Casco, Maine – In fall of 2007, as the country tumbled into an economic free fall, Hancock Lumber CEO Kevin Hancock held an unenviable position. As the national housing market collapsed, and home sales in Maine plummeted by 66%, Kevin struggled to help his company adapt, adjust and survive. The future of one of America’s oldest family businesses, and its 450 employees hung in the balance.
Then, things got worse.
In April of 2008, Hancock lost his voice; his sentences became weak, broken and difficult to hear. Any effort to speak left the company’s once vocal leader feeling sore, dizzy, out of breath, and not wanting to say much.
Hancock would soon learn that he had acquired spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological voice condition for which there is no known cause or cure.
As he struggled with the inability to consistently use his normal speaking voice, Hancock worked tirelessly to help guide the company back to strong financial footing as the economy sputtered into recovery. In 2012, compelled by an astrological reading and a lifelong interest in Native American History, he traveled to the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He was moved by the people he met, and the struggles he witnessed there. The bonds he forged at Pine Ridge prompted him to re evaluate the trajectory of his own life – including the tribe that had shaped him, and the new future he might create as an individual. There, he learned how to listen to his own voice, and was inspired to develop a new approach to corporate leadership and to life.
In Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse, Hancock recounts his journey to Pine Ridge, and shares the lessons he learned there that permanently altered the course of both his life and leadership style. Hancock describes how he learned to listen more, look inward for purpose, strengthen the voices of others and reconstruct his entire sense of identity – completely removed from the one that had hinged on being on stage in the spotlight all the time.
Hailed by U.S. Senator Angus King, Jr. as “part spiritual journey, part moving portrait of some extraordinary people, and part leadership manual… [a] Fascinating book will touch you and teach you on many levels,” Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse has earned praise from readers across the nation since being published in September of 2015. Already in its second printing, Not For Sale has been honored as a National Indie Excellence Award (NIEA) winner.
With photographs that touchingly illustrate his journey, provides a realistic look at life on the Rez, and illuminates his growing awareness of interconnectedness, Hancock evokes messages for us all. He shows us a path so beautifully trod by the indigenous Americans that brings us into harmony with ourselves, our spirit, and the world around us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Hancock is the President of Hancock Lumber Company. Established in 1848, Hancock Lumber operates ten retail stores and three sawmills that are led by 460 employees. The company also grows trees on 12,000 acres of timberland in Southern Maine.
Hancock Lumber is a multi year recipient of the ‘Best Places to Work in Maine’ award. The company is also a past recipient of the Maine Family Business of the Year Award, the Governor’s Award for Business Excellence, and the MITC ‘Exporter of the Year’ award.
Kevin is a past chairman of the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association as well as the Bridgton Academy Board of Trustees. Kevin is a recipient of the Ed Muskie ‘Access to Justice’ Award, the Habitat for Humanity ‘Spirit of Humanity’ Award, the Boy Scouts of America ‘Distinguished Citizen’ Award, and Timber Processing Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ Award. Kevin also spent 20 years coaching middle school basketball for the Lake Region school district.
Kevin is a graduate of Lake Region High School and Bowdoin College. He is also a frequent visitor to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In 2015, Kevin published a book about his experiences with the Oglala Sioux Tribe titled, Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse. The book won the National Indie Excellence Award, first place in leadership and runner up in the spirituality category.
Kevin is an advocate of strengthening the voices of all individuals within a company or a community such as Pine Ridge through listening, empowering, and shared leadership.
UNIQUE BOOK FEATURES
ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY. Featuring over 200 original photographs by the author, documenting his journey to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse is a unique iconoclastic memoir that traces one businessman’s journey deep into Indian country, and even deeper into his own soul.
TIME TO THINK AND SEARCH FOR MEANING. In a 24/7 internet wired world consumed with roles, responsibilities, and external accomplishments, Kevin learns to look inward for meaning and purpose. Through a series of successive, solo trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Kevin learns the following powerful lessons:
- We all come from a tribe, and while the pull of the past is strong, the soul is here to individuate
- Leadership in the new Aquarian Age is about doing less, not more. Those who hold the power often overreach; they go too far.
- Busyness is not living, and personal growth lies in looking inward, not outward.
- The boundaries that have been set to divide people are not real. In the end, we’re all one tribe
MODERN DAY PERSPECTIVES FROM PINE RIDGE. Kevin captures timeless Lakota stories, modern perspectives, and universal wisdom from the people he meets and befriends at Pine Ridge. Through Kevin’s book, a community that often feels forgotten and not heard, is given a voice.
“I’m the fifth generation of my family to be a storyteller.
I am the first female storyteller in my family,”
she calmly tells me, without looking up from her beadwork.
“Ours in an oral tradition. There are no books of my family’s stories and I am sad about this. When I am gone, these stories will be gone too.”
TRANSCENDING PAST INJUSTICES THROUGH CONNECTIVITY AND AWARENESS. Throughout the book, Kevin contemplates the timeless human stories of tribalism and greed. Those who hold power often overreach; they go too far. Tribes also carefully select their own view of history to protect and promote their legacy. For example, in America we have convinced ourselves that Columbus ‘discovered a new world’, but people already lived here. In his book, Kevin suggests that confronting the truth about the past . . . becoming aware . . . and connected to the whole story . . . is a requirement for reconciliation.
THE APOLOGY. In a heartfelt, powerful moment, alone in the Black Hills, Kevin comes to believe that apologies matter. They are symbols of awareness and connectivity. Kevin also suggests that looking backward is a prerequisite to moving forward. Apologies aren’t meant to change the past, they are meant to change the future.
EXCERPT FROM ‘THE APOLOGY’. (I was driving through the Black Hills after my second trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation when the idea hit me. Awareness, in and of itself, is a powerful act. More government programs won’t change Pine Ridge. What is needed is a sincere, thoughtful apology; recognition of what happened. So, I grabbed my journal…took out my pen…and began to write. I wrote an apology. Then I had another idea. What if the apology went viral? What if thousands upon thousands of people signed it and passed it on?)
To the Lakota people and all the First Nation tribes of the northern plains:
My name is Kevin Hancock and I would like to apologize. I have learned the history of your people and I am aware of the devastating impact America’s western expansion had upon you.
I apologize that we put our needs above yours.
I apologize that we slaughtered the buffalo with which you coexisted.
I apologize that we broke our treaties.
I apologize that we took your land under the guise of our own industriousness, and as if we had God’s blessing.
I apologize that we saw your race and culture as inferior and treated you as such.
I apologize that we restricted your constitutional rights to free speech and religion.
I apologize that we restricted your rights to gather and to bear arms.
I apologize that we sold off your property without your consent or just compensation.
I wish we could go back and rewrite history. I wish we could start over and do it differently. I wish we could have seen that there was room for everyone. I wish we had not overreached.
I hope you will accept this apology and that we can now join together in the Lakota tradition that says all people are one people. An apology from one person may seem small. It changes nothing in many ways. At the same time, this is how I feel, and I do not believe I am alone. I believe there are hundreds of millions of people across America who are also sorry.
I hope this apology contributes to the process of healing, letting go, and moving on.
Having met your people, I believe in your future.
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
LEADERSHIP: “First, as a business leader, I am supposed to be ‘on the job’ all the time, pushing for more. I am not supposed to be sitting on fence lines, feeling my connectivity with the energy of all living things. The partial loss of my voice made me revisit this assumption; then, I learned the power of making room for others to lead. This led to a new goal of making the role of the traditional leader smaller, so that everyone’s voice could become stronger.”
EVOLUTIONARY ASTROLOGY: “As I walk through the terminal, my mind wanders back to last night’s startling dream. The image of losing control, nearing disaster and then safely landing, reminds me of the journey I have been on within my own tribe since my father died. It’s the same journey that cost me consistent access to my voice. Evolutionary astrology believes that souls carry ‘karmic wounds,’ not limited to a single lifetime. The Hindus call this samsara –imprints left on the subconscious mind by dramatic experiences in this life or previous lives. In addition, souls can have relationships with each other across multiple incarnations, where patterns play out again and again until they are resolved and transcended. So, how might the ‘karmic dots’ of evolutionary astrology be connected in my case? Or, to say it differently, how might the story my natal chart reveals answer the original jewelry maker’s question, ‘What brings you here?’ ”
NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITIONS: “All the ingredients of a vision quest are present for me today. I am alone in the wilderness with no food, water, or material possessions. Furthermore, I have come to the land of Crazy Horse seeking, in search of deeper self understanding. As I stand there motionless, watching the miraculous light filter through the strangest of trees, a vision comes to me. It is to be the first of four revelations I receive. The first message or vision is powerful in its simplicity. On one level, it is nothing more than an idea that comes to me. The timing, clarity, and power been told there is no cure. Drugs are the only source of relief. I am stuck in a difficult pattern, a circle, without end.” The timing, clarity and power of the idea, however, give it the credentials of a vision.”
SPASMODIC DYSPHONIA: “I can’t help but see parallels between spasmodic dysphonia and Pine Ridge. I have lost my voice. My condition feels permanent. I have been told there is no cure. Drugs are the only source of relief. I am stuck in a difficult pattern, a circle, without an end.”
PUTTING WORK BACK IN ITS PLACE: “For years prior to my first visit to Pine Ridge, Hancock Lumber had been pursuing valuable company efficiency initiatives such as, “lean” and “Six Sigma”. The problem with this traditional path, however, is that most companies simply use the extra capacity created to just do more work.
This seemed mathematically powerful, but spiritually empty to me. Over time, a fresh vision materialized in my mind regarding how to better utilize the expanded human capacity that efficiency improvements create. I have since come to describe this vision as the “higher calling of lean”. This is a simple idea, a subtle shift in thinking. The essence of the notion is to use the benefits of productivity and accuracy improvements to do less, not more.”
LOCAL ECONOMIES: “Pine Ridge is one of the poorest places in America. It is not just poor by American standards; it is poor by reservation standards. Unemployment exceeds 80%. Only a small minority of people has a formal job. Pine Ridge is economically dependent upon its government. This dependence is rooted in the belief that the federal government must continue to honor the terms of its ‘final offer’. A deal is a deal no matter how old or dysfunctional.
The economic rules at Pine Ridge are very different from the ones I grew up with in Maine. In Maine, most everyone works. Earning your own living through work is a value that is woven into the ethos of the state. Government is rarely discussed in terms of personal economic solutions. Those are things you earn for yourself. From the time you are a teenager in Maine you work. That’s just what everybody does. You don’t even really think about it, you just work.”
REFLECTION: “In the years that followed the partial loss of my voice, I began to see that my old management style was not optimal. It was just old. I began to see that there was a more powerful way to lead and manage, which involved restraint. The secret lay in doing less, not more. Spasmodic dysphonia made me listen. Yes, to others, but, even more importantly, to myself. In a circle of irony, it took losing my speaking voice to find my soul’s voice. Getting lost is the first step to being found. In my experience, this is what happens when a CEO loses consistent access to his or her voice:
- You listen more.
- You talk less.
- You ask more questions.
- You look at more data.
- You show more restraint.
- You let others run meetings.
- You don’t break the silence.
- You share responsibility for representing the organization.
- You trust and empower others more completely.
I have jokingly said that all CEOs should lose their voices.”
“My quest is not unique. In fact, it is universally human. We are all seeking. We are all searching. We all have fear. We all enter this world in search of spiritual growth and development. It is easy to get busy, stay busy, and repress this. But, we are all seeking.
I do not feel that I possess any special powers or mystical capabilities to have had this spiritual experience. In the time of Crazy Horse, such learnings were commonly sought and received. The Lakota knew that only the thinnest of vails separate the world we ‘see’ from the world we seek to understand. The Great Spirit is always with us. Better yet, it lives within us.”
- How did a businessman from Maine come to find himself spending time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota? What brought you there?
- Tell us a bit more about the Pine Ridge Reservation. What makes it such a unique and important place for you?
- Talk a little bit about your own tribe and family business, Hancock Lumber, back in Maine.
- What is spasmodic dysphonia and how has it impacted your life and leadership style?
- When did you write this book and why did you decide to share your story?
- What is the meaning or symbolism of the title, Not For Sale?
- Your book has been described as a modern day vision quest. What is the traditional meaning and purpose of a Vision Quest and how is that all connected to your book and personal experiences at Pine Ridge?
- Your book chronicles six trips to Pine Ridge. What was it like traveling back and forth between your life in Maine and the reservation? Was it difficult, going back and forth…integrating with both communities?
- In your book, you write about transcending ‘busyness’ and the never ending modern day push for ‘bigger, better, more’. How did you come to see ‘busyness’ as a problem and how did your time at Pine Ridge held you transcend it?
- Evolutionary Astrology plays an important role in your book and story. What is Evolutionary Astrology and how did you come to be connected with its teachings?
- In what ways do you feel that Evolutionary Astrology is a tool that could be helpful to the people of Pine Ridge, or to anyone searching for meaning in our fast paced modern world?
- You make repeated mention of the legendary American mythologist Joseph Campbell in your book. Why was the connection to Joseph Campbell so powerful for you during your Pine Ridge experiences?
- You also make repeated connections to pop culture throughout the book. Why were these connections so important during your journey to Pine Ridge?
- You write very openly, in a deeply personal way, about your innermost thoughts, fears and hopes for yourself and mankind. What prompted you to share your story in such an intimate way?
- How have you integrated what you learned at Pine Ridge into your role as CEO at Hancock Lumber?
- What type of reaction have readers had from your book?
- What are the key lessons or ideas you hope readers will take from your book?
- Where can readers find your book or learn more about your story?
- What’s next for you?