Where Do You Get Your Energy From?!

August 30, 2022

I was talking to my mom the other day, detailing all the activities we’d had going on lately - among them, a birthday camping weekend, Realities Ride & Rally, and being the volunteer caterer for my next-door neighbors’ wedding weekend in their backyard - and mom shared an exclamation that I’ve heard hundreds of times from her going back to my childhood: “Where do you get your energy from?!”  Often preceded by an “Oof-da'', this favored expression of my mother's has become the title for this month’s blog, and I’ll be examining the topic from various perspectives. 

Where do we get our energy from?  As Individuals and families, as teams and organizations, and as communities, states, and nations go - it’s an important question to ask ourselves, and I hope that together, we can learn as we explore.  

Before we really get started with this month’s blog, I want to give some kudos to our LoCo Next Level Facilitator - Drew Yancey.  Drew came in as a LoCo Facilitator in the late summer of 2020 - two years ago this month - and took over the Next Level I chapter that was struggling with cohesion, dangerously low in membership, and not in a great place overall.  In a few short months, that chapter was stable and growing again, and has now been at full capacity for most of this year!  Together, Drew and I launched the Next Level II Chapter in the spring of 2021, which chapter is now also at full capacity and thriving - and the members of these two chapters trusted us enough to recommend their key employees for a new chapter this spring - with Allison Seabeck facilitating the Next Level Catalysts!  These three chapters are our premium memberships, and this growth has allowed LoCo to grow in both revenues and reputation, and I must say - I’m grateful.  

How did Drew support this turnaround in fortunes for the Next Level chapters and membership?  

To start with, he got back to basics, the blocking and tackling that makes up the heart of the game for any team.  Clarify, Energize, and Adapt is a simple framework that Drew has worked with over the years, and step 1 was to Clarify - what are we here for?  Step 2 - Energize - which we did by adding new members, creating intentional connection points, and developing a culture of obstacle-clearing and intentional growth.  Step 3 (Adapt) is in process, and later this year we’ll be doing group workshops for both chapters to Clarify yet again.  

When Drew said he wanted to take on a second Next Level chapter, I must confess I was a bit hesitant.  I’ve served in the role of facilitator for many a season, and the administrative tasks and relationship tending associated with minding a single chapter is enough for my tastes.  But Drew is absolutely energized by this role - he’s much more organized than I am, like me he’s driven by his love for the small business community in Northern Colorado, and he absolutely thrives in the presence of these many accomplished business leaders.  He is energized by the responsibility and opportunity, and doing a great job as evidenced by the steady membership growth - and so who am I to hold him back from the things that bring him joy?  

Another of my LoCo Facilitators, Brandon Avery, falls closer to me than Drew on the organized scale and isn’t energized by the same things that Drew is - he’s more into ideas, variety, and achievement.  Brandon was a member of LoCo going back to the early days and became a facilitator after he sold his insurance business.  He gets his energy from the diversity of businesses and personalities in his chapter, by sorting through ideas and challenges together, and by helping people achieve their goals - and he does the organizational part with less joy, and more procrastination (I suspect - if he’s like me).  

I got acquainted with a near-future podcast guest today, a highly accomplished female CEO who was referred with strong recommendation - and she was sharing that perhaps her favorite season in her career journey was when she was a teacher of students and young nurses. The enthusiasm of youth is energizing to her, and we wondered together on our call where she might get a more regular taste of that nectar in her current role.  

All these short biopics to say - different strokes for different folks!  We all get our energy from different things, and one of the important things to understand about yourself is - Where do YOU get your energy from?  What fills your cup, so to speak, within your sphere of responsibility and opportunity in the workplace?  Where do you find joy in your time away from the office?  I meet too many people on a constant march it seems, from one unpleasant but necessary task to the next, and for the most part - you’d be happier if you focus more of your time on the things that bring you joy. I know they don’t call it work for no reason, and the trash won’t take itself out to the bin, but if we can know where we get our energy from we can schedule it into our daily and weekly routines.  (Unless you get your energy from spontaneity, but if that’s the case you know what to do!)

OK then, we can be energized as individuals by understanding where we get our energy from, and making time for those activities, but how can we bring that into a team environment?  My first answer is found in the question - BRING IT!  Teams thrive when each and every team member is bringing their special talent and energy to the team and sharing!  And, they thrive when there is an appreciation of the diversity of roles and personalities that make up the team. Knowing how the pieces fit together can make a big difference in engagement level to build a high-performing team, and it’s not only about the big WHY, but also about all the little hows.  How does this work?, what about that?  How do my efforts contribute to delivering value to our customers and clients?

The day to day of business often seems to get in the way of bringing people together as a team, giving them space to get to know one another and the various roles within the organization, but most leaders who take their businesses from good to great will tell you these hours are among the most important spent.  I’ve been writing recently about the Hallos Relational Intelligence framework we’ve been increasingly using at LoCo, in part because I think it’s a great foundation for bringing a team together.  

I’ve been invited to speak at the DisruptHR event on September 21, and my topic is about maximizing the power of diversity using Hallos TRIADS - if you want to see me and many other (more qualified!) speakers boil their special sauce in the HR space into 5-minute presentations - this is your chance, it’s at the Candlelight Dinner Theater from 4 - 7 pm.  More information and registration here.  And, if you’re intrigued enough by my regular mentions and would like to learn more about getting team assessments or having me in for an in-person workshop - ping me directly at curt@locothinktank.com!  

OK, so back to my topic - we’ve got these diverse roles and diverse personalities all powering the entrepreneurial engines we call small businesses, with everyone bringing their talent and spending as much time as possible doing what they do best, and it reminds me of how well that concept scales!   

Communities power their economic engines in a variety of ways as well, with the various industries and employers all doing what they do best, and consequently powering the payrolls of the workers and the retail spending and the coffers of government.  

In Weld County they have an amazing resource of land, and water, and agriculture powers much of their economy.  Not just the farms, but also a multitude of feedlots, and processing plants, and small food and equipment manufacturing businesses.  You know that smell that comes in when the wind is from the east? - it’s the smell of money!  In addition, they have UNC, and AIMS Community College, providing education to the young folks and jobs to the smarty pantses; and they have a stable and vibrant oil and gas industry, which feeds discretionary royalty income into the economy through investment and spending, and drives the many high-wage jobs that keep the car dealerships and electronics stores in the chips.  It’s a blue-collar centric economy, but those blue-collar jobs drive the need for bankers and lawyers and digital marketing agencies and…all the things.  

In Fort Collins, the collars are whiter, and the paychecks of the smarty pantses are higher from CSU than at the neighboring colleges.  Research and medicine and education drive a lot of our economy, along with remote workers and tourism, and small business.  Only 40 miles and yet worlds apart culturally Fort Collins and Greeley may be, but the principal factors hold true - it is good to have a diverse economic base, with everyone working hard and doing what they do best.  

This scales to a national level also, where the different states and regions contribute different things to a national marketplace.  In the south they grow cotton and fruits and vegetables, in the midwest it’s corn and soybeans and pigs and cows.  In the northwest it’s trees and airplanes, and in the northeast they specialize in attracting and employing smarty pantses - and in California they’ve got a high concentration of know-it-alls.  

Well-meaning know-it-alls, generally, and they’re trying to fix the things they feel are broken.  They’ve developed an economic system that links enormous 5 and 7 lane highways across an incredibly wide expanse of land, in an idyllic climate region off the coast of California.  Leading the nation in commute times for decades now, Californians have been spending 2 - 4 hours in their cars almost daily, contributing to the famed Cali smog.  But I’m sure all will be well now that California has opted to mandate all-electric (or fuel-cell) new vehicle sales by 2035.  The highways will be quieter to be sure, but I wonder where Californians will get their energy from?

California has done a good job of reducing their CO2 emissions overall, moving earlier to natural gas, and with abundant hydro and solar and wind generation ability.  But their energy grid has been stretched thin in recent years, with brownouts on occasion, and fires started by popping transformers - overloaded by the strain of electricity demand of a growing population.  Recent forecasts suggest that the move to EV plus continued population growth could increase electricity demand by 65% or more by 2045, and there just isn’t enough room for all the windmills and solar and battery storage that would be necessary.  They’re keeping their one remaining nuclear plant online for now, but unlikely to build more - and my hunch is that the decreasing availability of water will decrease hydro power over time - and I wonder again, where will they get their energy from?  

Just as with activities and teams and industries, when it comes to energy there is value in diversity!   As people have strengths and weaknesses, so too do our sources of energy as humans.  It’s all about cost and availability, and energy density.  In the developing world, much cooking is done with wood, or dried animal dung.  For these folks, an electric stove with power generated by the burning of coal is a wonderful upgrade for human thriving.  No more smoke in the living space, and much less time spent gathering animal dung!  

But coal is dirty, and even modern coal plants emit a shocking amount of carbon into the atmosphere - and particulates into the surrounding communities.  Natural gas, in comparison, is very clean-burning, and it can be revved up and down quickly by comparison to coal, filling in the gaps when cloudy days or extended calm - or too-high winds - take solar and wind off the grid.  And, at least in the US, it’s highly available, almost a by-product of fracking and drilling for oil to power the cars and trucks.  In Europe, they’ve elected not to allow for fracking, thus leaving them with very little natural gas of their own to be developed.  They’ve been restarting their coal plants, and even burning diesel fuel to generate electricity!  If you’re in the wood-stove business in Europe right now, my hunch is that you’re seeing brisk sales this season - bringing the population back to the same fuel source used for cooking in the developing world!

That’s one of the beautiful strengths of oil and its’ derivatives as an energy source - the transportability.  There are many ports across Europe that can handle an oil tanker - although not many that can handle supertankers - and once it’s off the boat oil (and gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, etc.) can be transported by truck or rail to anywhere that trucks and rails can go.  It’s of a higher energy density than natural gas, but dirtier, plus you can make all kinds of products from oil - everything from fabrics to plastics to manufacturing compounds and chemicals is derived from oil.  

Solar entered the energy game in the 80’s, mostly with poor-performing roof-mounted systems and some subsidized solar farms here and there, but advances in solar technology really accelerated the industry through the early 2000’s, and it’s an important part of our energy mix today.  I looked into solar for my house, but have too many trees, and I’d love to see solar on more roofs in our community and every community.  I have solar on my camper van, and it’s great - free electricity, and no emissions!  But I don’t want a solar farm in my backyard - and it turns out that nobody else does either - even in the Mojave Desert there are graffiti signs with slogans like “Solar Kills” written on the fences around the solar farms, and to observe the landscape it seems fairly accurate.  Also concerning is China’s dominance over solar manufacturing - which is energy and rare mineral intensive - and accomplished mostly using energy derived from “dirty coal”.  

Here’s a side note for you - as Europe and America were patting themselves on the backs over their reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the Chinese and Indians and others were happily becoming our outsourced manufacturing partners - moving those energy intensive and pollutive industries to far-away lands - where the poor people live.  I hate to break it to you though, but it’s the same air, and moving the problem far away does not remove the problem.  It takes energy to do stuff and make stuff, and people - selfish as they are - like to do stuff and have stuff!  

Moving on through the energy options, we come to wind.  I like wind power, and having grown up in North Dakota, perhaps the windiest state in the nation - because Minnesota sucks and Montana blows :o) - it seems like wind could be the clean energy source the world has been searching for!  But wind turbines are also mineral and energy intensive to manufacture, and they don’t have the service life of a coal or gas (or nuclear) plant, and the wind doesn’t always blow - which leads to the need for expensive and inefficient battery storage, or supplementation with gas-powered generation.  But gas plants don’t like to sit in idle for when the wind doesn’t blow, so it’s an economic challenge to rely on wind at scale.  And, wind has two other major downfalls - only one of which you’re allowed to know about.  First, they’re ugly, and no one really wants them in their backyards either, and really I don’t even like to see them uglying up the landscape in Nebraska or North Dakota either when I’m passing through.  And, I really don’t want to see them in scenic places like the mountains - and that’s where the second factor especially comes into play.  

I’ve come to believe that too many wind turbines change the weather.  They chop up air currents, and result in significant wind speed declines.  In the mountains of California, and off the shores of Europe, there are vast numbers of wind turbines, and I believe they are beginning to alter the water flow in both cases, and in the case of Europe - the wind has become reluctant to even blow!  Could it be that installing wind turbines leads to the wind “changing its mind” about where it wants to blow?  I’m not a scientist, but I don’t think wind is the free lunch it is advertised to be, and I found this fellow who put together a thoughtful examination of the topic.  

So anyway, we’ve still got hydro power - which requires water flows from the Pacific to reach the Rockies of Colorado, and nuclear - which I have always been a fan of but have now become a champion of.  Hydro is pretty sweet, but does require large amounts of infrastructure - and fish-killing dams, and it’s also variable - we have dry years and wet years - and always have.  

The energy density of nuclear power is off-the-charts, even compared to oil or refined oil products, and it can be spooled up and down with ease, and there is no greenhouse gas issue, uranium is abundant in our nation and many places around the world, and the waste heat can even be reused for other purposes.  But if you’ve got a nuclear power plant in your nation, you can use some of the byproducts to build a nuclear bomb, and even the spent fuel could turn a conventional bomb into a poison-spreading terror device.  Plus, the memory of Fukushima is still fresh - though that disaster killed almost no one and leff few lasting effects.  So, while I do love nuclear, it too has drawbacks.  

All of this to say, it’s a diverse and wonderful world - embrace it!  In my honest opinion, the best way to deal with the climate challenge is to create a simple - carbon tax and dividend system.  No bureaucracy, no deciders of which technologies are “acceptable” and which ones are “dirty”, just a simple tax.  The magic is in the dividend - everyone gets it, in equal measure.  So, if you’re a rich dude who’s flying in planes and driving a big truck, you can subsidize the person who lives a simple life and seldom drives or travels.  Tax what you want less of, subsidize what you want more of.

And, it’s the same with you, and the same with your team.  Make space for the things that energize you, make it part of your routine, bring your special sauce and share it, clarify the why, understand the how, tax what you want less of - and subsidize what you want more of - and make it a great day.  Thanks for reading. 

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The purpose of this blog is to share perspectives and to open dialogue and encourage the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.
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