Dave Sturt

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clients_hub_01New York Times best-selling author, Dave Sturt, 51, lives in Salt Lake City and joined me last year at the Redmond Leadership Retreat at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell.

Sturt is executive vice president at O.C. Tanner Institute and consults widely with Fortune 500 leaders. But did you know? Sturt lived in South Africa and as a young adult taught wind surfing. He also gave a great TEDX talk. Watch it here.

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UO:  Do you believe getting outside is good for your health and well-being? If so, how does it play out in your life?

DS: Yeah, totally. For me, hikes, water. Water seems to be more of my specialty of outdoors. I’m not a big fan of indoor swimming pools. I think that’s what drew me to windsurfing. It drew me to kayaking. It drew me to water sports.

I’ve sort of rediscovered walks. When I can get away, I love to go for a walk. I’m surprised by how much I’m tuning in my ears to sounds of crickets, birds, even in an urban setting. It’s very replenishing. It’s hard to fulfill that same place even watching a movie that may have those same auditory cues and all the visuals. There is something about connecting with all the sounds and the smells and temperatures. It feels like it’s vibrant, richer than what you experience in a house, for instance.

dsUO:  Do you feel a part of the outdoors or simply a user of it?

DS: Being part may or may not imply that I have the same level of effect on the natural environment that a rock does or flowers do. So, it feels like there is an added level of stewardship that comes with our abilities compared to that of the landscape. But in terms of being part of it, of feeling like this (Lake Powell and its surroundings) is part of us, I would say yes.

UO: Is being outside good for us? What about that?

DS: It’s the connection, the feel you have experiencing the outdoors. What does that experience look like compared to an inside experience? It feels richer, more grounding. I’ve always had an appreciation for outdoor beauty. One of the greatest moments I remember was in 1996. I was sitting on the top of Mt. Huangshan, Yellow Mountain, in China and watching the sun come up. You can’t experience that through other means.

Mt. Huangshan

Mt. Huangshan

UO: Can you tell or can others tell when you need it?

DS: I can tell. When I get time outside, I feel more grounded. I feel more open, more clear-minded. I don’t know what it is. What’s the mechanism? What are the properties for that?

UO: Is there an intersection between your faith and your connection to the outdoors? (Sturt is an LDS stake president.)

DS: I think there is. Especially when you explore the core philosophies of how you view the world, how you view Mother Nature. What are the lenses through which you look to connect or disconnect with that?

From a faith perspective, our faith teaches us that the world has a spirit. We refer to Mother Nature as if it were some sort of entity, a sentient being. We believe that. We believe that there is actually a soul to the earth itself. It begets a sense of reverence, a sense of respect.

Clearly I don’t understand that. Does it have a voice? And yet, I think that’s part of what we feel.

ldsUO: So, for Mormons, there is Mother Nature?

DS: Yeah, I don’t know that it’s called Mother Nature but we’re taught that the earth has a soul, has an entity…That affects how I look at it.

And I think there is also a sense of stewardship, a sense that we’re here on this earth and we have responsibility to take care of it and not to decimate and consume it all, but actually to be thoughtful about it.

UO: Mormons can look to Words of Wisdom to guide them to live healthily. From what you’re saying, it sounds like there is david-sturtguidance for being environmentally-conscientious too.

DS: The Words of Wisdom is a fairly specific set of instructions from 1840 or so. It was specifically around not eating too much meat, eating grains, fruits, vegetables, getting sleep. These things were articulated fairly clearly and discussed regularly…It gets attention whereas the principle of being a steward for the earth and being thoughtful of your impact is not actively taught. It’s not that there is a section in scripture saying, you should do thus and thus…It’s more just a belief, and not one that’s spoken of a lot.

UO: And it can be subject to interpretation.

DS:  Yes, absolutely. There’s an interpretation of what is acceptable and what’s not. Industry. Production. Providing for family. All those things are worthy and important goals. But how do they stack up?

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