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Seeking Inspiration
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Seeking Inspiration



In looking back on my career, I see that the past 20 years have been marked by a number of points at which I altered what I was doing.

Sometimes I changed companies; other times I found a way of shifting my approach to my work or how I conducted my life. In looking back, I’m proud of the fact that every time I chose to go in a new direction, the changes I made resulted in dramatic improvements in my career and in my enjoyment of my work and, indeed, of my life in general.

In other words, I’ve learned that, when approached the right way, change offers us an opportunity to advance our own causes in business and in life. Yes, it can be scary in that it typically involves risk, presents short-term challenges or difficulties and can require patience, nerve and courage. I’ve learned that to make these adjustments effectively, one must also have self-confidence and humility.

In all but a couple of instances, I can’t help noticing that the changes I made were attended by tough economic conditions such as those we’re experiencing right now: You don’t have to be a psychologist to recognize that when our livelihoods are threatened, we are more likely to consider changing what we do or how we do it than we are when times are good and the living is easy.

These days, I know a number of people in the watershaping industry who are caught in the midst of these sorts of passages. I known some good people who have left the business altogether and many talented professionals who are considering career changes as well.

At the same time, I also know many people who, despite the economy, are experiencing tremendous success. Almost to a person, these are watershapers who stand atop the profession, the kind who write of their projects in this magazine, work at the highest level and are happy to share what they know with others. They have carved out markets among similarly successful clients who have weathered the storms – and I’m certain that, if asked, all would say that, in the histories of their own careers, they’ve come to turning points where they made key adjustments and set new courses.

All of this leads me to the book I want to offer you this month: The Nature of Excellence by David Cottrell and Lee J. Colan with photography by Tom Fox (Cornerstone Leadership Institute, 2008). It’s a compact, 88-page book about just the sort of inspiration we all need in times of tumult, stress and change.

Each page features a beautiful picture of a natural scene accompanied by an inspirational quote, mostly by famous people. Many of these are comments we’ve heard before, but in this case organization is the key: The book is broken into three sections covering values of excellence, visions of excellence and acts of excellence, and each of those is further arranged into six related sub-topics – every one of them illuminating a basic idea for the reader to consider.

The photography here is as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen – truly stunning – and the selected quotes are always potent, genuinely inspiring and distinctively thought-provoking. In fact, even the most cynical among us would be surprised by how affecting these beautifully conceived pages are, with a roster of commentators including such diverse characters as Bill Cosby, Winston Churchill, Norman Vincent Peale, Margaret Mead and Vince Lombardi (among many others).

One of my favorites is from recently departed and much-missed George Carlin: “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” One way or another, we all can use just that sort of audacious insight to nourish our idealism, stoke our optimism, fuel our creativity and bolster our sense of purpose.

My hunch: Wherever you are these days, you might just find some big time encouragement along those lines in the pages of this little book.

Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.

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