In our Three Things conversation in October, Evgeny Shadchnev introduced us to some of the poems he uses in his coaching conversations with founders. He read, and we discussed, far too many poems to fit in to our podcast episode, and so we have collated this supplement of five of Evgeny’s favourite poems, as well as a brief commentary on how and when each poem might be useful, from preparing for redundancies to considering one’s future.

“Poetry helps us connect more directly with how we feel”, says Evgeny. “It doesn’t give you any answers. But it acts like a mirror – reflecting – and helping you better understand what’s happening inside.”

* * *

Don’t waste your time

Elizabeth Carlson

With this first poem, Evgeny refers to the ultimate founders’ dilemma: “Imagine reading this poem to a founder who is not sure whether they should stay in their position or move on to something else”.

Don’t waste your time on earth

doing the work of others.

Do your own work.

The sweat of your soul,

The lightness in the centre of your heart

will tell you

when you are on course.

The swiftness of your breath

will slow to match

the tidal pull of moonlight.

You will ski effortlessly

down the slope of each day

calling your own name

softly to the trees.

* * *


David Wagoner

“Learn to be still… pause… notice what is happening in your mind, your body and your emotions.”

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

* * *

Always we hope

Lau Tzu

For Evgeny, there is one poem that has a big influence on him in 2015. “It still remains one of my favourites.”

Always we hope

Someone else has the answer

Some other place will be better,

Some other time it will all turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer

No other place will be better,

And it has already turned out.

At the center of your being

You have the answer,

You know who you are

And you know what you want.

There is no need

To run outside

For better seeing.

Nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being;

For the more you leave it, the less you learn.

Search your heart

And see

The way to do

Is to be.

* * *

A blessing for the leaders

John O’Donahue

“If someone asked me for advice on how to approach a round of redundancies or a restructuring, or other difficult decisions, I might share this poem.”

May you have the grace and wisdom

To act kindly, learning

To distinguish between what is

Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.

May you never put yourself at the centre of things.

May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself

Building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence

In order to engage with those who meet you.

When someone fails or disappoints you

May the graciousness with which you engage

Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.

May you treasure the gifts of the mind

Through reading and creative thinking

So that you continue to be a servant of the frontier

Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,

And you never become a functionary.

May you know the wisdom of deep listening,

The healing of wholesome words,

The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,

The decorum of held dignity,

The springtime of the bleak question.

May you have a mind that loves frontiers

So that you can evoke the bright fields

That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends

To mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you

A true adventure of growth.

* * *

For the one who is exhausted

John O’Donohue

“This is for founders who feel completely exhausted – at the point of a burnout.”

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,

Time takes on the strain until it breaks;

Then all the unattended stress falls in

On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.

Things you could take in your stride before

Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.

Gravity begins falling inside you,

Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.

And you are marooned on unsure ground.

Something within you has closed down;

And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.

The desire that drove you has relinquished.

There is nothing else to do now but rest

And patiently learn to receive the self

You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken

And sadness take over like listless weather.

The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of colour

That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.

Learn to linger around someone of ease

Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,

Having learned a new respect for your heart

And the joy that dwells far within slow time.