Nick Tilsen

Nick Tilsen
Learning Log

Nick Tilsen

Report date
May 2019
Fellowship term
12 months
Learning log 2

This fellowship and this past year of my life has been an unforgettable journey. It has been the biggest ups and downs of my entire life. It wasn’t the fellowship that created these ups or downs. The reality is as we move through life, life happens. It happens weather we want it to or not. The challenges within my own family have been hard and challenging. I watched my daughters begin to turn into young women and all of the beauty of that. I also experienced the challenges they face as young women going through this world. As a parent the decisions we make when our children are small have such a profound impact as they grow into young adults. This year has been a lot of coming to terms with raising my children in an up and down and often unstable environment. The realization that I have often put the work of helping the people, the community and the earth at a cost to my own family. I watched my oldest son begin to become so independent and begin growing into a young man. My youngest son always asking so many questions and always wanting to come with me to new places whenever he gets a chance. All in all, I have learned and re-learned that nothing is more important to me in this world then my children.

My work of changing the world and making it a better place often takes me away from my children, but it is also deeply connected because if we aren’t fighting for and building the world, we want our children to grow up into then is our work even worthy at all. The things I have learned this year have been immense I have learned that although sometimes I wish for a “normal life” a “regular job” where I could go to work at 8am and be back home by 5pm every day and have that stability. But the reality is that I am just not built that way, it’s just not me. We live in a rapidly changing world that requires us to push ourselves to work harder, find solutions, create, innovate and build a vision for a better world. That having a vision is not good enough we have to have the ability to operationalize a vision to see it through, for it to come to reality. The vision and energy to be open to what is cultivated within our lived experience is a gift and with gifts come sacrifice and responsibility.

One of the things that has surprised me the most about my leadership throughout this fellowship is the ability to let go. Yes, it may seem simple, but I feel that letting go and really letting things develop on their own is something that we say as leaders, but we don’t really put it into practice. I mean let’s be real a part of leadership is making decisions that affect others and dealing with the consequence of that. So, we often say we will let go but if we are given the opportunity, we will try to influence the outcome of a situation. This year in this fellowship I truly learned how to let go, let things fall as they be and let them become whatever they become. I have learned that as innovators social entrepreneurs and change makers we might build organizations and enterprises but they are not ours. As leaders move on from their organizations and things will change no matter what. Some organizations will change for the worse and some will change for the better. My hope is the organization I transitioned out of will change for the better, the jury is still out on weather that will happen or not. But the reality is it’s not up to me. It’s up to the new leadership, it’s up to the people that work there now it’s up to the people that engage with the organization now. Because all organizations are merely a reflection of the people and leadership within them. I realized that I had to let part of my dream for the organization I built, I had to let it go. I learned that I have to truly take the time to show and include everyone around me what is going on in my head and share my thinking and create an inclusionary environment that people feel open to questioning the strategy and feel open to contributing to it.

This year I have been surprised of how hard inner work truly is in fact it’s terrifying and I have done a lot of this work this year and I have evolved immensely in my thinking. That inner work and healing is not a destination it is in fact a road map, a pathway, `a way of life that I must integrate into every aspect of my life if I wish to sustain leadership. I came into this fellowship program very burnt out, frustrated and in a time of tremendous transition and growth. I have done my best to wear my heart and pain on my sleeve whiling practicing the resilience that has been imbedded in me by ancestors and people. I looked back a lot this year and I have come to terms with that as a leader there is many things you will only see and feel. That I have to do as a good of a job as possible to share the struggle with those around me but also accepting that as leaders we often will sacrifice many things in this life that no one will ever know about, that our pain can be something that can destroy us or fuel us to change.

Our organizations are not our identities. We are people. People first, human beings first. Organizations don’t create change in this world it is the people within them that do. It is their energy, their spirit, their courage, hope, faith and inner power that truly matters. The biggest lesson I have learned this year is that we must all make people centered decisions. That our organizations must dig deep to unleash the true potential of the people within them and that for our work to truly have impact in this world we have to sustain leadership over time. We have to build organization and community cultures of wellbeing and healing.

This year and this fellowship literally closed a chapter in my life. I started organizing and creating change when I was very young, and I truly feel that this fellowship has given me the opportunity to close one chapter and start another. For this I am truly great full.

Lastly thank you to my fellow… fellows... you are all an amazing inspiration in my life and I know our paths will continue to cross paths again through out this work and this life.

I leave you with something I have been thinking about a lot. That the solutions to the complex problems that are facing humanity already exist. They exist in all of the people on this planet they exist in our ceremonies, in our minds and in our hearts. That our work is merely about Liberating those solutions and nurturing them into fruition. As leaders we are merely stewards and cultivators of what already exist. Anything is truly possible, and we can accomplish anything that we put our minds to. It’s been an honor to walk side by side with Liberators of social change. Mitakuye Oyasin “We Are All Related”