One Minute! One Idea! Ep. 16 "Step Inside and Pass It On"

Welcome to "One Minute! One Idea!" – where we Deconstruct what’s happening at the intersection of innovation, human potential and the things we do to unlock it, known as Leadership.

It’s that time again…the season ending episode 8, and if you’re a fan, you know that this is when we go behind the scenes for an extended play episode. This entire season has been about our cabin restoration as an allegory for leadership and culture, so now is the time for us to cut to the chase and yes, go tour the cabin and see all of the things we’ve talked about in the first seven episodes. Logs, floors and tables…we will see it all. No shiplap – that’s been done – am I right?

So, put in the terms of a famous warrior and philosopher, (Yoda) – "Tour the cabin, we will."

See you inside.

Just a quick recap...our process began when we embraced the inevitable, and for our cabin, this historic home, it meant accepting the fact that the years- three centuries really were catching up with it. When we bought our farm, we knew that the cabin came along with it.  It was the thing that hooked us...that grabbed us by the heart but it took us a while to realize that we had also inherited an historical legacy.

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When we enter the cabin, we experience a sort of "Cathedral Effect" a term coined by my wife Rebecca - a feeling of calm and connection that we believe is related to the generations of families that have lived here before us. Others feel it too a sense of belonging that transcends wood and stone and steel. That feeling helped us to realize that as certainly as we owned the cabin, it owned a piece of us. It became clear that it was our inevitable responsibility a new part of our purpose here - to leave a legacy behind by paying it forward by putting this remarkable little home in shape to last at least another century, and that became our shared vision for the project.

You may recall that in episode 4, we faced our next challenge where to start? We eventually realized that many of the cabin's problems began in its ancient, dirt-floored cellar.

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None of the work we would eventually do would mean anything unless we literally repaired the foundation, the rocks and stones upon which everything else stood.  The logs overhead are solid, but most of the mortar had fallen out of the stone walls in the cellar and the floor was literally dirt, with no drainage or airflow of any kind.

Workers literally dug down to the base of the stone walls, and poured new buttress walls to brace and strengthen the foundation itself. We installed drainage, a vapor barrier, a new concrete floor and carefully repaired the stone walls. Now it's as good as new -actually better– and a suitable foundation for everything to come.

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That brought us to our next big dilemma. In episode 5, we talked about the fact that we had design and construction choices to make while staying true to the authentic nature of the cabin.  We realized that what we needed were guiding principles –values– that would guide us in the restoration, and we came up with two.  "The new must honor the old, and the old must be present in every room of the new".  Now to apply those lofty principles.

We tore down the addition and replaced it with new construction carefully designed to complement the original structure.

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We had recommendations to drywall or paint over the logs, but our guiding principals steered us a different direction – We exposed them and sandblasted everything with crushed walnut shells – a firm but gentle technique used in classic car restoration –just enough to clean them up while preserving their character.

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In the kitchen the floors are reclaimed oak fence boards from the area. Kitchen cabinets built from reclaimed Pennsylvania barn wood. 

Here’s the coolest example:

When we tore down the old addition, out of the pile of rubble, we were able to salvage a truckload of solid, 100 year old oak. We pulled it from the trash, pried out buckets of nails, loaded it in the truck and drove it to Amish country, and voila...

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two farm tables with matching benches, made from the salvaged oak, one in the original cabin, the old, and one in the new addition.  It’s the ultimate transformation, because we’ve not only held true to our values –"The New Must Honor the Old and The Old Must Be Present In Every Room of the New"–  we've gone a step further, to where the old actually BECOMES the new.

Let’s recap. Centuries ago, oak trees were harvested from this land and became beams, their strength hidden in the cabin's frame. Those same beams, shaped and sanded, have now become tables at the center of our family gatherings

From tree to beams to table, wood harvested, reclaimed and transformed so that we can gather and break bread in the same place, in the same way, that generations of families have before us. That awareness of connection and belonging and transformation, of weaving the past into the present to create the future, still inspires us. And we think it can inspire anyone who faces that apparently stark choice between old and new in their lives and families, in our jobs and companies.  And that's why, on certain days, when a storm has cleared and the light is just right, this historic home becomes, as a symbol of creativity and connection, the cabin at the end of the rainbow.

I think that's important enough to pass on.

It's what we're doing.

Dennis out.

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