If you’ve read much of my writing, you’ve probably noticed that I love to spend time in and write about the natural world. What does all this Nature-this and Nature-that, you may have asked yourself, have to do with helping someone start a not-for-profit, or address a community need, or run a business? I’m glad you asked.
Any real look into the natural world reveals that Nature is all about relationships. The health of a forest, for example, is directly related to the amount of precipitation that falls, and the presence or absence of various species of insects. The kinds of trees are directly related to the kinds of animals that will live in that forest. The presence of predatory birds, like owls, is related to the number of rodents and small mammals that live in that forest. The health of the forest is also directly related to the balance between grazing animals, such as deer or elk, and predators that keep the numbers of these ungulates in check. Too many ungulates, and the species of plants that they eat will suffer. The availability of vegetation and protein sources is related to how many, if any, bears can be supported by this forest. And so on.
I am of the opinion that a successful enterprise, be it starting a not-for-profit, or opening up a retail store, or running a business, are also all about relationships. Relationships with donors, with local government officials and administrators, with money, with community leaders, with customers, with employees, with yourself, with your family – the health of these and numerous other relationships are the real soil out of which any successful enterprise grows.
Successful projects are like healthy ecosystems, with webs of interconnected and inseparable relationships. Reduce the precipitation, or reduce the connection with donors, and the impacts of these changed relationships ripple into every facet of the forest, or the non-profit. Remove the owls, or neglect careful attention to specific details, and all sorts of annoying little critters – or problems – are going to multiply. As John Muir put it, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Natural communities thrive or fail based on the presence of healthy relationships. Our enterprises are really no different. Everything is connected.