The Strength of Shadows

I took one of my regular walks to get fresh air last week and for those that know me, I often take a walk up to Swanley Park which I am blessed is close to my home. Pre-pandemic, I would get up to this park once per week for some lunch and a wander, but I often, let’s be honest, always, missed beautiful lessons from nature until recently. Today, I look for these lessons and one stunning lesson came in this below observation:

What do you see and sense in this picture?

Let me add that this day was one of those really cold, crisp, yet soul enhancing Autumnal days where the iciness meets your heartbeat and you truly feel connected to yourself and the environment in that moment.

My takeaways

I talk about and believe that I role model vulnerability (you can find 138 full episodes and a range of other self-care and Have Courage conversations at Value through Vulnerability on your favourite podcast platform, the last 38 of which with HumansFirst founder Mike Vacanti) and vulnerability was a huge lesson from the above picture for me.


  • Vulnerability and our shadows

The reminder that there is beauty in not only striving for positivity and hope, but in seeing, acknowledging and feeling the shadow parts of your life as well, this takes courage and vulnerability.  Why this is so stark for me is that I never wanted to go the shadow side for over two decades after I was bullied as a kid, however since acknowledging my past 5 years ago, I progressively heal and can show up more fully now and in the future.

What parts of your past or current are you suppressing or not acknowledging today and how may that be holding you back?

  • Wholeness

This leads into my second reflection which is to look at how much beauty can be observed when we see the entirety or wholeness of a being, a tree, a story, an idea. The light and the dark.  Neither causes our human experience, the feelings and thoughts that we attach do.

When we seek to dilute or disregard any part of ourselves or anybody or anything else, we do not only devalue the other, we are devaluing ourselves. Our ability to listen, to empathise, to feel, and to co-create.

Do you feel that you show up as a whole person today?

What are your thoughts around the topic of work/life balance and how does that feed into your previous answer?

  • Connected to source

Whether a crisp, sunny day, driving rain, or anything in between, these beautiful trees, unless uprooted, remain grounded and connected to their source.

That source can be soil, human connection, your chosen higher power to believe in.  For me, it is a reminder that I truly not only believe but also feel, that we are all connected and more recently, I am feeling into how literally EVERYTHING is connected.

Interestingly this was brought to life as I hosted the first-ever podcast at my work organisation this past week on the topic of food and nutrition. I learned as my global colleagues spoke about the paradigm shift that is occurring, especially in Europe and the Americas, towards more meat replacements, healthier, restaurant-quality food, but at home, and this is expected to continue post-pandemic.

Interestingly, in Asia, they remain committed to healthier staples but seek more sophisticated alternatives.

  • Natural diversity

I listened back to my podcast conversation with the amazing Laura Storm last week that Dennis kindly shared previously and I was reminded by her that “nature thrives on diversity and inclusion.”  Again nature, of which we are all part, thrives on diversity and inclusion.

Looking at the above picture, look at the various directions in which the branches develop and grow. I take this for granted, but the freedom and unencumbered direction of travel and growth is such a great metaphor for work life.

There is no bias or judgement as to whether a branch has all of its leaves or twigs, or whether it looks the same as the other branches!

How often our outdated leaders and systems seek to constrain, unnaturally, our human experience, and our human development.  Yes, we sometimes need to prune nature, but only in a garden setting!  In the wilds of nature, there is no pruning, so why do we keep pruning our human potential just so that our people can be controlled?!

  • Navigating the unknown

Some call it VUCA, I call it nature (but I also have an upgraded version of VUCA to offer if curious).

Our human experience is a moment, by moment by moment.  My goodness, I have never been clearer on that as my 2020 has consisted of gratefully maintaining my essential worker day job, navigating testicular cancer which you can learn more about here and here, crying for days after George Floyd’s murder, being part of amazing communities such as Humans First and part of amazing uplifting experiences such as the Rally Day on 30th April which included the amazing Kimberly Davis, Heather Younger, Mark C Crowley, Minda Harts and so many other awesome humans including the main man Mike Vacanti himself, all whilst being connected to THE most amazing tribe of human beings globally, in so many walks of life.

Life has always been and will always be, VUCA!

We could say, change is an inside job!

We don’t know what the next day, let alone the next moment will bring, so I invite you, me, and us all to keep looking to the beauty of nature for lessons as well as looking to one another for lessons of lived experience and connection.

Have a wonderful day, weekend, or week ahead, whenever this article meets you, and please; challenge, add, or debate any of my musings, they are not right or wrong, they are just this moments reflections.





Garry Turner
Garry Turner
Combining a powerful mix of international sales and culture expertise, Garry is facilitating individual and team transformations as an interpersonal catalyst. With over 20 years of sales and relationship building experience and qualified in organisational design and development, learning & development and as a chartered member of the CIPD, he focuses on bringing intentional human-centred working to all walks of life, and has the evidence to validate this necessary paradigm shift. Whether through connection-centred workshops, keynote talks, live events or through Thinking Partnerships, Garry is driven by his two non-negotiable core values of growth and connection.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. thank you for always sharing your inside story so well Garry. It resonated with me so much cause this year being more in my back yard I did pay more attention to nature. I have even bonded with a little bird who visited us regularly and spent the sunset hour with us on the fence. I said this is the first time we had some bird like this that came to our yard but then I stopped and said may be there were other amazing things happening all the time, this year I took more time to observe and feel and see like you did at that park. With my dog I felt the same. They are so present. They are so easy. We are so complicated. That is why when we are with our dogs or pets or in nature we feel healing and feel so much better. I wish we could be as in the flow as the nature is and accepting what is. Thank you my friend. You have such a great soul it is hard to imagine you being closed for 2 decades. You are kidding right??? :0)

    • Thank you Brooke for such beautiful reflections. We are so (over) complicated aren’t we, that human ego is a blessing and curse, another wonderful paradox! Thank you for showing up so fully, every time my friend x

  2. What a wonderful article Garry! I too have spend hours watching trees, waves, squirrels and received such valuable info from it. Way more then they teach at school. Beautiful also that you have observed your shadows and once you did got through them. Thank you for this amazing piece and know how to put it in writing!