Hetch Hetchy at Yosemite – November 4, 2019


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

Yosemite National Park is breathtaking, especially in autumn. The grand valley, the daunting cliffs, the sunset bouncing off the giant walls of granite – it’s majestic!  In early November, Kent and I set out on a hike that turned into one of the most inspired times we’ve shared.

Let me set the scene:

  • We had two days to explore Yosemite, over 1,100 square miles.
  • We made a rough plan: visit two sites, the Valley and Hetch Hetchy.
  • There was no cell coverage in the park. The familiar dinging and buzzing was gone.
  • It was unseasonably warm. There were no hindrances to discovering the best of Yosemite.
  • I had just come from a coaching conference at UC Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute. I’d led a workshop on the importance of and how to write a personal mission and vision statement. Kent attended that workshop; it was fresh on our minds.

Once we entered this magnificent park, time s-l-o-w-e-d.

Why? Because we were focused.

The first day was great. We found a place to stay and drove directly to the valley. Though the hike to Vernal Falls was well worth the quad workout (the views up there are spectacular), not surprisingly, El Capitan and Half Dome stole the show.

View from above. Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite

Day two was even more special. We took the 6-mile trek around Hetch HetchyHetch Hetchy is a water reservoir that serves the entire San Francisco Bay area over 180 miles away. It’s huge. There were only a handful of other hikers on the trail, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

With blue skies above us and the expansive lake below, the stage was set – and this day was even more relaxed, rested and energized.

We were fully present and in the moment. A discussion about our individual mission statements sparked as we walked. We both had a strong written statement. It was time, we thought, to write an “Our Mission.”

We shared ideas on what felt right, tossed around words and made fun of each other. Kent is a community builder. How would we do that? I am all about freedom. How could we combine these values and let them play out in our lives? How can we do this at work and with family and friends? Service to others is also at the core of who we are. What does that look like?

By the end of our hike, we had a joint mission statement and some clarity on how we would activate certain facets of our shared vision. I had no flip chart or sharpies on me, so we needed to keep it simple and memorable. 😉 Our mission is clear and exciting to us. The vision is evolving, just as we are.

This meandering conversation continued for the rest of our trip, driving, packing, sharing an In-N-Out burger… it became the narrative for these precious few days.

Could we have done this at home? Sure, but it would have been much harder to create this kind of space.

Now that we are home and back to the daily routine, we are continuing this conversation. Not 48 hours at a time, but in small touch points.

You and I have opportunities every day to have “heart and meaning” conversations. They take 10 minutes, 30 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. Though retreats and vacations provide the time and space to reconnect on a deeper level, we must find ways to connect regularly.  Opportunities are all around us, but we miss them or don’t seize the moment.  When we move through life like an Indy 500 pit crew, it’s impossible to catch subtle requests for our attention. Our harried lifestyle seems logical; our jobs and people around us value productivity and results more than caring about others. If you reflect on the people who’ve made the biggest positive impact in your life, you will most likely find a theme: they listened to you and guided you with genuine care. They had capacity. They created it.

Angeles Arriens, a cultural anthropologist believed that we need to bring humanity back to leadership. Her anthem, “… it’s about human connection.” She wrote about this in the Four Fold Way, long before our incessant need to stay connected digitally outweighed connecting with the people in front of us.

The four principles are:

Show up (and choose to be present)

Pay attention (to what has heart and meaning)

Tell the truth (without blame or judgment)

Be open (to outcomes)

Here’s the thing, you don’t need to turn into a marshmallow to bring the four fold way into your leadership. This is wisdom for all ages. Creating a new tone for your team whether at school, in sports, at work and especially in your home is possible. But it takes time and it most certainly requires connecting in meaningful ways. It goes for the small moments, pivotal conversations and especially with someone who is struggling.

Consider clearing space and making it sacred, uninterrupted time, listen and look for what that person needs by asking questions, respond with affirmation and truth, then seek a positive outcome. Think about the difference that will make.

Sheila Gray and I talked about these principles on Good Morning in Cincinnati.

We are all given opportunities to show-up for people who need us.  Maybe it’s time we all slow down a little so we can recognize a person who we need to connect with. Put the phone away, get laser focused on them and tune in. As you do, I promise you will see the goodness that’s exists in them, help them with the truth and lead them to a positive outcome. You don’t have to figure it all out, just slow down and walk with them on their path.

The greatest compliment that was ever paid to me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.

Henry David Thoreau

As you practice this, I hope you find yourself wondering how you can be more and more effective as a leader. If you do, that’s a good sign – it means you want more. So do I. This idea of gaining clarity on personal mission and vision has been a driving force in my life for quite some time. I’ve learned that it’s the foundation on which a purpose-driven life is built. If you want to talk more about what all of this means, please contact me.  We won’t hike in Yosemite, but I promise, it’ll be sacred ground where you can breathe and think clearly – maybe for the first time. What a gift!

Hike on, my friend!



Do you have a well written mission and vision for your life, leadership, work? If not, let’s talk. I work with people, couples and families in all facets of their life encouraging them to step up, lead and make a difference.

Leading leaders to the greater good.

Contact me at alexia@alexiazigoris.com or visit AlexiaZigoris.com for more.