To say I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the early interest and support Stillwater Strategy Partners has seen from friends, community leaders and prospective clients would be the understatement of 2021. We set out on this journey with a clear intention to be of service to organizations at major crossroads in their lifecycles, and it seems that many of our colleagues feel like the non-profits they lead are at exactly these kinds of transformative moments.
One of the most common questions that comes up as folks want to know more about this consulting practice is: “where did the name come from?” I’m happy to share. Stillwater Strategy Partners as a name was formed at the intersection of three influences: a stunningly beautiful Montana river, a lovely children’s book series and a deeply engrained organizational intention.
Montana’s stunning Stillwater River begins high in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness and flows through rugged canyons for twenty miles before spilling out into rolling prairies. Eventually, this world-class cutthroat trout fishery drops into the wide Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river remaining in the US today.
Fly Fishing is a passion of mine, allowing for a degree of solitude, focus and grace that stands constantly in stark contrast to so many of the pressures that define contemporary life. In short, time on rivers like the Stillwater is where we heal and find peace.
Stillwater is the main character in John Muth’s amazing Buddhism-inspired children’s book series, with his Zen Shorts and Zen Tales having played a major role in “reading time” with my kids. His stories and the gorgeous images that accompany them are simultaneously inviting, accessible and ethically inspiring. Looking back on the years when the kids were still willing to snuggle up over a good book together, it’s clear that I learned as much from Stillwater’s gently presented wisdom as our kids did…maybe more.
While it would be wrong to suggest that we’re active practitioners of Zen teachings, the lessons contained in the Zen Shorts series and the Tao Te Ching have always resonated with us in real and important ways.
Taking up the mantel of leadership in organizations and playing a key role in raising new resources comes with enormous potential stresses. We’ve often heard it said that many fear public speaking more than death, and the same sentiment finds its way into how leaders feel about business development and fundraising; this important work comes with risk and judgement, and it’s often informed by decades of personal emotional baggage (typically around money) that needs to be acknowledged.
However, the work we support in partnership with our clients doesn’t have to be understood or approached with fear and anxiety. Rather, at its best, raising new resources, building new partnerships, or telling better and more human-centered stories is always done best from a place of authentic calm. Stillwater Strategy Partners brings to our work an intention to develop in our clients a sense of peace, confidence and authentic comfort as they invite others into advancing their vital missions.
So, in a nutshell, the name is intentional and – with all its influences – is about clarifying who we are and how we’ll work to our clients and potential partners, but it also serves as a daily “North Star” for me, reminding me why we do this work and how that work is done at its best.