Three things I learned about Life and Leadership on El Camino de Santiago
2017 was a year that changed my life forever. I had worked too hard for too long and I was facing burnout. Someone asked me recently how you know when you’re facing burnout, and while there is an official answer to this, my answer was that for me it meant that quitting my job and walking 800 kilometers never having hiked a day in my life seemed more sensible, more doable and far less brave than walking into the office ever again.
Which brings me to the first of the lessons I want to share with you…
Trust your instinct.
The details of how I became enthralled by the Camino or what finally pushed me to buy some boots and write my resignation letter are too lengthy and personal to share here, but what I really do want to share with you goes against everything that traditional leadership teaches. In a world of the linear and the logical, the phrase “I just knew” isn’t always welcomed. But if you look at many of the greatest success stories of all time, they all start with someone somewhere doing something that seemed foolish. And it’s those people who change themselves and change the world. Every time.
On the Camino as in life, going with your instinct and trusting your gut even when everyone else thinks you’re crazy, brings great things.
But how do you make friends with your instinct enough to trust it? How do you know when you are acting from deep inner knowing and when you are acting from fear-based impulse? I’m glad you asked, that brings me to my second lesson…
We are bombarded with information and stimulation all day every day. We rarely have time to witness the world around us or the complex world within us. My Camino honed my existing mindfulness practice to a greater level. I learned to listen to myself in a different way. I was able to be more present with my surroundings, the wonder of nature, my fellow pilgrims and with myself because, honestly, when you have nothing to do all day but walk, what else are you going to do?! In that presence I found something else and that was the ability to…
Which is lesson number three. There are three questions you get asked when you first meet someone along the way. They are “where did you start walking?”, “how much does your pack weigh?” and “why are you here?”. Your name may or may not come up later. Let me tell you something that relates to the third question: no one on the Camino is walking because they like walking. Everyone has a story, usually a sad one. The beauty though, comes in the willingness to share those stories so quickly and authentically with strangers. This vulnerability is something I continue to practice and role model in my work and my life. It isn’t always easy, in fact it’s almost always hard. You will feel exposed, you will run the risk of someone taking your story and sharing it, twisting or judging it. But those people will do that anyway, so you may as well just show up with your truth.
Like instinct, our ability to be vulnerable is drummed out of us in early life but it’s where true transformation happens. When we can be honest with ourselves and others about our struggles and meet ourselves and others where we are, no matter where that may be that is when true alchemy occurs. And that is where I want to exist.
There is no doubt in my mind that this world is in trouble, big trouble. And this calls for a new age of leadership. Leadership led by instinct, truth and humanness and that is what I have committed to bring to my work every single day.
Authored by Jennifer Tarjanyi, Altruistic Adventurer at GAIA Insights, Authentic-Leader-in Training