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Kathy Rodwell: Dare to start

Lessons from a guerrilla gardener
Blog 92 Kathy 08511 RET

Isn’t it funny how it’s often the most simple and obvious life advice that can have the greatest impact?

Case in point: one sunny Saturday morning, sitting in the audience at Melbourne’s Theatre of Ideas, I listened to guerrilla gardener Ron Finley conclude his presentation on edible gardens by telling us all to “go away and just plant some s#*!”. Earlier, the audience had been invited to ask Ron questions; to explore his wisdom and inspiration for getting the results he did. His reply had been a succinct two words: “Just start.” He then went quiet, allowing this simple phrase to wash over an audience probably expecting to learn some magical formula or bulletproof strategy. Instead, we got an uncomplicated yet profound call to action. Just start.

Several years back, Ron had dreamt of planting and growing his own food on a strip of land located between his home and the street curb belonging to the Los Angeles County. The county had said it was Ron’s responsibility to maintain the space, but they’d also ruled that he couldn’t grow edible plants on it, as it was illegal. He chose to plant food crops anyway, and later campaigned relentlessly to have the county stop fining people for creating these edible gardens. What struck me was that Ron had the vision and courage to ‘just start’ in the absence of guaranteed success. Now he’s feeding his community with healthy, nourishing food and bringing people together through his guerrilla gardening projects. Oh and spreading the word and making a difference in the world. No small thing.

There are definite parallels that I can draw here between Ron’s directive and the work I do as a coach. Let me take you inside the coaching room for a moment to glimpse what ‘just starting’ looks like. As a coach helping people to dream big and harvest abundantly, I see some of the magic happening in the sessions – but things get real and something exciting and powerful occurs when clients go away and initiate action on their own. At first, their ideas, goals and desires are not fully formed, but more like a seedling of something waiting to be cultivated. Often I’m witnessing with the client something they’ve never said out loud to another human or to themselves. The look on their face when they realise they just bravely gave voice to something previously unspoken, and maybe denied, is priceless.

How complicated do we make it to just start? How often do we unconsciously put barriers in our way? I find there’s always a point in the coaching room where I’m helping people to get out of their own way and just start, as Ron recommends. I am listening patiently and intently to every excuse they have for not starting and empathising with every fear that whispers seductively that it’s much safer not to start. Then together we find the leverage points for what it will take to have a red hot go at the goal.

In my 20 years of leading clients on these amazing adventures, there is one consistent point that I know to be the key success factor. I know that when we initiate those very first steps, we are setting up a propulsion system that becomes a powerhouse of energy, motivation, self-awareness and challenge that excites and convinces the person that they can get what they want. The saying ‘nothing succeeds like success’ comes to mind here. An initial taste of success suggests there will be more success in the future.

What do you want to cultivate in your life and work? Is there a goal or desire you are carrying that is bursting to see the light of day? How can you get those goals out into the world so they can take hold? Who will listen without judging or censoring your goals?

I feel it’s fitting to leave you here with another quote from Ron: “There are no broken dreams, only unfinished reality.” For more inspiration, check out his TED Talk here.

- Coach Kathy

Who is Kathy Rodwell?
Kathy coaches Senior Executives, C-Suites, Entrepreneurs and Founders to improve their results and personal fulfilment. She does this as a Leadership Coach to clients in the For Profit and Not For Profit sectors, and within high growth ventures. If you would like a copy of the full report or have any questions on this article, you are invited to contact Kathy directly here.

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