INNERTREK™ Founder's Page

Welcome to the InnerTrek Founder’s Page. I appreciate your taking the time to read our very first edition. In the future each issue will include practical self-improvement tips for business, community and youth as well as some valuable discussion and insights into the cultivation of wisdom.

I thought it would be helpful to begin with an explanation of why InnerTrek was formed and what its goals are. In my experience, some entrepreneurs start their companies to take advantage of an existing market. Others start a business because they feel they have a product or idea valuable enough to establish a new market. I founded InnerTrek with both schemes in mind, for certainly the services InnerTrek has to offer are very recognizable, but the approach is something truly unique.

For over twenty years I have been in the field of professional development and leadership consulting and training specializing in executive relationship, sales communication and organizational teamwork. Despite the economic woes of the past couple of years, the demand for employee development remains strong and the market for most types of business and leadership consulting has expanded. Companies continue to pump millions of dollars into consulting organizations in order to develop more effective business strategies, change strategies, sales strategies, selling techniques, presentation skills or teambuilding. I have been fortunate enough to have been a beneficiary of this market and am very grateful.

I am also, by nature, an inquisitive, often skeptical person, one who is compelled to uncover truth and meaning in life. In view of all the economic woes of the past several years, I had to ask myself if what we consultants do really makes a difference. I have seen new companies go under, old companies try to restructure; I have watched and worked with the parade of executives that come and go; I have witnessed the attempts to turn widget “salespeople” who sold a line of products into widget “sales consultants” who sell a process; and I have seen the looks on the faces of a workforce that has survived the first three rounds of unanticipated layoffs.

The answer I came up with was, yes, the consulting does work, but only to a point. There seems to be a critical piece of the puzzle missing, because, despite all the effort so many have put into the struggle, so many more continue to be feeling a lot of pain. I took some time off to ponder and research this question and arrived at an answer — one that resonates and provided the impetus for forming InnerTrek.

The missing piece of the puzzle is wisdom. It appears we have forgotten how important it is to cultivate wisdom. Wisdom is the One, as ancient Greek mathematicians referred to it, from which the Many follow. It is only through the cultivation of individual wisdom in our personal and business lives that the seeds of collective wisdom are sown that ultimately produce the fruit that provides our societies with healthy nourishment. The very health of our businesses, communities and youth are threatened by this lack of wisdom. InnerTrek has been formed to do something about it.

There are many kinds of wisdom. There is the spiritual wisdom that many of us associate with God, or Christ, or Sophia, or Brahma, or Jaweh, or Allah, or the universe, or from embracing Nothingness. There is the professional wisdom or know-how that an expert in a particular field acquires over the years. There is the emotional wisdom that comes from experiencing ourselves or supporting someone else who is going through a particularly difficult life challenge. There is the creative wisdom of artists, comedians, actors, musicians and writers, who seem to be able to walk so comfortably on the edge. There is the psychological wisdom from those who wade into unconscious waters to unravel the mysteries of our inner lives. There is the body wisdom that our athletes, dancers, trapeze artists, doctors, masseurs and physical therapists utilize. There is the wisdom of nature whose secrets our scientists, naturalists, astronomers and physicists continue to uncover. There is the wisdom you see in the face of a newborn baby or that just getting older seems to bring. And then there is what I call practical wisdom, the kind of wisdom that, if we are open to it and willing to do a little work, offers its gift in the pivotal moments we encounter everyday in our business and personal lives.

Practical wisdom is borne of a healthy examination of our inner processes, an openness to learning new outer behaviors, and above all the unwavering personal courage to stand in the midst of the tension that naturally comes from self examination and learning new ways of doing and saying things. Rollo May, the psychologist and philosopher whom I admired greatly, wrote in The Courage to Create, that,
We cannot will to have insights. We cannot will creativity. But we can will to give ourselves to the encounter with intensity of dedication and commitment. The deeper aspects of awareness are activated to the extent that the person is committed to the encounter.

We cannot will wisdom either, but we can will ourselves to the encounter by opening our eyes to what we do and say in the “pivotal situations” we experience each day. For example, an executive may continually avoid working directly with another executive because of personal differences that seem irresolvable. Or, in key meetings with other salespeople, a seasoned salesperson may often deride a new approach to selling that has been instituted to move the organization to a new level of doing business. In another situation, a community activist who seems to want everything his or her way resorts to extreme measures of confrontation, while a governmental body seems to stubbornly stand by unresponsive and self-serving bureaucratic policies. Or, a high school youth, with the normal drive to experiment, rebel and belong, uncharacteristically becomes involved in an unhealthy activity because of difficulties confronting the pressure of peers.

In avoiding the encounter, especially in pivotal situations that repeat themselves day after day, we instead develop “workarounds” or rationalizations that become so habitual we begin to think of the “workaround” as the normal way of operating. Think of the “workarounds” you have had to develop and learned to accept in using your computer, network or software. The sense of triumph we may feel anytime we create successful “workarounds”, masks the tremendous waste and inefficiency we are now living with. But, more importantly, the “workarounds” make it impossible for an individual or an organization to achieve any level of synergy. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole only when those parts are pure and unencumbered with “workarounds”. And without synergy supplying the energy and means to move to the next level, individuals and organizations lose the ability to innovate. Synergy only occurs when personal motivation and initiative are high, individual behavior is focused and effective and confidence abounds. Synergy only occurs when the habitual “workarounds” and rationalizations that occur in pivotal situations are properly encountered so that the practical wisdom that comes out of that encounter is released.

At InnerTrek, we believe that if you identify regularly occurring pivotal situations and encounter those situations through an interactive and integrated program of learning that is comprised of relevant inner work, related outer skill development and challenging parallel activities that encourage and promote courage, you can cultivate the kind of practical wisdom that ultimately breeds synergy in the workplace, community or school.

Robert M. Figari, M.A.

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