work journal

Here, I explore the intersection of food systems, climate, finance, governance, conservation and equity, some of the biggest levers for protecting our planet and fellow citizens. You’ll find stories, new and old, about leaders who are making an impact, as well as how I synthesize what I’m learning on my ever-evolving career adventure. 

Reflections After a Workshop Marathon

After leading many workshops this past month, I'm reflecting on what I saw and learned before I launch into the next thing.
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Making online connections in person

Traveling Dallas and Austin, I met up with colleagues, new and old. Some I'd met before, but most were online-only until this trip. It's always worth it.
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A letter to Sophie (and maybe to you, too)

You told me about the trails you’ve run down in your business. The rocky hillsides, the summit views, and the steep, dark, slippery descents that had you wondering if you’d make it back.
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The time I won $100 climbing a rock and promptly gave it away

Lessons learned: Commit to what matters most to you, learn learn learn, make money, give a bunch away, invest in others, and play hard.
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Moments of realization in my search for a creative space

As I search for an amazing creative space to hold group workshops, I find myself inspired most by windowed hallways. These are the austere, wending, in-between spaces that seem to hold so much and yet nothing all at once.
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Presenting Light & Seed

The first issue of Light & Seed, a reimagined, next-generation print magazine is a capstone to my publishing career, and the result of months of intentional strategy design and implementation.
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Use Clean Questions to keep your assumptions from making a mess

Learning more about how others move through the world, increasing understanding, and reducing miscommunication.
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These towering piles of books are everywhere.

Do you have piles, too?
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The Bear and the Devil

Bears Lodge. Devils Tower. Names and words matter. The history of American Colonialism continues to unfold at a national monument in northeastern Wyoming. Reported for Mountain Outlaw in 2017, and still relevant today.
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What climbing taught me about leadership and teamwork

A friend sent me these old photos out of the blue, and they have me thinking about a few of the things I learned from climbing.
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Why? Or: the sticky note that stuck

Conflict and chaos can lead to renewed hope, belief and commitment.
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Our fall garden chores through the lens of Jason Thompson

Photographer Jason Thompson's perspective on our fall garden and yard chores, shot on spec for Patagonia.
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Moderating a panel discussion for Farm to Crag

After 23 years of asking questions for a living, I did it live for the first time in a panel highlighting three leaders in the Montana food system.
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Strategy workshop: American Bank Leadership Retreat, Round 3

By now, this team knows when I show up, it’s time to dig in, think fast and get creative. And they always have a good time while they’re at it.
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What it takes to collaborate across differing perspectives

We need to see each other as humans first.
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"Even though so much has changed, the plan is still helpful."

In 2020, I helped Blue Bean Coffee develop a strategy for growth—their way. Three years later, after the Yellowstone River flood lapped their doorstep, the family-owned roaster has used our plan to source the "most eco-friendly packaging on the planet."
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Book recommendation: A Fine Line by Graham Zimmerman

Follow Graham Zimmerman’s journey from early luck and scary accidents to cutting-edge alpine climbs, from dating foibles to marriage, and from surveying for mining interests to leading climate activism through Protect Our Winters and the American Alpine Club.
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Nate Powell-Palm organizes USDA Organic Field Day in Gallatin Valley

Nate Powell-Palm has been working to advance organic ag for most of his life, starting with raising his first 4-H steer at age 9. This fall, he brought the US Undersecretary of Ag to Gallatin Valley for a field day.
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Strategy workshop: Montana Food Matters

We set a goal for the morning and assessed what's moving this team forward and what's holding them back. Then the reframe. Always the reframe. This is where they figured out if the place they think they’re going is *actually* where they’re going.
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Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard is in Business to Save the Earth—Not Wall Street

"At Patagonia, we make our important decisions based on wanting to be here 100 years from now." Looking back on a story I wrote for Esquire about Chouinard in 2019.
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From compost to climate, Amy Fonte is working for sustainability in Big Sky

“Corporations have so much power and influence," said Amy Fonte, Big Sky Resort's sustainability specialist. "How do you use that to make a positive impact?
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Pulling the threads of my career journey

In the rearview, I see threads: Building things—or rebuilding them. Learning how the world works and what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Finding hidden connections everywhere. Seeking the essence of people.
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How to work through hard topics together

“The workshops allowed me to hear everyone’s view and take it in. Very rarely are you in a place where you have all the different opinions, and you all get to share them."
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Learning and using visual facilitation

"People always tell me they don't know how to draw," said Charles-Louis de Maere, as he opened our course on visual facilitation. "I have stopped believing them."
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Learning strategy on El Cap

The first time I climbed El Capitan, a 3,000-foot rock wall in Yosemite, my partner and I spent 5.5 days on the wall. Our bags were so heavy, we nearly crushed ourselves hauling them up. Near the top, we ran out of food.
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Podcast interview: Northstar Unplugged

I was already considering stepping away from deadline-driven writing and reporting. Talking to Kristen Rainey nudged me in that direction, helping me realize that to be the person I want to be, I need to sleep. A podcast interview on Northstar Unplugged.
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Leading a strategy workshop? Make sure you "take the dog out."

Your group needs a moment to breathe. This lets them process the massive amount of ground covered in a workshop, and then find the hidden connections that bring it all together. To get there, as I learned from my puppy, Lulu, “take the dog out.”
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Book recommendation: More by Majka Burhardt

In turns raw, bold, insightful, funny and fiercely loving, More is an important work that I hope will move the conversation forward about parenting, career, our individual and collective wellbeing, and the hidden ties between them all.
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Learning—and teaching—disruption with the masters at Level C

Working with Level C has been a game-changer for me. Last week I got to sit in the captain's chair and guide some of the great future thinkers of business and brand.
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Designing a theory of change: Iqra Fund founder Genevieve Walsh

Iqra Fund builds sustainable school systems in northern Tribal Pakistan. A decade in, the nonprofit's founder and CEO needed a clear, simple and compelling visual to communicate both the org's model and her vision for long-term impact.
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Kris Tompkins on rewilding Chile and Argentina

Lessons in vision and leadership from Kris Tompkins, who's protected 13 million acres (and counting). A profile I wrote for Mountain Outlaw in 2019, plus previously unpublished insights on the imperative of changing our agricultural system.
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Common Ground series

How organic and regenerative agriculture are revitalizing rural Montana economies. A three-part, award-winning series I wrote for Montana Free Press in 2021 and 2022.
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Strategy workshop: Hannah Featherman and the National Forest Foundation

The process of bringing a purpose, vision, mission and set of values to life can be both messy and magical. If you get the chance, do this work in person.
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Climbing, food and community

Finding connections between food systems, wild adventure and community on a trip from Yosemite to Chattanooga and back home to Montana.
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Latrice Tatsey studies "our relationship to the world.”

As part of my ongoing study of regenerative food systems, I spent a day with my 6-year-old, Eloise, shadowing soil scientists Latrice Tatsey and Tony Hartshorn at Blackfeet Community College and on a nearby ranch.
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MJ Matute leads with empathy.

People come from all over the country and the world to work at Big Sky Resort's restaurants, each in search of something a little different. And they wind up contributing far more than just their labor: new and diverse ideas, energy, and perspectives.
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Ode to a colleague and friend, Dylan Hale Thornton

Dylan is one to watch. Better yet, partner with him and change the world.
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Podcast interview: Reframing Rural

“Every one of these farms is a business and a family and a community and an ecosystem. And it's so complex to look at all of those pieces, and it's so necessary. We're not just one giant industrial machine that produces food for the world.”
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Help me design a strategy workshop?

I helped Iqra Fund founder and CEO create a strategic planning workshop to lead her with her team in Pakistan. The outcome: The team created an entirely new program that has the potential to leverage Iqra's mission many times over.
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When different perspectives = different realities

"My mom is 8 feet tall and weighs 90 pounds." A hilarious and insightful lesson from my daughter in the form of the classic kindergarten Mad Libs. Plus an exercise to use with your team.
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Stuart Fuke has the ingredients for teamwork in the kitchen.

Fuke mixes the Hawaiian culture of his youth and his military training to create family in the banquet kitchen. His is a story of incredible sacrifice, and of finding friendship and home in unlikely places.
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Book recommendation: Range by David Epstein

If you’re a curious person with wide-ranging interests and a “jungle gym” of a career, Epstein’s phenomenal book Range is one you don’t want to miss.
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The stories you tell matter. Here's why.

Focus on how people are responding to problems, and not the problems themselves.
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Trabian Shorters’ “Asset-Framing”

“Asset-Framing” is a simple, clear and imperative tool for empathetic communication in the 21st century. It is a practical strategy for productive conversation in any part of life.
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Blair Hensen is changing the way we talk about love and adventure.

I've been helping this wilderness guide-turned-therapist build the foundation of a business that melds her two passions.
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The wisdom of children

My daughter's "caring for the Earth" list
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Strategy design: the National Forest Foundation's magazine

By listening deeply and weaving in ideas from a broad team, we created group alignment behind what will ultimately become an entirely new publication.
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Donkey packing 101 / Outdoor parenting 102

Time off is precious. What we decide to do with it can be meaningful. This vignette offers a window into what I do with mine. Next time maybe my time off will include a hammock.
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Fuel, Oxygen and Heat

While reporting this story in 2018, I learned a basic premise that I operate under now: By focusing on inclusion, you broaden the diversity of perspectives and knowledge among teams and leaders, which is key to our future on this planet.
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Homegrown series

How small food processors are building a more resilient Montana Food System. A two-part series I reported for Montana Free Press.
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Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard predicts food could save the planet

Interviewing Chouinard, combined with the love of gardening and food I inherited from my parents, launched my exploration food and agricultural systems in Montana.
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Cirque of the Unclimbables film

In the summer of 2010, two friends and I spent a month camping in a boulder field the base of Mount Proboscis, a 2,000 foot granite wall in the Northwest Territories, Canada. A retrospective look at our climb and film.
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inquire > reframe > transform >
Think we might work well together?