my heart does a little empathy flip. The sound is a baby crow trying to understand why it’s mama and papa are no longer feeding it.

Now whether you like crows or not (and they seem to be more fashionable lately, thanks in part to Crow Planet, which I adored), this scenario has got to pull at your heart strings a little.  I find myself thinking “Just give him a goddamn french fry already! Its not like you didn’t steal them from my neighbor’s dumpster anyway! Poor thing.”

But the parent crow remains coolly oblivious to the pleading, eating the entire french fry/soiled cardboard/carrion right in front of it’s progeny. You’d think crows are terrible parents, but they’re one of the most doting, family-oriented birds in the animal kingdom.

In order for the baby to have any chance of survival (and most crows die before they reach their first birthday) the parent has to let go. The baby crow doesn’t understand this, of course, and I project s/he feels abandoned and terrified. And hungry.

Puts me in mind of the many times I’ve felt the same way – lost, scared, fresh out of faith in the world. Hungry for love and comfort. When I can get quiet and pay close attention during those times, I remember that these feelings lead to a greater sense of spaciousness and peace than I’ve felt before, a clearing out and letting go that was absolutely necessary for a big leap that I didn’t know I was capable of making.

Maybe the parent crow is silently beaming through the barrage of pleading “I have faith in you – I know you can do it – go find your own food so you can come back to us!”

Is the universe sending you a message of faith that you’ve been mis-translating? Tell me all about it.