Teal-y Reflections from Down Under

The giant clam got me. 

Or rather, it drew me into a state of awe. 

Who knew giant clams were so fleshy, so colorful, so dynamic? With “siphonal orifices” taking in and expelling seawater in breath-like rhythm? Who knew they have hundreds of eyes? Or that these photoreceptive spots–technically “hyaline organs–are teal?!

I sure didn’t. So I was thrilled and captivated as I snorkeled up next to a three-foot-wide giant clam on the Great Barrier Reef.

A giant clam on the Great Barrier Reef.
(Photo courtesy of https://www.franklandislands.com.au/marine-life-in-the-great-barrier-reef/)

That moment of underwater amazement was part of a wider, wonderful trip I took to Australia last month. A journey that had surprising insights for me when it comes to Teal consciousness–lessons by turns instructive, sobering and inspiring. 

Integrating Business and Pleasure

I didn’t expect to think about professional matters much on the trip. It was a 12-day visit with my mother-in-law, Parris, and my wife, Rowena. Classic tourism: a few days at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, over to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef experience, and finally a visit to Sydney and a night at the city’s famous Opera House.

But that’s a thing about embracing Teal. The principle of holism means business, pleasure and the rest of life are all connected. And on this trip they truly were!

The Instructive

For example Teal-y light bulbs started going off for me during a lovely lunch in Melbourne with fellow authors and consultants Megumi Miki and Anneli Blundell. We planned to talk about leadership, workplace culture and masculinity. And we did, but another topic that came up was the demographic variety and sense of inclusivity I noticed in Melbourne. 

The 5-million person city of Melbourne won me over with its welcoming, dynamic vibe. Not only is Melbourne’s rich mix of Caucasian, Asian, South Asian, Aboriginal and mixed-race faces striking. So is the sense that no one group lords it over another. In many other parts of the world, people of color play subordinate, subservient roles. That inevitably creates a certain colonial-era tension.

I didn’t feel that in Melbourne. Employees in cafes and shops largely mirrored the look of the patrons being served. Or so it seemed to me.

Megumi was born in the country to Japanese immigrant parents. Growing up in the 1970s, she remembers being teased for her lunches — made up of rice balls and other Japanese fare.

Today, though, Megumi feels entirely at home in Melbourne. Her work is about helping organizations to recognize the leadership talent of “quiet” men and women — a passion stemming from her own introverted personality. And she’s finding receptive audiences, including in Melbourne.

Leadership experts Anneli Blundell, right, and Megumi Miki in Melbourne.

That may be because people in this city appreciate authenticity and difference over being polished, Megumi says. “Most of us are proud of being a cosmopolitan city with a mix of people, culture and food,” she says.

In other words, Melbourne demonstrates key tenets of the Teal principle of holism: an acknowledgement of and even celebration of the genuine identities we each have, and a recognition that we are better when we bring those diverse elements together in a truly integrated community.

The Sobering 

That’s not to say Australia is perfect when it comes to holism. Including on the racial inclusion front. The country, for example, recently rejected a referendum that would have amplified the political voice of Aboriginal people.

And there are other signs that a holistic, global consciousness is missing. For example, we had a guide in the amazing, ancient Daintree Rainforest who wasn’t keen on the need for climate activism. This was so even though just a few days prior to our visit, the main road into the area had been flooded by a massive cyclone–part of a troubling trend of extreme weather events across the planet

Rising global temperatures also are responsible for one of the most disturbing experiences I had in Australia: the decline of the Great Barrier Reef. Much of the coral we swam around on our day outing was dead and overgrown with brown algae. 

I felt a visceral sense of how our collective failure to act on the climate is killing one of the world’s natural wonders–and eventually threatening every living species. 

Call this another lesson in holism, in the interconnectedness of all life on earth. It just happened to be a sobering reminder.

The Inspiring

But the enduring impression I had from Australia was a hopeful one. It had to do with the overall friendliness of people, with the resilience of the reef–which is making a comeback thanks to certain coral species. And even with what I witnessed of the organization leading my snorkeling excursion.

The team of three people on our visit to the “Low Isles” demonstrated self-management, purpose and holism in the course of our roughly seven-hour adventure.

The snorkeling guide–a woman named Moby–made wise judgment calls about which guests could handle which snorkeling experiences. For example, she took account of my history of a heart attack to suggest I swim out from the shore of a nearby island rather than right off the boat in deeper water. 

Rowena, Parris and I on our way out to the Low Isles on the Great Barrier Reef.

Meanwhile Tom, the captain of our 40-foot catamaran sailboat, handled trouble in a creative way. The tour company keeps a small motor boat with a glass bottom anchored near one of the Low Isles. The boat is used to allow non-snorkelers to see the reef and allow less-strong swimmers to begin their snorkeling from the beach of the island. 

The boat got us to the beach Ok. But then the engine broke down. Tom couldn’t fix it himself, but he arranged for another tour operator to tow it and several members of our tour back to the catamaran. 

Crew member Liz, for her part, showed agility and generosity in helping Parris, age 80, to swim out from the shore with a mask to observe a sea turtle. 

Liz also brought home the message that we need to stop global warming if we want to keep the reef alive for future generations. We saw a great deal of white coral during our snorkeling. That’s the “bleaching” you hear about. It doesn’t mean the reef is dead there, Liz explained. But it is a sign the coral struggling to survive.

“It can’t tolerate high temperatures,” she explained.

No Time to Clam Up

All this means the giant clam that dazzled and captivated me is in jeopardy. 

Hold on, buddy. 

I’ve come home from Australia more resolved than ever to fight the climate battle. I’m going to do everything I can to elevate our consciousness in organizations and beyond.

In other words, my fleshy, teal, mollusk mate, I’ve got you.