It’s definitely been a fast moving road for the past few years, and this last year since getting the Bush Fellowship has only gotten busier us. The lessons of balancing the need for pursuing our vision vs. taking the time to take a step aside and allow yourself to slow down and focus inward is something I am so grateful for. My line of work growing up in kitchens and running restaurants has led to an immense amount of long hours a very little resources to relax, but now that I am building out my own vision, it is one of my main goals to build a situation that is acutely aware of the need for work/life balance. Our first restaurant that is coming up very quickly, the Indigenous Food Lab, is being designed by myself and my team giving lots of room for our workers to have set days off, taking paid days for education, paid vacations, and even a house therapist. It’s been so great to network and learn from both Bush Foundation employees and other fellows and take in such sound advice and finding the time to slow down, and seeing how that directly affects my own energy and personal mental state. I’ve noticed personally that just blocking a weekend day to spend time at home with my son, or just finding the time to house work and rest is so necessary. This is a pivotal time for the growth of my vision and work with overseeing the for profit Catering company, juggling endless asks for speaking engagements and out of town trainings and demos, building out the foundations of our non profit, pushing forward a massive capital campaign, and designing our unique non-profit restaurant and training center the Indigenous Food Lab has me wearing multiple hats constantly and working nonstop form morning through late nights. Completely turning off is not a realistic option, but scheduling time to not work is doable and has become more and more a part of the plan. It’s also how I see building this for my own staff and future workers who will be part of our start up team and giving so much effort to the projects at hand.
It’s been hard to measure all of the accomplishments we’ve been having let alone taking the time to even enjoy these precious moments since they are so fleeting. I know that I have to make that time to be an effective leader and role model, not only for my staff, but for all the supporters we have in our work. We have so many people so excited about the vision we are building and so much attention both locally and nationally, and this can be both humbling and terrifying at the same time. I want to build something that can help our employees on many levels. Giving them a workplace that can be fulfilling, focussed on a team effort, measuring and giving feedback on accomplishments, offering continuous education, offering a network to help to deal with life issues and past trauma, and pushing for life/work balance. I want to create a healthy work space that will give future employees a chance to explore their passions while also making time for themselves and their family. Incorporating this into my vision has all come from my learnings of being a Bush Fellow. I had to see how all my decisions affected my staff and know that as they look up to me, they were also not jealous of how much work I’ve been doing. I’ve made sure to have staff meetings and talk about the importance of finding time for ourselves and encouraging paid outings the staff could do together to help them bond and learn, like group trips to some of the farmers and vendors we use to see how they operate and why we support them. Overseeing employees will always be stressful, and losing employees is inevitable, but I want to make sure that employees who work with us will be left with a lasting impression. Having this opportunity to build a workplace model that has never been built before, gives me the opportunity to think outside the box and build these values into the core of I hope my team can be.
I had to really work hard to focus inward and look at areas of my own life and habits that I can work on to change for the better. I’ve always been around healthy food, but adjusting to a life of constant travel and motion, it was tricky to build a plan to make sure I was nourishing myself with healthy options and finding time for physical exercise, but it’s been something I’ve been able to eventually turn into a routine, even with such a chaotic schedule. I know I’m not getting any younger and with so much work on the line, I know I can harm myself with my own personal drive and knowing when and how to say know is a tough lesson, but I’ve come a long ways even in the past year. I see the role of self-care and making that a high priority as I build my own future an absolute must. I know that I have a unique opportunity and as my vision becomes a reality, I have to work hard to not work, if that makes sense. As a leader of my group, I want to make sure that the culture I am beginning to cultivate now, will be one that people will want to put their all into it, knowing that they will also not be over consumed by responsibilities and know they can take time away from work and still have the opportunity to advance within the company. I know I have a lot of lessons ahead, and am grateful for my time here as a Bush Fellow and know that the networks I’ve developed so far will be lasting and I will be able to always consult with the friends I’ve made so far.