This article was published in the June 2014 edition of Star Nations Magazine and in the Winter 2014 edition of The Mobius Strip, a publication for Leadership Professionals
My six year old legs are carrying me out to the woods behind my house in Franklin Lakes, NJ. As I step in off the fresh cut grass, I feel an immediate change in the atmosphere. Birds are singing and squirrels are running from tree to tree, and yet I feel a deeper sense of stillness, peace, and beauty. I look from trees to rocks to moss and see everything connected by a shimmering thread that wraps around and envelops me in its pulsing silence. I hear the tinkling of chimes or bells. I feel myself opening and moving into wonder. Every time I enter the woods, I see this thread and I know I am not imagining it. To me, it is real and filled with light and subtle golden sparkle. It is like a web, this singular strand that runs through everything, connecting all of life together. It expands in all directions. The wind is threaded to the trees and the sky and through me. As I watch it and listen, I know that it carries a glistening intelligence that is old and wise.
When I returned from these trips to the woods, I would speak of these experiences to my mother, calling it “the voice,” unaware that others didn’t see or hear it. It was a few years before this realization dawned on me, and when it did, I promised myself I would stay connected to this wisdom I had tapped into. I began to think of it as a code that unified everything, and I grew up seeing and feeling this code everywhere. I know that it has shaped me, and I believe it is one reason why I relate to life through wholeness, interconnection, and relationships today. As the golden thread weaves through us and our world, I see it carrying the diversity and genius of our existence. In my adult life it was my father, Ken Hanau who, for me, embodied the wisdom of this golden thread until the day he died, October 23rd, 2000. In his life he ran a manufacturing company that produced corrugated boxes, and despite the basic nature of this commodity business, he carried the golden thread by living and working in great congruence with his values. This was most apparent in how he treated people. His business was a living, breathing being. To me, as an employee of his company, the environment there felt like the woods of my childhood home. Everyone was connected, valued, and honored, though we were diverse in our personalities, life stories, and company roles. My father expressed his love for humanity by treating each of us with nobility and great care. In his presence, I watched and felt each of us rise into our higher selves to meet his vision of us.
I felt this experience viscerally, and this time, I was not alone in feeling the golden thread running through everything. My coworkers, from general manager to the person sweeping the factory floor, were elevated to a higher ground where we were all equal, simply by being human. My father modeled true leadership by taking a genuine interest in his employee’s lives and getting to know each person individually. In this environment, we thrived. We gained access to our confidence, authenticity, and wisdom. I found myself bouncing from bed each day to be in the presence of my coworkers, who gave 150% to their work without it being demanded. Following my father’s lead, we built authentic relationships with our customers, our suppliers, and our bankers, and we developed a professional ecosystem of great respect and dignity. The golden thread was a code of intelligence and connectedness that ran through all of us and was the soil, the air, and the fresh wind for how we did business. I realize that in today’s world, this kind of business experience, where people are valued before status and money, is very rare. I feel fortunate to have been a part of my father’s company and the creativity and collective wisdom it produced, and yet I am disturbed that this is so far from the norm in our culture. Instead, we are often leading or impacted by leadership that is guided by our cultural conditioning, and which diminishes and fractures us from meaning, connection, equality, and wisdom. Breaking from this conditioning takes great strength and practice. Waking to our own potential as caring leaders, regardless of title or role, requires a commitment and rigor. But imagine if we embraced and embodied the nobility that we carry!